Guiding Philosophy & Goals
Every Moment Counts Guiding Philosophy, Framework, and Goals
Every Moment Counts (EMC) is a multi-pronged mental health promotion initiative to help all children and youth be mentally healthy in order to succeed in school, at home, and in the community. Emphasis is on promoting positive mental health which is associate with feeling good emotionally and doing well functionally in everyday life.
The focus is on making every moment count toward helping all children and youth participate in and enjoy their day from the moment they enter school to the time they go home.
Download a 2-page information sheet on Every Moment Counts here.
Small moments make big differences in how children feel and function.
- Enjoyable experiences throughout the day promote feelings of emotional well-being
- Everyone can be a mental health promoter
- Addressing the mental health needs of all students with and without disabilities and/or mental health challenges does not involve doing more but doing differently – namely through embedded strategies.
Guiding Public Health Framework
A multi-tiered framework guides the provision of a range of services and supports geared to meeting the mental health needs of children and youth with and without disabilities and/or mental health challenges. Tier 1, universal services, focus on mental health promotion for all students; Tier 2, targeted services, focus on prevention of mental health challenges in at-risk groups (e.g. those who have been bullied, have a history of trauma, have disabilities); and Tier 3, individualized services, focus on interventions for those with identified mental health challenges (e.g. depression, anxiety, etc.). Learn more about the Public Health Framework here.
Goal of EMC
Provide website materials, webinars, and capacity-building strategies to foster knowledge translation and implementation. We want adults serving youth and parents to engage in:
- Shared learning (knowledge translation) – To reframe their thinking about ‘mental health’ from a deficit perspective to a focus on positive mental health, within a multi-tiered framework (universal, targeted, individualized), using embedded strategies and programs throughout the day; and
- Shared work (implementation) – Committed to collaborating over time to implement new strategies and programs focusing on mental health promotion. Learn more about Creating Change Leaders here.
1. Mental health promotion. EMC’s resources and initiatives focus on creating school and community environments that foster participation and enjoyment for all children and are based on research in the areas of mental health promotion and positive psychology.1,2 Strategies that have been found to improve mental health include participation in enjoyable activities,3 using personal strengths, thinking optimistically, performing acts of kindness and expressing gratitude.4 Mental health promotion efforts also include creating supportive environments, reducing stigma and discrimination, and supporting the social and emotional learning (SEL) of all students.
2. Inclusion of students with disabilities and mental health challenges during all aspects of the school day and extracurricular after-school activities. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) supports inclusion by having interdisciplinary teams consider how students can participate and succeed in the general education setting.5 EMC initiatives focus on supporting all students’ participation throughout the day by embedding mental health promotion and prevention strategies at the universal (whole school) and targeted (small group) levels.
3. Integrated services in natural contexts. In order to promote inclusion of students with disabilities and/or mental health challenges, EMC initiatives advocate for integrating related services (e.g. OT, PT, SLP, school psychology) in natural settings throughout the day (versus pull-out therapy) to the maximum extent possible.6 Providing services in the least restrictive environment (LRE) is mandated in IDEA. Such integrated programming fosters social interaction and the development of friendships among students with and without disabilities.
4. Collaboration among all school personnel, community providers, and parents. Integrating services requires close collaboration among all relevant school personnel. Although EMC was envisioned and developed by occupational therapy practitioners, the initiatives and resources are meant to be used by interdisciplinary school and community providers. Addressing the mental health needs of students requires the use of all 'indigenous resources' within schools – other related service providers (speech language pathologists (SLPs), school psychologists, lunch and recess supervisors, special and regular education teachers, para-educators, and physical and health educators to name a few). Integration of intervention strategies throughout the school day is critical for generalization of targeted skills.7
Developed by OTs, but implemented by all!
How can adults promote positive mental health? Every Moment Counts was founded on the belief that ‘small moments make big differences in how children feel and function’. Because of this, mental health promotion is not implemented during a specific time period of the day by a small number of professionals. Instead, all adults can embed strategies (e.g. positive interactions and enjoyable activities) that promote positive mental health in seamless ways throughout the entire day. Read more about embedded strategies here.
EMC’s initiatives focus on promoting meaningful and enjoyable participation throughout the day for all students. Why? Positive interactions and experiences (e.g. principal saying 'hi' in the hallway and greeting students by name, enjoying lunch in the cafeteria, having fun playing during recess, feeling challenged and successful in class) can go a long way in helping children and youth feel positive about themselves and their school. In contrast, negative interactions and experiences (e.g. being told to eat lunch in silence, being yelled at during recess, being teased by peers) can lead to negative and unhappy feelings.
