Therapeutic boarding schools

SW Arch 22 Edit copy 300x198 Therapeutic boarding schoolsWhen is it time to take the plunge?

There are no strict guidelines as to when parents should choose residential treatment as a placement option for their teen. Generally speaking, teens enter residential treatment when their needs are too intense to be managed with outpatient treatment.

When we receive referrals from an outpatient counselor, usually one or more of the following issues is taking place:

  • Outpatient treatment has failed to contain the symptoms and increasing the intensity and/or the frequency of counseling contacts has not stemmed the tide of distress and dysfunction.
  • Available emotional resources for support from friends and family have become depleted or drained, leaving the teen with a lack of support during periods of heightened symptomatology.
  • There is no clear indication for acute inpatient hospitalization.
  • There is considerable diagnostic ambiguity that may be clarified or eliminated by regular or round-the-clock observations in a safe environment—for example, to determine whether a behavioral disturbance is the result of a rapid-cycling mood disorder or concealed substance abuse.
  • There are safety issues, such as escalating levels of substance abuse, disordered eating or purging behaviors, or self-injurious behaviors, that may be reduced in a controlled (but not necessarily locked) treatment milieu that features round-the-clock behavioral observations.

Therapeutic boarding schools fill a gap between outpatient treatment and inpatient hospitalization. But often the medical environment is simply not an effective intervention for most adolescent development issues. A hospital can feel impersonal, short, detached, expensive, and create a label for your teen that will be difficult for them to move past. Outpatient counseling can also feel impersonal to your teen as they tolerate it in an effort to simply get by each week. Unless your teen is motivated to change, outpatient counseling does not have sufficient structure and oversight to require a teen to ‘try change.’ The mere attendance in a weekly session can lull you as a parent into believing something is happening even though no real progress is being made.

Many teens confess when they arrive at Shelterwood that they are desperate for this kind of inpatient therapeutic help. While they might not admit it to their parents, most students realize that without a firm intervention that removes them from their environment, they had no ability to ‘self heal.’ As long as it was possible to avoid change, they were committed to avoiding it. But once they felt the warmth, support, and duration of a therapeutic boarding school, they let their guard down and tried on new ways to live.

Back to School Prep

Being proactive now will help your student feel greater confidence when school starts soon!

263794 10150293573006772 136220011771 7182328 6765550 n 300x200 Back to School PrepFor most of the country, summer is a time of freedom from school for teens. This is a hold-over from a time when most families lived in rural areas where kids were needed to help on the family farm during the warm months of the year.

Many teens use the summer months now to work, travel with family, or participate in sports. In the midst of summer fun, some habits can be formed that don’t translate well to the school year! Here are some tips to help your teen get back into “school shape”:

1. Discipline in sleep habits: My own teen daughter likes to stay up late…and sleep in late. This is a habit I’ll let go until two weeks before school starts. Getting back into the rhythms of a school schedule early will help the first couple of weeks of school be more productive!

2. Read: Reading is perhaps one of the most well rounded academic activities someone can do. If your student hasn’t been engaged in school or learning activities during the summer, encouraging them to read a book or two before the beginning of school will help get their mind back on the track of concentrating on something for more than a minute or two. Take them to the library or bookstore and let them pick out books they are interested in, not just classics, as it will stoke their interest.

3. Transition prep: Is your student stepping into their first year of high school? Maybe entering into a new school altogether? Begin to work right now with them to make sure they are prepped before the first day. Talking with school counselor, teachers or even visiting the school to walk through are all steps you can take when the school is closed for class but staff is in doing work.

4. Goal setting: Take your teen out for ice-cream, and talk about goals for the coming year. Do they want to make the honor roll? Maybe participate in an extra-curricular activity? Let your student guide the conversation, but help them to envision how they can be successful in school. Research shows that the student’s expectation of how well they will do in a given class has a greater affect than almost anything else on how they will actually perform.

The Best Residential Programs

Matching facility resources and student needs is critical – Here is what to look for

Once the decision is made to place a teen in a residential program, parents face the formidable task of selecting among the many facilities that advertise nationwide. A ‘good fit’ between the family and the residential facility is essential to optimize the chances of a favorable outcome.

