"A Healthy Net of Support" by Director of Counseling, Jen Hamilton, Licensed Psychologist
Every time I get asked by a new acquaintance what I do for a living, I feel proud to tell them that I work at Noble and Greenough School. There is usually a follow-up question to find out more about Nobles. What makes it special, or how is it different from other independent schools? I explain that while Nobles is top-notch for academic rigor, we also have an unsurpassed level of student support. No other school that I am aware of works harder to foster nurturing relationships and to support the health and well-being of its students. This combination creates an ideal environment in which students grow and thrive.
An integral part of creating a healthy net of student support is that Nobles has always been ahead of the curve in having a very robust counseling department. Over the past 15 years that I have been at Nobles, the school's leadership has consistently put a great deal of emphasis on backing and enhancing the counseling team. This is because there is an awareness that by being pro-active about creating a foundation of well-being for students, we can give kids the tools to better cope with various stressors instead of simply waiting to react.
Our counseling team is comprised of 3 professionals, and together we have 37 years of experience supporting students and adults at Nobles! In addition to myself (my office is situated in the middle school) and Mary Batty, a trusted counselor in the upper school since 2004, this year we are very pleased to add Dr. Rick Wilson as an upper school counselor. Rick, who has served masterfully as our psychological consultant since 2006, will expand his hours at Nobles this year to allow him to also work with students. The counselors will continue to work very closely with Mark Spence, who has now moved into the role of Dean of Students. As always, we will also collaborate with teachers and advisors to ensure that they have the tools to address student issues as they arise, since teachers and advisors are often "on the front lines" when needs bubble to the surface.
In an effort to be certain that every student is aware of the support services offered at Nobles, a member of the counseling department will reach out to every class VI, V, and IV student each year for a "get to know you" meeting. All new class II and class III students will also be invited to have a meeting. Over time, this will mean that all Nobles student will have met with one of the counselors at least once during his or her academic career, hopefully reducing any stigma attached to the idea of counseling. During introductory chats, we also aim to gain a baseline understanding of students' study and sleep patterns, how they relax and unwind, and any stressors that we might not have been aware of at first glance. Often during these meetings we'll subtly introduce some rudimentary stress-management concepts such as mindfulness, breathing exercises, and other positive psychology strategies.
To broaden the net of student support even further, any student who is returning to school after a medical leave or after sustaining a concussion will have a counselor reach out to him or her for a meeting, as will all students who are returning to Nobles after a semester or year away from school.
Throughout the year, counselors are available to meet with students for any reason at all... we try to keep our doors open whenever not in meetings so that students can feel free to stop by and chat. There are also various groups that students may choose to attend, including family discussion groups, a re-entry group for students returning to Nobles after spending time away during their junior year, mindfulness groups, and various other opportunities for support and connection.
As we always tell students, what is discussed in meetings with members of the counseling department remains confidential unless we have concerns about their mental or physical well-being, in which case we will work together with the student to include parents in the conversation. Because adolescence is a time when students are striving to become more independent from their parents (and a time that they have much more to think about,) it is important for students to have the freedom to come and talk confidentially with someone as they work through whatever issues might be on their minds.
Mary, Rick and I are also available to talk with parents about issues students may be facing, or to offer confidential referrals. We recognize that often students or families might prefer to connect with a psychologist or psychiatrist outside of Nobles.
Please feel free to contact me if you'd like to discuss the various levels of support at Nobles (or anything else!) I can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 781-320-7073. I am very grateful for the privilege of getting to know you and your children!