Stephanie Edler, a staff member with SMH’s Child & Family Services since 2011, has a unique job at SMH. She is one of a group of three clinicians who are embedded directly in a Seattle Public School to coordinate care for kids who struggle with mental or emotional health issues. The program that places her in the school as a Mental Health Care Coordinator is called the Middle School Support Project (MSSP), a 10-year old program at SMH.
Funded by the Nesholm Family Foundation, the MSSP offers onsite mental health services to kids in three of the lowest performing schools in the district: Aki Kurose, Denny International and Asa Mercer middle schools. While SMH works with every school in the Seattle Public School District, the MSSP has a full time mental health staff member dedicated to the school. Stephanie works at Asa Mercer middle school to engage students, their families and other systems (including SMH) to help them address mental health, emotional and family issues to promote improved performance in school.
Stephanie truly loves working with the students, who she calls her “kiddos,” and finds the work invigorating personally and professionally.
“Witnessing their growth,” she says, “is rewarding to me. I know I’m having an impact on a system that doesn’t always recognize the needs of children, so being their advocate, well, it really motivates me.”
Raised in Yakima, Washington, Stephanie was inspired to work with kids by witnessing classmates and friends alike go through their own struggles with mental illness and substance use. These early experiences, coupled with a strong nurturing instinct, inspired her to become a therapist.
“Middle school is such a pivotal time in a person’s life, developmentally speaking,” she intimates. “They (kids) are developing their identity, sense of self and values. It’s a critical time to add in support that can have great impact on their success in life.”
In addition to helping children through an extremely difficult time in their lives and shaping the type of persons they will be, Stephanie believes that improving children’s emotional and mental wellness will lead to better performance in the schools.
She believes that when a youth’s social and emotional needs are not being met, they can’t perform their academics well. Supporting those needs, she says, removes some of the barriers to reach their success in school and helps them find out what their interests and capabilities are.
Stephanie received her masters’ degree in psychology from Argosy University in 2012 and has been with Sound Mental Health since 2010, where she began her time here as a clinical intern. She joined the MSSP team in 2011. If you ask her what she loves about working at SMH, she’ll tell you that it is the breadth of services.
“SMH is connected to a lot of resources. Because of our size and breadth of programs, our clients have many options and I, as a staff member, have opportunities to pursue something (creating tailored programs) with the support of the organization to do so.”