Participation in meaningful and enjoyable activities throughout the day has been found to promote positive mental health.8,9 Researchers have found that enjoyment occurs when activities align with personal strengths and talents, involve challenge, and allow for choice. All of the Every Moment Counts model programs and strategies emphasize helping all children/youth engage participate in enjoyable activities throughout the school day.
Research9 supports the many mental health benefits of positive emotions:
- Promotes emotional resilience
- Broadens attention and thinking
- Reduces negative emotions
- Fuels psychological and physical well-being
"The task of a sound education, Plato argued twenty-five centuries ago, is to teach young people to find pleasure in the right things. If children enjoyed math, they would learn math. If they enjoyed helping friends, they would grow into helpful adults. If they enjoyed Shakespeare, they would not be content watching television programs. If they enjoyed life, they would take greater pains to protect it."10
Since 2012, the Every Moment Counts leadership team has developed, implemented, and evaluated a number of initiatives that can be used by interdisciplinary school teams throughout the day. Information needed to implement these programs is free and downloadable on this website.
Below is a brief description of our initiatives:
Embedded Strategies – Ten evidence-based mental health promotion strategies based on positive psychology research are provided.
Integrated Services – According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)5, related services (e.g. occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech language pathology, school psychologist, etc.) must provide services in the natural context with general education students as much as possible. Every Moment Counts initiatives reflect interdisciplinary strategies for integrating related services throughout the day in diverse settings such as classroom, cafeteria, recess, art, music, and extracurricular after-school activities.
Calm Moments Cards – Recognize signs of stress and embed thinking, calming and focusing, and sensory strategies to reduce stress and enhance feelings of emotional well-being.
Comfortable Cafeteria – Build capacity of cafeteria supervisors and students to promote enjoyable participation during lunch for all students. Strategies emphasize friendship promotion, meaningful mealtime conversations, respecting differences, including others, and healthy eating habits.
Refreshing Recess – Build capacity of recess supervisors and students to promote enjoyable recess participation for all students. Strategies emphasize enjoyable play, friendship promotion, teamwork, respecting differences, and including others.
Making Leisure Matter – Advocate for and promote meaningful leisure participation at the whole school/universal level with all youth, targeted level with at-risk youth, and individualized level with youth deprived of leisure exploration and participation.
Creating Change Leaders – Since 2011, we have been committed to building capacity of occupational therapy practitioners and school personnel to be mental health promoters. Our building capacity process involves bringing together school providers who commit to shared learning and work over time to embed mental health promotion and prevention strategies throughout the day. Outcome research indicates positive changes in knowledge, beliefs, and actions related to addressing the mental health needs of children and youth.12
For a 2-page Information Brief summarizing Every Moment Counts, click here.
1 Barry, M. M., & Jenkins, R. (2007). Implementing mental health promotion. Edinburgh, Scotland: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier. 2 Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410–421. 3 Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 359, 1367-77. 4 Heller, D., Watson, D., & Ilies, R. (2004). The role of person versus situation in life satisfaction: A critical examination. Psychological Bulletin, 130, 574–600. 5 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA 2004, Final Regulations, §300.34 https://sites.ed.gov/idea/# 6 Cahill, S., & Bazyk, S. (2019). School-Based Occupational Therapy. In Jane Clifford O’Brien & Heather Kuhaneck (eds.). Case-Smith’s Occupational Therapy for Children & Adolescents (8th edition). Mosby. 7 Atkins, M. S., Hoagwood, K. E., Kutach, K., & Seidman, E. (2010). Toward the integration of education and mental health in schools. Administration and Policy in Mental Health, 37, 40-47. 8 Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness. New York: Free Press. 9 Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 359, 1367–1377. 10 Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1993). Activity and happiness: Towards a science of occupation. Occupational Science: Australia, 1, 38–42. 11 Bazyk, S., Demirjian, L., Horvath, F., & Doxsey, L. (2018). The Comfortable Cafeteria program for promoting student participation and enjoyment: An outcome study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 74 (3), 1-9, https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot2018.02379 12 Bazyk, S., Demirjian, L., LaGuardia, T., Thompson-Repas, K., Conway, C., & Michaud, P. (2015). Building capacity of occupational therapy practitioners to address the mental health needs of children and youth: Mixed methods study of knowledge translation. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69, 6906180060p1–6906180060p10.