Interview with The School Counseling Files and Author Laurie Mendoza, MA, CAGS
About Laurie: Laurie Mendoza, MA, CAGS, has degrees in Psychology and School Psychology from Smith College, the University of Detroit, and Northeastern University. She worked in the mental health field in a variety of settings—including a men's prison and an adolescent residential program—before becoming a child and family outpatient therapist in 1992. In 1999 she obtained her Massachusetts DESE certification as a School Adjustment Counselor, and has worked in two urban public school districts ever since.
Laurie specializes in teaching children about emotional regulation, using a combination of principles from mindfulness, the Zones of Regulation, Social Thinking, Collaborative Problem-Solving, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She is the owner/operator of the website The School Counseling Files, which currently gets an average of 50,000 hits per month. Her first picture book, Super George and the Invisible Shield, is slated for publication in September 2017.
Laurie is passionate about public education, and ensuring that all children are treated with respect.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] When and why did you originally create The School Counseling Files?
[Laurie Mendoza] I created the site four years ago. I had just changed school districts after 14 years in one school, and was trying to organize my materials. I figured it might help others if I shared it.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] What do you hope to achieve by maintaining your blog?
[Laurie Mendoza] I hope to provide lots of ideas for school counselors, particularly those who are just starting out. I wish I’d had a go-to resource when I first began, instead of feeling like I had to discover everything on my own.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] We highlighted your post, “SMART Goal: Parent Outreach,” because you offer some very actionable, straightforward steps on how to achieve your objective. What SMART goal(s) do you think you’ll choose for the upcoming academic year, and why?
[Laurie Mendoza] I haven’t decided yet. There are just so many options between the things I want to do and the things I should be doing but feel like I’m not. I may stick with parent engagement, but because of our population I’d really like to help our school become a more trauma-sensitive environment. Whatever I decide, I’ll post it when I’ve written it.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] You describe your website as “eclectic.” Would you say the same of your counseling methods? In other words, do you have any practices, routines, or techniques in your execution of your role as a school counselor that you’d consider unorthodox, or unique?
[Laurie Mendoza] It’s funny how the more I learn, the more I see how things are connected. My favorite approaches (Zones of Regulation, Collaborative Problem-Solving, Social Thinking, CBT) overlap in many ways, and I’m always trying to find that sweet spot where I can address more than one concept with one activity. As for my routines and “techniques,” I use tons of humor. That’s my personality so it works for me. That Three Stooges GIF I have on my “About Me” page? I really did that. You have to be genuine, and I’m genuinely juvenile. Not everyone could pull that off (and everyone would probably argue they wouldn’t want to try). People have to find their own individual style, because that will be what works for them.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] From where did you draw inspiration for your upcoming book, Super George and the Invisible Shield? Can you give us a sneak peek of what the story is about?
[Laurie Mendoza] A couple of summers ago during my Social Superheroes camp, I had a student who got extremely upset—almost comically so—over the tiniest little things. To go with the superhero theme, I asked him to imagine he had an invisible shield that would protect him from other people’s words. It worked surprisingly well, so I decided to write a book to help other kids learn the same technique in a fun way.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] You’ve been a school counselor for an impressive period of 20+ years. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve routinely faced during that time? And how have you addressed this challenge?
[Laurie Mendoza] Hmm, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one challenge. In almost 25 years I’ve seen the number of kids with significant issues explode. Because of that it’s become much more difficult to manage my time at school, and harder to stay up-to-date on new research and best practices. I haven’t found an ideal way to deal with any of that, but it’s helped to connect with other school counselors through Facebook. They’re a great source for new ideas and for crowdsourcing answers to tough situations.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] What piece of advice would you offer to prospective graduate students considering a career in school counseling?
[Laurie Mendoza] I’d say go for it! It’s a demanding and often draining job, but is absolutely worth it. The emotional payoff is huge. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing (except maybe writing more books, but I can do that too).
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] Is there anything else you’d like to add?
[Laurie Mendoza] Thanks so much for sharing my website!
Thank you, Laurie! Learn more about The School Counseling Files on our Top Counseling Blogs list.
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