Shiloh Wood, M.S. Student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

While earning my bachelor’s degree, I became aware of the problems and difficulties caused by the stigma of mental illnesses. When this was brought to my attention, I became invested in finding ways reduce this stigma to ultimately help those affected by mental illnesses. My research suggested that implementing programs in schools that teach children about mental illnesses is the best way to address and diminish this stigma. These programs sounded great to me because they helped reduce this problematic stigma and they centered around the population I wanted to work with; children. As a result, I became a strong advocate for such programs   When I decided that I wanted to pursue a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, I knew my passion for these programs would not fade. However, I also knew that I wanted something new that I could advocate for that would help individuals with mental illnesses. 

Over the course of my first semester, I learned a lot about the benefits of incorporating mindfulness into therapy. In this case, mindfulness is a technique that helps individuals focus on the present moment as a way to cope with stressful and frustrating experiences (Leland, 2015; “Why Adding Mindfulness,” 2019). Common mindfulness techniques include breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga (Leland, 2015). I found myself fascinated with this topic and wanted to learn as much as I could about the effects of mindfulness especially in regards to school systems. Therefore, it is no surprise that I wanted to immerse myself into this topic once I found out that my practicum site was at an elementary school. After spending some time researching mindfulness and emotional intelligence for my class Group Counseling, I found that programs that focus on both mindfulness and emotional intelligence yield many benefits for kids. In fact, children who undergo such programs often help children with their emotion regulation, social skills and academic success (Leland, 2015; Ordiway, 2016). Furthermore, they are 10% less likely to develop a mental health issue in the future if they participate in such a program (“Why Adding Mindfulness,” 2019). Once I finished my research, I knew that I wanted to run an emotion recognition and regulation group called Feelings with Friends at my Practicum site. 

Feelings with Friends is a voluntary, psychoeducational group that I have developed for elementary school children. This group teaches children about emotional intelligence and mindfulness which includes teaching them how to recognize, understand, and regulate their emotions in healthy and positive way. With the help of this group, children will have the opportunity to learn about emotional intelligence and mindfulness at a young age and in a safe, accessible, and comfortable environment. Children who participate in Feelings with Friends will leave the group with a better understanding of their emotions. Additionally, they will know how to use several mindfulness coping strategies for their more extreme emotions such as anger, frustration, sadness, and anxiety. 

References
Leland, M. (2015). Mindfulness and student success. Journal of Adult Education, 44(1), 19-24. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1709527310?accountid=26712
Ordiway, K. (2016). Mindfulness in Schools: Promoting Social and Emotional Learning in the Classroom. Retrieved 15 February 2020, from https://digitalcommons.brockport.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1122&c…
Why Adding Mindfulness Education to School Curriculum Strengthens Social and Emotional Development and Academic Achievement. (2019). Retrieved 15 February 2020, from https://www.waterford.org/education/mindfulness-in-schools/