Empowering Struggling Students through Guided Conversations

A step-by-step guide for helping Educators manage student reactions in the classroom.

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“Always leading with the heart, Dr. Watson makes us stronger and wiser through practical and accessible guidance. In this guide, educators can find comfort in knowing that there are answers to hard questions as they navigate challenges with students as we learn and grow together.”

—Maura Papile, L.I.C.S.W., Senior Director of Student Support Services, Quincy Public Schools

Boost your Confidence in Supporting the Mental Health of all Students

Educators can’t always fix or change students’ challenging situations, but with Dr. Hayley Watson’s Finding the Words, they can create compassionate, safe spaces to truly make a difference to student wellbeing. 

As educators, we are in a position where we can help students break out of cycles of anxiety, low mood, and peer struggles, without needing to be a mental health expert. This book shows you how to support students with issues like low body image, bullying, addiction, and more―with practical language that you can use anytime you are on-the-spot with a struggling student. This language helps you set boundaries to protect your own wellbeing, by guiding your students towards self-reliance and resilience.

In Finding the Words, author and clinical psychologist Dr. Hayley Watson offers practical advice with a personal, self-reflective, and relatable tone. In each chapter, you’ll explore the topics students struggle with most, including hot-button issues like consent and prejudice. You’ll learn how to talk to kids about these issues in a way that helps them make positive changes in their lives. With this book, you will feel like you have a psychologist on hand to support you in those moments when you know your response could mean the world to a struggling student.

  • Understand the common issues your students face―anxiety, low body image, acting out, and beyond
  • Read first-person accounts from youth ages 5-19, showing how appropriate responses can nurture and support students through any challenge they face
  • Gain specific, practical techniques and takeaways to use right away in your interactions with students
  • Learn the most effective language to use when you are on-the-spot with a struggling student

This is a critical resource for school leaders, teacher leaders, classroom teachers and school staff. Any adults who work with youth can benefit from this insightful, expert advice on how to help in the moments when your students need you most.

How Educators can use Finding The Words

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Get a Glimpse Behind the Scenes

Be guided using transcripts from Real Conversations with students, along with honest reflections from a Clinical Psychologist.

Each Chapter contains an interview between Dr Hayley Watson and a student (from the US, Canada, or Australia) communicating about different mental health challenges.

The Learning Cycle for Building Mental Health Skills

This book provides educators with conversation tools for supporting students to move through the Six Steps of Self-Reflection.  These steps will help students navigate whatever struggles they face by encouraging them to Open the door to their own experiences (through Validation, Noticing Patterns & Connecting to Feelings), and Take Action to help themselves (through Shifting Paradigms, Remembering Their Power, & Practicing Skills).

Praise for Finding the Words

“Avoiding theory and jargon, Dr. Hayley Watson’s Finding the Words is a hands-on resource for teachers and other caring adults who hope to address young people’s mental health issues proactively, responsively, and responsibly. From her deep experience as a clinical psychologist, Dr.Watson presents a practical framework for understanding common problems young people are facing—and then illustrates it with sample conversations that offer constructive strategies to support young people in overcoming these obstacles. Using highly accessible language, she encourages us to act on everyday opportunities to have a positive impact on young people who are experiencing mental health challenges.”

—Sheldon Berman, Ed.D.,
Lead Superintendent for Social-Emotional Learning, AASA,
The School Superintendents Association

“Finding the Words is more than just a book—it’s a call to action, empowering educators to engage in transformative conversations with young people facing significant challenges in their lives. Dr. Watson skillfully uses real-life scenarios to demonstrate the application of a six-part process designed to boost mental health resilience among youth.At the heart of this approach is the value placed on deep, meaningful conversations between young people and supportive adults, providing the context for nurturing the insights and skills youths need to help them navigate adversity.”

—Jenny Williams,

Educational Consultant and Developer of http://wellbeingbc.ca

“The book beautifully encapsulates the idea that as educators, our role goes far beyond impart- ing knowledge; we are also responsible for nurturing the emotional well-being of our students. Dr.Watson highlights the crucial steps in self-reflection that can help students confront their inner needs and find their true selves. By making space for this self-discovery, educators can profoundly impact a student’s personal growth. Every educator or supporter of education can benefit from this book.”

—Scott Frauenheim,

President and Chief Executive Officer, Distinctive Schools

“Finding the Words serves as a trusted colleague for educators, offering guidance and examples crucial for supporting students in their moments of struggle. This reliable companion empow- ers educators to authentically connect with students, equipping them with the words needed to navigate challenging situations and foster meaningful understanding.”

—Liz Hill, M.Ed.,

Assistant Superintendent,West Vancouver Schools, Canada

Tables of Contents

Learn the Language to use with any Struggling Student

Be confident communicating in a supportive way with students who face challenges such as:
  • Worries, Anxiety & Stress
  • Depression & Apathy
  • Social Media Impacts
  • Peer Pressure
  • Low Body Image
  • Bullying
  • Perfectionism
  • Disengagement from School
  • Self-Harm

About the Author

Dr Hayley Watson is a Clinical Psychologist specializing in children and adolescents with a PhD in school bullying interventions, along with four further academic degrees in the field of mental health.

She has been creating and delivering youth and school-based programs globally for the past 20 years, and has worked across a range of sectors including police victim services, non-profit organizations, private psychology practices, hospitals, schools, and universities. She trains educators and parents worldwide on holistic wellbeing practices, and is the founder of Open Parachute – an online school mental health program using documentary stories of real students sharing their experiences of overcoming struggle, that is being delivered in schools across the US, Canada and Australia.