Ripple Effects can be an effective way to triage counseling services and extend the reach of counselors whose caseload is too large to give each student individualized attention. Counselors can use the program to promote positive mental health with all students, strengthen protective factors for students who face special risks, while focusing private attention on kids with immediate, urgent needs.

Research has consistently shown that both adolescents and adults are more honest in disclosing mental health information to a computer than to live professionals. That’s why Ripple Effects puts research-based, proven effective strategies at the fingertips of students. It offers help for mental health issues (from obsessive compulsive disorders, to eating disorders, to communicative disorders), provides skill building in core social-emotional competencies, and encourages students to talk to an adult they trust. A whole tutorial is devoted to teaching students how to access and use live counseling resources.

Ripple Effects doesn’t replace the counselor; rather it gives students a language for talking about what’s on their mind. It can be an effective bridge to communication with students who may be sullen, withdrawn, or too embarrassed to bring up a sensitive topic. Students have disclosed anorexia, abuse and suicidal feelings after using the software, even when they had previously refused to do so.

To leverage Ripple Effects most effectively in counseling settings, do these things:

  1. Triage use. Use it for promotion of positive development with most students, prevention of specific behaviors with students who have high risk factors, and immediate intervention for students needing urgent care.
  2. If you’re pretty sure you know what the student needs, direct them to that topic. For instance, a girl who’s 5’6” but weighs less than a hundred pounds would be directed to “anorexia.”
  3. If you’re not sure what the issue is, avoid interrogating students; instead, invite them to find something that interests them. Then ask them if they want to talk to you about it.
  4. Discuss confidentiality and privacy issues. To protect student privacy, don’t allow them to write into the program unless they’ve logged in with their own password. Make sure they quit out when they’re done.
  5. Trust your relationship with students to be strong enough that it doesn’t require them to depend on you for each piece of key information.

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