CHAC counseling implements freshman, sophomore and junior support groups


Elyssa Kennedy

Recently, Los Altos High School’s Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC) implemented a new program: freshman, sophomore and junior support groups.

During the pandemic, district administrators and counselors are continuing to search for ways to effectively meet students’ mental health needs. Recently, Los Altos High School’s Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC) implemented a new program: freshman, sophomore and junior support groups.

“We recognize that students are feeling isolated and are eager to provide an opportunity for connection and support so that students can realize that they are not alone,” CHAC therapist Marcie Kay said. “We hope students can come together to share worries and concerns and lift each other’s spirits and that the groups can be adaptable in the moment to the topics most important to students.”

The group meetings, held once a week on Wednesdays from 12 to 1 p.m., are structured with weekly themes, including coping with school pressure and uncertainty; self-care and stress reduction; setting boundaries; and navigating relationships. Each grade group includes up to 10 individuals and is facilitated by CHAC therapists.

Freshman meet together, and sophomores and juniors meet together, so students in any particular group will have at least one thing in common with other group members. CHAC counselors noted that the different grade levels share varying experiences throughout high school, allowing them to better understand the peers within their grade level, although they are open to changing the grouping of grade levels to better meet student needs.

“For our freshman, for instance, the transition from middle to high school is uniquely fresh in their mind, and we aimed to offer a chance to meet more peers for whom high school has only existed online,” CHAC therapist Julie Yoo said.

In addition to these support groups, CHAC continues to hold one-on-one counseling sessions with students. The support group differs in that it provides students the opportunity to share, connect and learn from their peers’ challenges, whereas individual sessions typically center around specific mental health issues and goals.

The support group program is open to any students regardless of experience with CHAC. However, students must commit to consistently attending the weekly sessions so that they can continue building connections with the peers within their group.

“This is a new offering and we hope students will feel that the time they spend together will be safe, supportive and affirming,” CHAC therapist Lauren Bruhn said. “We hope that students will feel more connected to their community and aware of their strength to get through this trying moment in history. Whether students feel these support groups are right for them or not, we hope they will keep us in mind if they could use a safe and confidential space.”

To learn more about the CHAC groups or to join, contact LAHS’s CHAC Lead Therapist Amrita Bassi at [email protected].