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'I saw anxiety. I saw depression-type things that were making me nervous for my daughter' | Social emotional coaching helps students cope

The alternative approach to traditional therapy helps children proactively navigate stressors.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Sitting on her office floor, Amanda Martin helps her young clients cope with the pressures of life.

Martin left her job as an elementary school teacher after 14 years in the classroom to become a social-emotional coach.

She created Empowered Mind after noticing an unsettling trend among her students during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"These kids were struggling to work through conflict management amongst their peers. They didn't know how to communicate well when they would face a problem with their peers, so there was a piece of my job as, in any educator's job, that was working through teaching them so many of those things," Martin said.

RELATED: 'The only thing that is a failure is not asking for help' | Mental health crisis affects East Tennessee children at alarming rate

Sara Derrico's daughter also struggled as she prepared for middle school, and traditional therapy wasn't working.

"I saw anxiety. I saw depression-type things that were making me nervous for my daughter," she said.

Over the summer they began social-emotional coaching with Martin.

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success which helps students develop and maintain healthy relationships.

Derrico says the change was almost immediate.

"They doodle the whole time they talk, they do role-playing exercises, so if she's afraid on how to talk to a teacher, how to talk to a student or friend, she's having an issue with, Amanda will role play with her the whole entire conversation so she feels more confident when actually happens," Derrico said. "I feel more confident and relaxed as a parent that she's got these tools now, and she's got a person to talk to, and she's got a safe place to express herself and her concerns that maybe she's not comfortable to talk to me about."

Martin says if you notice changes in your child's behavior and you aren't sure what to do, don't wait to get help.

"It's very, equipping, very empowering, teaching kids, on the front end, the things that they need to know and learn about boundaries, the things that they need to know and learn about communication skills, about self-awareness about understanding your emotions and how to regulate them. All of these things are necessary life skills," Martin said.

RELATED: 'It took some extreme circumstances to get her the intense therapy she needed' | Knoxville mom and daughter share struggles to find mental health help

For more resources on where to find mental health help in East Tennessee, click here.

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