Upon arrival, students are assigned an Academic and College Counselor. The counseling staff in the Student Services department is dedicated to providing support and assistance for ASMS students as they grow emotionally, intellectually, physically, and socially. Each ASMS student is assigned an academic, personal, and college counselor.
How do families share important information with Counseling Services regarding the welfare of their son/daughter?
Families are provided the opportunity to provide information about a student’s social, psychological, and emotional history in the ASMS application. However, ASMS encourages families to provide this information at any point. Student Services often follows up with the family prior to the student coming to campus. It is required that parents contact either the Director of Student Services or a counselor if any psychological or mental health information changes while a student is at ASMS.
ASMS students will be able to resolve most of the difficulties they experience at school by utilizing their current support system. However, there may be times when academic, social, and emotional challenges interfere with their overall well-being. These issues may include: homesickness, anxiety, depression, inability to concentrate, a family crisis, stress, relationship difficulties, low self-esteem, and unhealthy coping mechanisms or self-destructive behaviors. Many students just need to talk and frequently seek out their counselor without having any “identified problem.” In other words, it is okay just to talk with the counselor to get another perspective, talk about ideas, or simply build a relationship with another adult in the community.
The counselors provide mainly crisis intervention, consultation, and individual counseling on a short-term basis. ASMS counselors cannot be used for ongoing individual or family therapy since their time is divided among 260 students. If extended treatment is needed, a referral to an off-campus counselor will be made.
ASMS counselors are available to talk to you about anything that is on your mind. ASMS counselors help students who are struggling with academics, problems at home, problems in relationships, feelings of depression or anxiety, or anything that you may want to discuss with another person.
ASMS counselors understand that not all students have had a positive experience with members of the counseling profession. We also understand that ASMS students can be very independent people who often pride themselves on finding solutions to their own problems. A lot of students will talk to each other before seeking out a trusted adult or mental health professional. This informal helping network is an extremely important part of the residential life experience at ASMS, and we encourage our students to take full advantage of peer and adult relationships. Often times, the decision to see their counselor is made during a crisis situation or after an extended period of emotional pain, problems or confusion. This can be a humbling experience in which students sometimes feel ashamed or embarrassed that they need help from an outside source. More often than not, mental health is a decision that is enhanced by admitting a need for assistance. The process of counseling is designed to meet that need.
Seeing your assigned counselor for emotional/psychological reasons is a personal decision. Some students come to their counselor for a few meetings to help clarify their thinking, check in about specific issues in their lives, or just talk with someone who is willing to listen. Other students come in for one session just to see if talking about the issue or concern will help or to get a second opinion separate from their other resources. Sometimes they come in with a friend and sometimes a friend brings them in. Students often seek out the counselors when issues or concerns affect them personally or academically. A good rule of thumb is if you are thinking about talking with someone or another person suggests you talk to someone, then it is time to see a counselor. When the usual ways of handling a situation no longer seem productive, you feel like you’re in a vicious cycle, or things are just not getting better, then it is time to talk. Talking about a situation before it turns into a major crisis is a great way to enhance self-esteem and build effective coping mechanisms. It also makes you feel better!
Your ASMS counselor is available to meet with you between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. For after-hour emergencies, please contact the Hall Staff on duty. Unless the issue is urgent, it is best to schedule an appointment with your counselor so that you are assured the counselor can meet with you. Students are encouraged to sign up for a time during a free period or after school to avoid conflict with class schedules. However, we realize this is not always possible. If students feel they need to see a counselor right away or are experiencing an “emergency situation” they may email the counselor or come directly to Student Services.
At other times, a concerned staff member or parent may contact the counselor and ask that the student be seen. Sometimes, the referral source (parents or teachers) shares their concerns about a student with the counselor via phone or email, but does not share these concerns directly with the student. Whenever possible, it is highly recommended that concerns be shared with the student prior to the referral. That way, the student understands what some of the issues are prior to seeing the counselor and will feel that the process is not “secretive.” Sometimes it is not possible to share concerns with the student directly before being seen by the counselor or the referral source wants to remain anonymous. In such cases, the counselor will call the student in to discuss the concerns directly.
