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New Emotional Skills Class for Dorm Students

Last updated on November 15, 2019

Northwest has recently introduced a new class for dorm students that helps them better manage emotional situations and acquire the tools to handle stress. Sydney Eckert, a PhD student studying psychology at Seattle Pacific University, teaches the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) class, alongside Dr. Clara Doctoler, the supervisor, and NWS counselors, Erin North and Megan Reibel.

The session will be held every Thursday after dinner for the dorm students. Each session runs from 6:45 to 7:45. The DBT Skills class was originally developed by Dr. James Mazza, and Elizabeth Dexter-Mazza at the University of Washington. Its purpose is to help students manage stress and make better decisions, by focusing on mindfulness, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

The first session was held on the evening of November 7th in Skylight. During the session, students received pamphlets for curriculum guidelines. The class started by meditating to relax and to introduce classroom ground-rules. The DBT skills class is an essential mental health course, as it specifically applies to the needs of Northwest School dorm students.

The facilitator of the new class, Amy Berner-Hays, shared her thoughts on the reason for initiating the program: “Teenagers throughout the US and abroad are experiencing increased levels of stress and anxiety. As the adults responsible for the health of our dorm students this class is a response to the needs of adolescence using the cutting-edge research to support them. The skills class is designed to give students the skills they need throughout their lives to manage challenging emotions and situations.”

Another leader of the program, Megan Reibel, mentioned how “our dorm students are experiencing unique stressors. Many report that their school days ‘follow them home’ as they live with the folks they go to school with—think about the good and bad of being with your friends ALL THE TIME. Our dorm students often enter NWS from school environments that have not talked about emotions or provided social-emotional learning in the past. This makes providing opportunities for social-emotional learning even more important. Because of this, the dorm seemed like a perfect place to pilot this program.”

Looking ahead, Amy also stated that “we will evaluate the success of the program as we proceed to evaluate how to improve it. It is our hope that students will find it useful in their lives and all students will want to participate in the future. We are working to find time in the school day so we can add a class for day students.”

The international students community looks forward to more cooperation with the school for further development of the program.

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