CAMP ZAMA, Japan (July 31, 2020) – Tisha Miller, the Adolescent Support and Counseling Services counselor at Zama Middle High School, has worked at the school for more than a year and provides mental health services well beyond stress-related issues associated with COVID-19.
That said, however, Miller wants students and parents to know she is available for a wide variety of issues, including those related to COVID-19.
“Everything is just so uncertain right now and it feels as though there are a lot of unknowns, and that brings a lot of nervousness and anxiety,” Miller said. “Different kids have different outlets. Some kids just need to talk to someone about it, and then I have some kids who will go play music or go draw something.”
It does not matter if the student is in virtual school, homeschooled or attends school in person—all students are eligible for mental health counseling, Miller said.
“As long as [a student is] registered in some way with Zama Middle High School, I can provide free mental health services,” she said.
Miller said she keeps her own records, but no one, including military officials, can see them without the permission of the parent or child.
Students 15 and older can see her without a parent’s permission, Miller said, but she usually tries to bring parents on board.
“Parents can help, even though it may take the child a little while to convince them about that,” Miller said.
Miller said she can hold sessions with students, parents and families either in her office in Room 409, Building 906, the middle school building, or virtually.
Due to COVID-19 concerns, she can see clients in person, socially distanced, through Health Protection Condition B, but because July 31 the HPCON was raised to C, she must hold virtual sessions until further notice, Miller said.
The length of sessions depends on the client and usually lasts anywhere from half an hour to an hour. The number of sessions also depends on the client.
“[The client] will pick the goal they want to work on,” Miller said. “Maybe it’s stress management or better social skills or something like that. Usually it can be a few months that I work with them, but if it’s a more serious issue, then we can extend that.”
Miller said she can help students cope with transition issues, anxiety and depression, for example, as well as drug and alcohol problems, which are an area of expertise for her. She can also make referrals to behavioral health for situations that need a higher level of care. She cannot prescribe medications.
Miller said she understands seeing a counselor might feel scary, awkward or difficult, but she often tells people to just give her a chance by attending three to five sessions.
“I feel like it takes way more strength and bravery to ask for help and look at what’s going on right in front of you versus just kind of trying to pull up your bootstraps and keep going through,” Miller said.
Miller said students can see her during school hours, but for accountability reasons, the school will have to know the student is in her office.
Also, in most cases, students who are failing a class, for example, cannot get out of the class to see her, Miller said. Sometimes, however, if the mental health issue is the cause of poor grades, she can make an exception.
She is also available after school, can meet with parents after work, and is available during the summer when school is not in session, Miller said.
It is also important for members of the community to know they can refer potential clients and she will not tell the person who made the referral, Miller said.
“If a kid is worried about another kid, they can call me and be like, ‘Hey, I’m concerned about my friend,’ and I’ll check in with their friend and their friend doesn’t have to know [who made the referral],” Miller said.
Miller said she has worked with a variety of populations of children during her years as a counselor, and military children are among the most resilient she has met.
“I really, really enjoy doing what I do,” Miller said. “I feel like the kids and families here are really resilient ... I just feel really lucky to do the work that I do.”
Miller said the best way to contact her for an appointment or questions is via email at email@example.com, or if sending an email from the military system, firstname.lastname@example.org. Students can also stop by her office any time.