Clay Counseling thinks of itself as a mental health organization shaped by the community and serving the community. Offering both paid services through Clay Counseling Solutions and low- to no-cost services through Clay Counseling Foundation, the organization serves elementary, middle, and high school students as well as adults. Clay Counseling Foundation offers academic coaching, which includes wrap-around services that connect with students’ families, group and individual counseling and social and emotional wellness education. Programs are provided throughout San Bernardino and Riverside County schools and at its offices.
Dr. April Clay, who has been a therapist for 16 years, founded Clay Counseling Foundation six years ago after realizing she needed to formalize the organization’s philanthropic efforts. As a grandmother with a 6-year-old grandson growing up in San Bernardino County, she imagined his future as an adult. Dr. Clay wanted her grandson’s peers and neighbors to be healthy and well. By investing in the youth and parents of today, she said she believes that she can help build a stronger community for her grandson and all the children in the region.
Clay Counseling Foundation’s programming takes place on school campuses and focuses on social and emotional wellness that is culturally proficient, understanding that students all come from different backgrounds and different homes. In addition to racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic differences, children are also facing concerns that adults may know about or understand, according to Dr. Clay.
“We want them to benefit them from the framework that makes the most sense to them,” Dr. Clay “We don’t believe that it’s us who helps them, it’s the clients who help themselves. We help them with changes in their behavior that will help them overall.”
In addition to one-on-one counseling in schools, Clay Counseling works with children in circles, giving them a place to discuss the nuances of being a kid in these times, discover ways in which they are all the same and see themselves as one group that is more successful when they help each other thrive. This includes anti-bullying workshops, unconscious-bias training and anti-racism workshops.
The need for children to see themselves as part of a cohort is important, according to Dr. Clay. By helping children connect and build a rapport with one another, she hopes to create an environment where children look out for one another. In schools, where children outnumber adults, it is important that children feel their peers are looking out for them, she said. Whether that is to interact with a child who is sitting alone or to respond when another student is in trouble, these small actions can make children feel safe.
“Kids need positive behavioral supports where they see that adults care about them as individuals,” Dr. Clay said. “It changes classrooms if they see themselves as empowered. It changes the campus community.”
Recently, Clay Counseling Foundation received a Black Equity Fund Grant through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The funding supports the organization’s academic coaching.
While many of the organization’s school programs are funded by contracts with the school districts, Clay Counseling Foundation could use more funding to support therapy for youth and families who cannot afford it and are looking to talk to someone with a shared background. The organization intentionally employs a diverse local staff.
“We want to see a better tomorrow and we think it happens by helping individuals today,” Dr. Clay said. “Our restorative work is preventative work, and it changes outcomes for the community down the road.”
More: Information https://www.claycounseling.org/ or 909-804-8877
This article originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, February 2023.
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