Northstar Learning Center

NorthStar Learning Centers

Helping children, youth and families realize their strengths and dreams.

NorthStar Learning Centers

Helping children, youth and families realize their strengths and dreams.

NorthStar Learning Centers

Helping children, youth and families realize their strengths and dreams.

Accredited by:


NorthStar Learning Centers Mental Health Clinic started as a thought, and then emerged into a set of principles that is now an established culmination of an exemplary history of professional, and dedicated direct services to the communities of Southeastern Massachusetts for over 40 years. NorthStar Mental Health Clinic is the next progression of services offered by NorthStar Learning Centers.


Mental Health Clinic

Mental Health Clinic

Assisting children, youth, and families with mental health challenges

Mental health services have long been a vital, integral part of our programming. In the early 1980s, NorthStar arranged with an early intervention provider to provide on-site counseling and other services. We consider this on-site mental health program as an important complement to our early education and care programs that has improved the lives of children and families and increased the chances that children will grow up safe, healthy, successful, and responsible.

When youth complain about counseling that they are unable to relate to or is ineffective, we see a missed opportunity to improve their lives. We understand and believe that to be culturally competent is essential to being effective. Multicultural counseling will be a natural extension of the work we do, it fills a service gap in our area, and, we hope, offer a compelling model to enhance area capacity to provide effective mental health services that support our area’s increasingly diverse population.

Clinical Model and Treatment Philosophy

The NorthStar clinical model is designed to ensure that participants receive timely access to an array of high-quality behavioral health services at the level and intensity required to meet their needs. NorthStar will address the holistic needs of individuals and families we serve through a theoretical framework that is culturally competent, strength-based, and person-centered. Our comprehensive assessment examines a participant’s need for behavioral health services, physical health, housing, education and or vocational needs, barriers and general support needs to enhance symptom reduction, recovery, and the ability for one to live as independently as possible.

Our service delivery is grounded in three evidence-based approaches associated with positive change in children, youth, and adults considered at risk of negative educational and life outcomes: 

  • Positive youth development and positive adult development
  • Trauma-informed care
  • Harm reduction

All are strength-based approaches that consider the whole person, meet them “where they’re at,” and call for individualized responses to their needs, interests, preferences, and abilities. All three philosophies have been shown to increase participant engagement and retention, including among persons who are the hardest to reach and have the greatest needs. All can improve outcomes for children, youth, and adults in the areas of self-sufficiency, well-being, safety, and permanent connections.

circles mental health

Our service delivery consists of the following Mental Health services:

  • Individual Counseling
  • Group Counseling
  • Family Counseling
  • School-based Counseling
  • In-Home Therapy (IHT)


Every behavior has a purpose, our approach is to identify what the child is attempting to communicate with their behaviors. Some of the reasons we may see challenging behaviors can include the need for sensory input, getting our attention, communication, frustration, and many other reasons. We work to identify the source of the behavior and ease them with some very specific intentional strategies.

We understand that certain behaviors can be distressing for the child, their peers, parents, teachers and even strangers in the community that may witness a child exhibiting challenging behaviors. We use the Acronym BEHAVIORS described below as a tool to be proactive in addressing behaviors that are disruptive in a learning environment. We model the desired behaviors for the child while gathering important information that will be used in developing and implementing an individualized treatment plan for the child that can be used in school and at home. The Acronym BEHAVIORS is as follows: 

Be calm and patient
Examine the cause of the behavior
Have a plan of action
Actively implement the plan
Vary the plan to accommodate the stimulation/need
Implement proactively, not reactively
Overreacting will stress you out
Remember things could be worse
Start again and repeat daily for extended periods of regulation

School-Based Clinical Services

New Bedford High School

A collaboration between NorthStar and New Bedford High School, our clinician is able to provide one-on-one counseling services and groups in a classroom setting. The clinician is trauma trained and experienced to assist struggling, trauma-exposed students in coping with overwhelming, immobilizing emotions and help them construct new meaning of their trauma history, heal, and learn and develop in healthy ways.

This initiative is offered in three progressively wider fields to assist with lifelong learning and discovery:

  • The first focus is self-development, students will be provided tools to meet life’s challenges and teach goal setting to help them reach their full potential.
  • The second focus is enhancing awareness of student’s attitudes and fears related to their educational successes.
  • The final focus is community, which will incorporate a project of the students design and implementation that has a true impact on the community helping to make the connection to each students actions and the impact of those actions.

Elementary and Charter Schools 

NorthStar’s Mental Health Outreach Program provides school-based clinical services and support to several New Bedford Public Elementary Schools and local Charter schools. We provide licensed and Masters-level clinicians to facilitate school-based individual and group counseling programs to address in-school and out-of-school challenging behaviors that disrupt time on learning. 

School-based individual/small-group interventions aim to decrease the frequency and severity of participants’ problem behaviors and increase appropriate social interaction skills while strengthening resilience and sense of belonging. 

The Diversion and Assistance Program

As a response to people with mental illness and substance abuse disorders being overrepresented in the criminal justice system, the Mental Health Outreach Program’s Diversion and Assistance Program is part of a pre-arrest police-based jail diversion program funded by a local foundation to assist New Bedford police officers in recognizing the differences between criminal behavior and behavior related to mental illness and substance abuse disorders. The Diversion and Assistance Program (DAP) diverts youth and young adults (11-24 years old) with behavioral health and/or substance use disorders and who have committed minor offenses away from the justice system and toward community-based treatment and support options as a more appropriate response than confinement, and a more humane and effective way of addressing and preventing future delinquency. We start working with 11 years old because this is the entry age for middle schools, and it is in middle school where underlining behavioral concerns and various mental health conditions manifest themselves in a more identifiable manner. Additionally, the level of social awkwardness is most notable during middle school which can subject children to bullying and other aberrant behavior involving the School Resource Officer and juvenile justice system. The benefits of successful diversion and assistance programs have been well documented:

Our clinician engages in several tasks, including individual and family counseling, referral for various wraparound services, diagnostic assessments, professional development and psycho-education training for officers to further their understanding and response to individuals with mental health and/or substance abuse challenges.

The DAP clinician was able to co-respond to over 60 cases during the 2018 calendar year. The 60 cases represent police officers reaching out to the Diversion Clinician to assist in determining whether the offender they are interacting with requires mental health services. These 60 cases where diversion from arrest became an option occurred during what was considered a call involving an emotionally disturbed person or an individual experiencing emotional distress and/or psychiatric symptoms that may also have co-occurring substance use issues. Diversion opportunities happens when the clinician, responding with an officer in a situation where an arrest could have occurred, but instead community-based or inpatient services are provided in lieu of arrest and filing of charges. 20 cases were referred for community-based services, 14 were diverted to Emergency Services, and 26 cases resolved during the exchange at the site of the response call.

When youth are diverted from the criminal justice system and placed in community-based service delivery models everyone wins. The impact of the Diversion and Assistance Program in the lives of the 60 youth benefits the entire Greater New Bedford community by supporting youth to stay with their families, attend their schools, and have access to their peer and support network that will enhance and maintain their community-based services.   

To make a referral to NorthStar Mental Health Clinic, please call us at 508-984-3392 or get our referral form below. Complete the form and email, fax, mail or self-deliver.