Student Life & Services

Counseling

COUNSELING AT DAWSON

The counselors at Dawson School collaborate with students, faculty, and parents/ guardians to provide support to each student. Dawson has a counselor in each division.  Each counselor teaches students social emotional classes in every division. We provide a safe and inclusive counseling environment for all members of our community, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, ability, or religion. 

We recognize and honor the strength and resilience of each child and family and believe that this strength-based philosophy informs all our individual and group work with students and families.   As appropriate, counselors are additionally able to connect families with outside therapeutic resources.   We recognize the interrelationship of school, family, and student and how changes in one area often impact other areas of a child’s life.   

Each year we offer a variety of wellness programming for parents and guardians covering topics including drugs and alcohol, mental health, sexuality, diversity and more.  Our parent/ guardian offerings are open to the Dawson community and beyond. Our counseling team collaborates together to offer annual trainings for faculty on these topics as well.  

Unique to Dawson is our Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) program. Each winter, thirty K-12 parents, faculty, staff, and upper school students spend two days learning how to identify the signs of suicide ideation and intervention strategies. 

Dawson's school counselors help meet the psychological needs of students in grades K-12. Our counselors provide developmentally appropriate support and consultation for students, parents and faculty including:
  • Short-term counseling
  • Crisis intervention and assessment
  • Referrals for mental health providers and services including providers who offer a sliding scale fee
  • Coordination with outside mental health providers
  • Management of student mental health support plans with accommodations as needed

Lower School Counseling

At Dawson we believe in the importance of prevention as discussed in Dr. Greenberg’s study from Penn State of 750 children from Kindergarten to age 25, “The most reliable predictor of positive outcomes in adulthood, from educational attainment to mental health, isn’t academic ability but how well students cooperate with peers, help others, understand feelings and resolve conflicts.”  Each lower school student receives one social emotional/wellness class per week taught by the lower school counselor on important topics including communicating and understanding emotions, self-esteem, bullying prevention, family relationships, mental health and more.  The lower school curriculum is guided by the PATHS program, the Pollyanna Diversity curriculum, the Our Whole Lives curriculum and the Blue Sky Bridge body safety program.   Students are offered opportunities for friendship lunches, conflict resolution sessions, as well as individual sessions with the school counselor.  The lower school counselor partners with parents/guardians and teachers to help your child through difficult times and help families connect and collaborate with outside resources if needed. Each year there are parent programming opportunities including an annual 5th grade puberty and sex education parent event as well as other social emotional parent coffees.  

Middle School Counseling

The Middle School years are a time for exciting developmental changes that impact every sphere of a student’s life.  Adolescents begin the process of separating and creating their own identities.  As partners alongside parents and guardians, the middle school counselor is available for parent consultation and short-term individual counseling sessions to support a student’s and family’s internal strengths and assist in developing new skills to help navigate new challenges and responsibilities.  The Middle School Counselor additionally teaches Human Development to 8th graders during enrichment time.  Finally, working with the Middle School Team, the counselor helps with coordinating programmatic wellness training around healthy relationships and making healthy choices.   

Upper School Counseling

The transition into the Upper School is both exciting and challenging. While academic rigor increases, so does the swirling world of social connections. We are aware of how tender the transition from Middle School to Upper School can be, and take extra special care to make this transition as smooth as possible, always predicting some bumps in the road. This year 2021-2022 we welcome Erin Romano to the US counseling team. Erin and I will both be available 20 hours a piece with some overlap mid-week. Erin will also be teaching the Human Development Class for the Upper School. We continue to provide the Counselor’s Corner which is a parent meeting that occurs monthly.. We bring specialists from the community to speak about mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, diagnosing  ADD/ADHD, whether or not to medicate, parenting issues, stress, self care etc. The GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance) is well attended in the Upper School and provides a safe place for student engagement and cultivating self-advocacy. Diversity and social equity is woven into counseling sessions and education as these concepts are vital in exploring self awareness, self-advocacy, compassion and empathy.


Dawson Counseling Team

List of 4 members.

  • Photo of Bryna Cunningham

    Bryna Cunningham 

    LS/MS Counselor
    University of Maryland - B.S.
    National Catholic School of Social Service - M.S.W.
  • Photo of Carolyn Parker

    Carolyn Parker 

    LS Library Media Specialist/Counselor
    Tulane University - B.A. Communications
    University of Maryland - Masters of Social Work
  • Photo of Erin Romano

    Erin Romano 

    Upper School Counselor/Human Development Teacher
    Columbia University - MSW
  • Photo of Holly Smith

    Holly Smith 

    US Counselor
    Kenyon College, University of Colorado, Boulder - BA English Literature, MA Counseling Psychology
Animal-Assisted Therapy:
Rocky the therapy dog joins our Counseling Team

The clinical and cultural benefits of integrating a therapy dog into a school program is well-supported by over 30 years of research in a variety of school settings.  With the mental health benefits of a therapy dog being conspicuous and student stress on the rise, Dawson has followed the likes of Kent Denver, select schools in Boulder Valley, and universities such as Yale and Oberlin. 

Rocky’s certification:  
Bryna Cunningham and Rocky have passed the Professional Therapy Dogs of Colorado test and are a registered team with them.  Rocky, a goldendoodle, was chosen for his breed’s tendency to be gentle, friendly, alert, intelligent, playful, hypoallergenic, and sweet-natured.  

Why use animals in therapy?
Research has shown that animals can have an incredible influence on the emotional and physical healing of people.  The presence or interaction with animals can: 
*Lower anxiety, stress, and blood-pressure
*Teach caring and gentleness in children
*Enhance self-esteem
*Help children with autism develop more prosocial behavior
*Help develop healthy boundaries
*Reduce loneliness
*Help increase emotional awareness and regulation
*Help improve assertiveness
*Help children to be more open and receptive
*Facilitate rapport with children and teenagers leading to increased disclosure
*Help to draw attention outward, thus mitigating anxiety, anger, and depression

(If any student is either highly allergic or afraid of dogs, Rocky will not be present in either a classroom activity or individual session)