Under most circumstances, the information a student shares with the counselor is confidential. The dates and times of counseling appointments and/or counseling session notes are not kept in the student’s school file or any documents that are sent to colleges. If any information is to be disclosed to a source outside of ASMS like a doctor or therapist, the student and parents must sign a release of exchange information form.
The need-to-know rule (FERPA) requires school counselors to reveal sensitive information only when the recipient of the information has a need to know and is in a position to benefit the student if they have the shared information. Without the assurance of confidentiality, many students would not seek our help. Breaching student confidentiality with teachers, parents and administrators requires continuously balancing the rights of students and parents against the criteria of need to know.
There are exceptions to confidentiality. If students are suspected of being a danger to themselves or others, the counselor will need to break confidentiality and reveal enough information to resolve the crisis and/or support the student’s needs. In addition, the counselors at ASMS are state mandated reporters of suspected child abuse or neglect. If students are unsure if what they or a friend is thinking or experiencing will be kept confidential, they should feel free to ask the counselor before disclosing the information.
ASMS counselors will contact a student’s parents if we are concerned for that student’s safety. If this needs to happen, we will let the student know first and will explain the process. Usually this comes up if a student is having suicidal thoughts or has engaged in behavior that the counselor has deemed to be unsafe. ASMS counselors may call parents to recommend outside services be put in place or, in the case of an emergency situation, we will have the student’s parents take them to have an immediate evaluation to ensure the student will receive the proper level of care to keep him or her safe. Otherwise, what is shared with ASMS counselors is kept confidential.
Are you taking the counselor’s suggestions? Trying out new things takes both practice and time. Change does not come overnight and can take a fair amount of effort. If these things are still not helpful it may be that you need a more structured level of care than ASMS can provide. In such a case, every effort will be made to help the student find an appropriate off-campus referral. Parents/guardians and students may sign a release for exchange of information so that the off-campus referral and ASMS counselor may work together to provide support to the student.
Transportation is provided to therapy appointments Monday-Friday morning within Mobile. The student or parent needs to notify the Student Services Assistant with as much advance notice as possible with the date, time, and location of the appointment. The Student Services Assistant will then put the student on the transport list. The student will report to the Bedsole lobby 15-30 minutes before the appointment to meet the driver who will transport the student to and from the appointment. If the therapist is located outside of Mobile, students are responsible for their own transportation.
Reasonable efforts are always made to accommodate the emotional and learning differences of students. In other words, if a student is feeling depressed, there may be things that can be done on campus and in the classroom before considering other alternatives. If a student’s emotional or learning differences cannot be reasonably accommodated, or a student clearly needs a more restrictive level of care, meetings are held with the student, parents/guardians, ASMS counselors and Director of Student Services to determine what resources inside and outside of ASMS need to be put into place. In some cases it may not be in the student’s best interest to remain at ASMS. These decisions are made with input from the student, the counselors, parents/guardians and the Director of Student Services. ASMS cares about students’ well-being and their ability to function safely and independently in both the academic and residential components of the school.
Upon arrival, students are assigned an Academic and College Counselor and begin working on the college application process.
The counseling staff goes to great lengths to match an individual’s interests, personality, and academic background to colleges and universities across the country. Personal assistance with scholarships and other types of financial aid is a top priority. Also, counselors arrange for students to visit with college and university representatives throughout the year.
In 2017, the ASMS senior class earned $13 million in merit-based scholarships and scored a composite 29.5 on the ACT, the highest in the school’s history. More than half of the graduates scored above 30. The senior class included three national merit finalists and seven national merit commended scholars.
100% of graduates attend college.
Students are also given the opportunity to earn college credit accepted by many institutions, including the University of South Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, among others.
After the start of each term, there are three days of Drop\Add. This is a week when any student can fill out a drop\add schedule request form stating what you want dropped or added and why.
There are several opportunities at ASMS to get help in any subject. There are scheduled labs for almost every subject. Usually they open around 7:00 p.m. and close at 9:00 p.m. from Sunday through Thursday. Groups of students who attend ASMS run these labs for their work service hours. These are students who are proficient in that certain subject area. Study hall is also a vital resource. Every incoming student is required to go to study hall for the first half of their first term.
ASMS requires an Orientation class for new students. All incoming sophomores and juniors are to complete satisfactorily the Orientation Program into which they are scheduled. Topics for this class include study skills, library research and plagiarism issues, time-management, and stress management.