Counselor Spotlight: Brandee Grissett

By Rebecca Smith

Brandee Grissett joined Next Step’s school counseling program in February 2020, shortly before schools closed under the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I see a lot of anxiety, just from not having a social outlet and routine,” she said. “The first thing I always like to do is acknowledge it. I say, ‘Yeah, there is a lot of uncertainty and it’s normal to be having a hard time right now.’ I want to take away any thought they may have like ‘Oh, I shouldn’t be thinking this,’ and I don’t want them to worry about being worried.”

Next Step’s counseling program places behavioral health counselors on school campuses for a fraction of what it would cost schools to hire their own staff. About one in five students need behavioral counseling services in the United States on average.

Brandee had just begun seeing students with Madisonville CISD before schools closed, and has since been seeing those students virtually through secure video-based counseling. She encourages students to keep up with hobbies they enjoy and stay in touch with their friends to cope during the pandemic.

“I think a lot of people feel like being cooped up in their house shouldn’t be difficult, but it really is,” she said. “They might say ‘Oh, I have all this free time on my hands, what do I have to complain about,’ but it is actually very influential in a negative way.”

Even though she’s only been with Next Step a short time, the staff has already made an impact, she said.

“Next Step has a real sense of community and support,” she said. “Everyone is so sweet. The leadership asks what they can do to support us or pep us up.”

One of the biggest things she likes about working with adolescents is the potential to make an impact while they are young, she said.

“There’s a lot of potential for change with adolescents,” she said. “When an adult comes in to counseling, sometimes their problematic behavior can be more hardwired than an adolescent’s. Not to say adults can’t change, but it’s a lot easier to overcome with adolescents.”

Brandee started college as a pre-med student, but didn’t like only spending 15 minutes with patients; she wanted to get to know them and really hear how they are doing.

“One of the things I love about counseling is being a safe space,” she said. “At the end of the day I can suggest coping skills and techniques, but I think the most powerful things is just being someone who can listen with no judgement and be empowering.”

She hopes that stigma around mental health counseling continues to be replaced with more educated awareness.

“Even today when there is more awareness about mental health, there’s still this stigma that ‘You only go to counseling if you can’t handle it on your own,’” she said. “Everyone has their stuff, everyone has their hard things, and it’s OK to work that through with someone else, a neutral party.”