Student Assistance Services News

December 2021

Student Assistance Specialists (SASs) have expertise in the mental health and substance use field. They have Master’s degrees in Social Work or Counseling, and most are licensed by the Virginia Department of Health Professions as Clinical Social Workers, Professional Counselors or Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioners. As members of the Unified Mental Health Team, Student Assistance Specialists support LCPS initiatives that promote student connectedness, enhance student resilience and educate about mental health and substance use issues. We provide educational presentations for students and parents, restorative practices, individualized and group support, referral services, coordination with providers, staff development and consultation with parents and staff.

To find your school's SAS assignment, visit our website.

Five tips for fighting stress this winter

We are entering the challenging winter months, the sometimes hectic holiday season and the mid point of the school year, which can present a variety of stressors. Workload, deadlines, errands, cabin fever ... and the list goes on. The strains of daily life pull us in many directions, requiring time and energy we don’t always have. When these demands become overwhelming, they may lead to the all-too-familiar feeling of stress.

A small amount of stress could provide motivation or protect you from threats. Large amounts stress, when untreated, can lead to short or long-term negative impacts on your mental and physical health. A realistic goal is not to eliminate all stress but to keep stress at levels that are helpful, rather than harmful. Here are five strategies for managing stress in a healthy way.

Building Resilience

Resilience refers to the ability to handle stress when it arises, and to protect oneself against future stress. Research has shown a number of qualities that contribute to resilience, including social support, optimism, sense of humor, spirituality, self-esteem, and adaptability. Many of these qualities can be fostered in counseling.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, are a key element of stress reduction. These techniques create a relaxation response, which counters the body’s stress response.

Time Management

Too much to do, and too little time. Balancing responsibilities and fitting them into a busy schedule is a common stressor. Time management skills can reduce the mental burden of juggling tasks and increase the likelihood that everything gets done.


When stress levels are high, hobbies, relationships, and free time are overlooked, leading to an increase in stress. “Self-care” refers to your passions and enjoyable activities that help you relax, have fun, or feel energized. These could include talking with a friend, exercise, reading, or listening to music. The essential part of self-care is not so much what you do—it’s just that you do it.

Cognitive Restructuring

Stress can arise more from our thoughts about an experience than from the experience itself. Two people who have the same experience might have different levels of stress (or no stress at all) based on how they think about it. Frequently, the thoughts that trigger stress are irrational or exaggerated, but we respond to them as if they are factual. Here are some examples of irrational thoughts that lead to stress:

“I’ll never get through this.”

“I have to be perfect all the time.”

“If I don’t get an A on the test, I’m a total failure.”

The goal of cognitive restructuring is to identify irrational and/or negative thoughts, challenge them and replace them with positive, rational thoughts. These techniques can be learned through psychoeducational services or therapy.

Written by Darren Madison, LCSW

Tips for talking to your student about SAS Presentations

Substance Abuse Prevention presentations have been ongoing across the county for 6th, 8th and 10th graders. These presentations are adjusted according to grade level but carry the same themes throughout so students receive consistent messaging as they progress through grades. More detail on these presentations can be found in our November newsletter. We encourage parents to talk with their students about what they learned during the presentation and explore any additional questions they may have. Here are some tips for discussing with your student:

Remain open and curious - Ask genuinely about what they heard or learned. Asking open-ended questions like: "What did you think about that?" "What did you hear that was new?" or "What stood out to you?" show interest and allows your child to direct the conversation.

Ask clarifying questions - Asking questions for deeper understanding rather than immediately sharing your thoughts or opinions shows a genuine interest in their perspective.

Make the connection - This is an opportunity to discuss any family history of addiction that could pose a risk for your child or personalize the information with stories or examples. It is also an opportunity to share the expectations within your household. Making clear what is and is not acceptable as well as the consequences associated with breaking house rules allows your child to make informed decisions and prepares them for accountability.

Fill in the gaps - If your child needs any further clarification or has any questions, explore the Educational Resources section below or reach out to your school's Student Assistance Specialist. Your school's Student Assistance Specialist can also assist with providing or referring for additional support.

Written by Fiona Brown, LPC

Education and Support Resources

These resources are not maintained or endorsed by Loudoun County Public Schools. LCPS is providing them as a helpful resource but is not responsible for their content.

Increase Your Knowledge - Parent/Student Substance Use information - Alcohol Information - Drug Information - Tobacco and E-Cig Information - Easy-to-read drug facts - Tobacco and Nicotine education, advocacy and cessation resources - COVID-19 & Substance Use—Stanford study on vaping increasing COVID-19 risk - DEA website - drug-specific information, pill identifiers, social media trends— Addiction Policy Forum website—provides educational videos and articles - Education and tips for parents on talking to their children about substance use

Support for you as a Loved One - Resource for families - Online Support Community for parents/caregivers - Support for family members of someone struggling with addiction—Zoom meetings—Support for children of parents struggling with addiction—Zoom meetings - Find online Alateen meetings—Addiction Policy Forum website for finding and navigating the treatment experience

Find a Treatment Provider - SAMHSA treatment locator

1-800-662-HELP (4357) TTY: 1-800-487-4889 - SAMSHA National Helpline - Online Recovery Community: Self-Management and Recovery Training Recovery community based on Buddhist Principles, virtual meetings available—Virtual Narcotics Anonymous meetings - Virtual Alcoholics Anonymous meetings - LCPS listing of community treatment providers

All Rights Reserved. ©2021 Loudoun County Public Schools.