RUMFORD – Since the beginning of the school year, counselor Maya Best has counseled students – and, sometimes, their parents – at the school-based clinic that Swift River Health Care sponsors at Mountain Valley High School.

“There is wonderful school spirit here,” she said. “It’s a fun place to work.” Best said she also appreciates the good working relationships she has with the school’s principal, vice principal and guidance counselors.

Most recently in private practice in Bethel, Best worked for the Oxford County Mental Health Services from 1996 to 2001 in a variety of roles, including with the Family and Children’s Services branch.

Although she still maintains her private practice, she is at the high school from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. “This allows kids to get help right here at school,” she said. “I’m here after school hours for the kids or their parents, too.” Students schedule their own appointments by calling or stopping by the health center’s office.

Best earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Southern Maine in Portland and her master’s in social work from the University of New England in Biddeford. She is a licensed clinical social worker.

In the late 1970s she was a student at the Maine College of Art. “I thought I wanted to be an art teacher,” she said. Now she uses painting and drawing as tools for therapy.

“Sometimes, it’s easier for students to express themselves nonverbally,” she said. Best also practices sand tray therapy and uses writing as a therapy tool.

Best sees students with a variety of problems and concerns. There may be difficult adjustments within a blended family. She helps students through grief and loss. If peer conflict is the issue, there may be group meetings, including the principal or vice principal. “I sometimes try to foster positive communication between parent and child, if there is a barrier.”

When she’s not helping students and her private clients, Best is often making her own art. She is scheduled for a show at the Commons Collective Gallery in Norway, beginning Friday, Feb. 4. She lives in Greenwood with her partner, Will, and her dog, Charlie.

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