Like therapists, residential facilities vary widely in their goals, their theoretical orientation and treatment paradigms, and the specific features of their treatment settings.   Therapeutic programs also very widely in their location, cost, amenities and lengths of stay.

We urge parents to seek out markers of quality and encourage them to ask a lot of questions before committing to a particular program. There are no standardized or nationwide ratings of residential programs, but generally speaking, high-quality residential treatment facilities will have the following characteristics in common:

  • Accreditation and/or licensure: The best residential programs tend to subject themselves to scrutiny and oversight by state licensing authorities. Such licensing and accrediting authorities require strict standards for evidence-based care, documentation, medication storage and handling, and other key aspects of residential care.
  • Fully credentialed staff: Staff who work in the best residential programs must be sensitive not only to the dynamics of each individual client, but also to group dynamics, the dynamics between staff and clients and, perhaps most importantly, the often-subtle indications that a client may be in need of more intensive programming or even hospitalization. Prior experience in inpatient facilities can be quite helpful for residential program staff members.
  • Ready access to urgent and emergency care facilities: Accidents happen and so do intentional acts of self-harm. The best residential programs that have working relationships with local hospitals and urgent care facilities are well positioned to transition patients in crisis to a higher level of care with less disruption.
  • Research orientated: Although costly and time consuming, research is critical to any top quality program. While most programs are founded by well-meaning individuals, many of these founders have created a philosophy and curriculum based on their own life experience. Research-based programming breaks through this bias and forces programs to adhere to the science of change. When programs make research a priority, parents are assured that the staff is focused on outcomes and the future success of their teen is highly valued.
  • Purpose driven: Whether it’s called a statement of faith, a mission statement, or something else, every program has an underlying basic philosophy that drives their program and treatment. This unifying purpose or value statement impacts whom they hire and how they will interact with the teens. It provides critical insight into the beliefs of a program and staff. Asking residential programs what they believe about the nature of man will help you understand the underlying philosophy of the program, which impacts how the program will go about creating change.   Unfortunately, most residential programs are unaware or naive regarding this larger philosophical question. But whether programs realize it or not, their beliefs have a significant and long lasting impact on the teens that they work with. Good programs should stay in touch with former students and will inadvertently continue to share their values long after the students have left. So ask the program what they believe about the nature of man, how people change, and if they recognize a higher power. We place our children in residential programs to be impacted and changed, so it stands to reason that understanding how this change is going to happen and what messages are going to be conveyed is critical.

The Beach Lodge

photo 1 300x225 The Beach LodgeShelterwood is set to open a new lodge in the summer of 2015. The new building is the result of generous donors and the recognition that there are many families around the country that need help. The lodge will house eight students, in four different pods, for a total of thirty-two. The unique design is the result of much study and consultation with the State of Missouri and the leadership of CALO.

We have decided to name this amazing new lodge after our late founder, Richard Beach. Richard passed away a few years ago after a long battle with cancer. He started Shelterwood in 1980 and invested all of his energy into developing leaders and caring for families. Richard had a special way about him, always eager to connect and care for others, and willing to talk to anybody. His conversations were always filled with humor and care.

Richard always saw the best in people. He nurtured many people, young and old, into fantastic leaders. I was fortunate because I managed to spend many years directly under Richard’s leadership and deeply appreciated his mentorship. Unlike other leaders that try to hold on to power, Richard always found ways to share leadership. Even with Richards passing, Shelterwood remains living proof of this wisdom, as most non-profit organizations go out of business within a few years of their founder leaving. Not Shelterwood. We are still here and continuing to grow.

Richard trusted the people that he developed for succession. Those who do not finish well seem to always beSW Construction 13 copy 300x224 The Beach Lodge dissatisfied with whoever succeeds them, almost as if they are looking for, but unable to find, a clone of themselves. Richard did not hold on to power, but instead shared it freely and at Shelterwood, this continues to be our model. Over the years we have managed to develop and then release many leaders to start their own programs. Leadership development through our mentor process does not just apply to the staff that work at Shelterwood Academy, but it is also a critical part of how we interact with our students.

And so it makes sense that our new student residence would be called the Beach Lodge: designed to care for the most hurting of teenagers in an intimate way. We anticipate the Beach Lodge being filled with laughter, compassion and growth and providing an opportunity for young men and women to uncover their full potential.

