Shelterwood’s research awarded the NATSAP Gold Seal

Shelterwood is a member of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) and a recipient of NATSAP’s Gold Seal. 

“The gold seal recognizes research-designated programs,” says Amy Hobson, Shelterwood’s research coordinator. “These are programs that continually gather information to assess their effectiveness in meeting the needs of clients, both immediately and longer-term.” 

NATSAP’s gold seal can help families quickly identify programs that use empirical data to prove the work they are doing is effective. “Making  clear that we honestly examine our work,” Amy says, “and that we contribute to the scholarly, professional and practical understanding of the effects of our interventions.”

Amy shares that Shelterwood has been collecting program data for three years now. She says the practice not only helps contribute to the field as a whole—other researchers can learn from what’s working at Shelterwood—but because it gives staff real-time feedback on the needs of teens currently in the program. 

The only Christian program to achieve NATSAP gold-seal status, Shelterwood takes data-collection seriously. It has six different assessment tools it uses to gauge current issues, progress and satisfaction with the program. 

  • Adolescent Questionnaire: This 18-question test about recent behaviors (substance abuse, sexuality, physical health, and feelings about being in the Shelterwood program) is given at intake and discharge. A voluntary version of the questionnaire is also given six months and one year after leaving Shelterwood. 
  • Family Assessment Device: This tool explores how families interact and is given at intake, discharge and six months and one year after discharge. 
  • Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory: This survey assesses the probability of substance abuse risk and is given at intake and discharge. 
  • Youth Outcome Questionnaire: This self-reporting test covers a variety of problematic situations, behaviors, moods and relationship struggles. In addition to intake, discharge and six months and one year after discharge, Shelterwood uses the Youth Outcome Questionnaire monthly to help track where teens need focus or are plateauing. 
  • Shelterwood Spiritual Inventory: This survey asks teens about their opinions on spiritual matters and big life questions. Given at intake, 220 days and discharge, it provides information only and doesn’t affect graduation decisions.
  • Shelterwood Program Survey: Both students and parents take this survey every 100 days to give their opinions on Shelterwood’s program, including education, counseling, staff and more. It now includes an open comments section to solicit additional feedback. 

This level of data goes way beyond NATSAP’s gold-seal requirements. In particular, the monthly Youth Outcome Questionnaire (YOQ) is a unique way Shelterwood helps both teens and therapists identify progress and challenges. The survey reports how teens are doing in five different areas, or sub-scales: interpersonal distress, somatic, interpersonal relations, social problems and behavioral dysfunction. 

The YOQ can track whether the teen is landing in clinical (treatment necessary) or non-clinical ranges for each of those areas. Therapists use the survey to create treatment plans based on the teen’s greatest needs or where they may have stalled out. It can give hard-data support to intuitions therapists may have about where a teen’s treatment needs to go next. 

But teens can also use the survey to track their own progress. “A teen can look at it and say, ‘This is what I care about most, and this is where I want to work,’” Amy says.  “It gives them leadership and investment in their own process. It’s a helpful tool to let the teen have a visual and more objective look at their subjective feelings, potentially.”

In addition to this individual-level data, Shelterwood’s research tracks the program’s cumulative progress. “Overall, we’re able to look at our effectiveness: Is what we’re doing helping teens?” Amy says. 

Shelterwood watches what it calls “indexes of reliable change”: Are teens moving from reporting clinical levels of need to non-clinical levels? If they are, they are likely making significant life changes that are noticeable to the people closest to them. That’s the goal—and one Shelterwood’s overall data says their programs achieve. 

“Across the board, our teens get healthier and generally leave our program in a non-clinical range,” Amy says. 

Shelterwood’s commitment to data collection, and its recognition by NATSAP’s gold seal, is all in service of its mission creating real heart-change in struggling teens. 

“We are looking at empirical data to inform our treatment plans, and we are also evaluating the effectiveness of those treatment plans,” Amy explains. “The gold seal lets families know Shelterwood is unique in that we are honestly examining the work.”

Want to know more about how Shelterwood’s research-based and relational approach to treatment? Get in touch with our admissions staff today.

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