Alisa Crovetti, Ph.D. organizes and directs counseling and mental health services for Piedmont Unified’s middle and high school students. She is a licensed psychologist and certificated school psychologist. With a doctorate in Educational Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and extensive clinical experience working with children, adolescents and young adults, Dr. Crovetti worked for Oakland Unified for 15 years before joining Piedmont Unified in 2009. In addition to her work in the Piedmont schools, Dr. Crovetti serves on the faculty of the UC Berkeley School Psychology Program teaching a graduate course on child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also works in private practice. Dr. Crovetti takes great pride in the many ways students and families find support through Wellness Center programs, and how the Center strives to meet demand for a broad range of social-emotional health services.
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What led you to work with teens in a school setting?
I’ve always had an interest in psychology and understanding how people learn and develop and why they behave and feel the way they do. I also knew I wanted to be involved in helping people to cope with challenges and lead fulfilling and meaningful lives. I was pre-med for a while, and I also considered the combination of law and social welfare. Eventually I realized that Educational Psychology offers the opportunity to work in a public school setting and that was what I wanted to pursue. Reflecting on my own public high school experience, I benefited from the counseling offered by my school, and I know that the counseling services we offer here make a real difference in students’ lives.
Counseling is one of the ways the Wellness Center supports the social and emotional health of students. How does school-based counseling work?
It is very common that students experience some degree of social, academic, or family stress, or a combination of these. For students who need help managing this, the Wellness Center offers individual, group, and even family therapy. Some students come for one or two sessions and others come regularly — weekly or monthly — over a period of time.
The counseling is provided by Intern Therapists who are either graduate or postgraduate students working to obtain a license in psychology, therapy, or social work. They are trained and closely supervised to ensure that students get the mental health services they need. For example, the Intern Therapists receive training in treatments for depression, anxiety, substance abuse, self-harm, and eating disorders, to name a few. They are carefully trained in assessing suicide risk and the most appropriate interventions. They receive training in how to support social-skills development in youth with autism spectrum disorder. We recently provided training in how to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth through counseling. The Wellness Center also refers students and their families to mental health specialists in the community as needed.
Approximately one-third of all PHS and MHS students will see a Wellness Center counselor at least once in a given school year. Additionally, about one-fourth of all PMS students also meet with a Wellness Center counselor. Most of the students who come to the Center return for multiple sessions, and some come on a regular basis. There are some students who come just to hang out during lunch or their free period because it’s a comfortable environment — they don’t come to see a therapist, they just want a break from the rest of the school.
Beyond counseling, what are some of the other ways the Wellness Center supports students?
The Wellness Center offers workshops for students– such as Tea, Treats, and Tests, which teaches strategies for managing test anxiety and improving study skills. Our Intern Therapists, Wellness Center Director, and I meet several times per year with parent groups, for example at Piedmont Parent Network meetings, to provide workshops and presentations designed to help parents best support their students. Another program, started last year, is Free Lunch Friday, a social/activity group. We have roughly 10-12 students come every Friday, which is the maximum we can accommodate, and two of our Intern Therapists facilitate card games or board games and other activities such as having students share their favorite Youtube videos. It’s been very successful.
Many students make use of the Center’s waiting area during lunch and free periods, even students who do not regularly meet with an Intern Therapist. Students find a welcoming space, with comfortable sofas and chairs, to listen to music or read. We have coloring books and art supplies, even a guitar.
You became the Clinical Supervisor in 2011. How has it changed over the last few years?
We have further integrated our services and programs into the middle and school, and we’ve established deep collaboration with teachers, counselors, and administrators in supporting students from all avenues. We developed a comprehensive training curriculum for the Intern Therapists, sometimes bringing in experts on specialized therapeutic techniques, and we’re continually reviewing and improving the training program. Also, the Center is growing to meet demand — we now have seven Intern Therapists. Consistent, positive feedback confirms that the Wellness Center is critical in supporting students’ well-being. It is wonderful to be part of the Wellness Center and help meet the psychological and social-emotional needs of our students and their families.
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Piedmont Unified’s Wellness Center is located at Piedmont High School on the ground level of the 30s building (near the PHS Library), as well as a satellite office at PMS. The Center is open every school day during school hours, and after school by appointment. For more information about the Wellness Center, contact Clinical Supervisor, Alisa Crovetti or Wellness Center Director, Ting Hsu Engelman.