Watch this fantastic video of Richard Beach share on the importance of love.

Jimmy Faseler was critically injured

Jimmy Faseler was critically injured in a shooting at his home. According to court records, Jimmy came home, interrupted a burglary in progress and was shot in the torso. Police said he was still in critical condition Sunday afternoon and they described his injuries as life-threatening.

ACCORDING TO THE NEWS

Staff Portrait Crops 4 Jimmy Faseler was critically injuredWhen Jimmy Faseler moved to Kansas City from Branson, Missouri, he never knew a place like Shelterwood existed. “I applied for a job just to make ends meet,” he said, “but it turned out to be my calling.”

Today, Jimmy is Shelterwood’s Admissions Director. Often the first point of contact for parents, he focuses on admitting students and helping them as they transition into their time at Shelterwood.  In the fall of 2014 Jimmy received the “Excellence in Service Award” from the National Association of Schools and Programs (NATSAP).

When he isn’t at Shelterwood, Jimmy enjoys cheering on the Kansas City Royals. He’s a familiar face at the team’s home games at Kauffman Stadium, and the Royals themselves call Jimmy a super fan.

Residential Therapy

SW Arch 92 Edit copy Residential TherapySome parents might be asking, “How do I know if my teen needs residential Therapy?”

I often tell parents that if they find themselves seriously concerned about their child’s behavior or emotional state more than once or twice a month, then they need to take action.   They know their child better than anyone else, and they need to pay attention to their “gut.”

The longer a parent waits to deal with serious emotional and behavioral issues in their teen, the more difficult it will be for a parent to address these issues themselves, and the greater the potential that residential therapy will be needed to assist the parents.

There are many specific warning signs: defiance, rebellion, lying, depression, isolation, suicidal communication, refusing to participate in family activities, being secretive, dramatic changes in behavior, friends, or academics, destructive habits such as drugs, alcohol, cutting, or eating disorders, choosing poorly in relationships.

When you get to this stage, you have probably already discussed your concerns with your child on multiple occasions with little success and have maybe consulted with a local therapist.  Unfortunately, outpatient counseling typically depends on some level of willing participation from the client.  Oppositional teens often struggle to make positive gains in the local counseling office for three specific reasons: First, because they have difficulty trusting a professional that they only see for brief weekly sessions.  It usually takes a great deal of time to build trust with a teen and they often doubt the motivations of people that they perceive as only caring because it is their ‘job.’  Second, teens often have difficulty expressing themselves through talk therapy and do much better when given an opportunity to express themselves through experiential therapy.  Some of the best counseling is done at Shelterwood while walking on the campus in the evening or sitting around the campus lounge with a cup of hot chocolate. Third, when left to their description of events or attitudes, teens find it to easy to mislead an outpatient counselor.  Outpatient counselors are put in a tough spot because they can only work with the information that they are being provided and oppositional teens find it easy to shift blame and avoid responsibility when they are the only ones in the office and the counselor has no other vantage point.

If your teen remains unmotivated and uninterested in changing his/her approach to life than residential care is the best option.  Residential therapy affords the counselor an opportunity to watch and interact with the teen throughout the day, seeing them at their best and worst while they interact with teachers, peers, and house staff.  Having been burned before, parents are often wary of a counselor’s ability to see through the manipulation of their teen.

Because of the 24/7 nature of residential therapy, it is really difficult for teens to mislead for very long.  But they certainly try, especially at first, enlisting one of three different approachesOne approach that usually only lasts a few days is to make attempts to act ‘good,’ trying to demonstrate that their placement was an overreaction by the parents and that they really don’t need to attend such a program.  A second strategy that they use is to try and create doubt within their parents.  They make assertions as to how bad the other kids are, or how horrible the food is, or maybe they will create elaborate stories about how the teachers don’t care about academics enough, or how the counselors just don’t understand.  After all, “You are right, Mom and Dad, I really do want help but just not here. It seems dangerous, unprofessional or not right for our unique family needs.”  The third technique is simply a power play, an effort to threaten parents with hurting themselves, hurting others, running away, or withholding future love and connection if they are left in the program.  Of course, I have also seen teens switch techniques when they are not achieving their desired results of getting removed from the program.

It usually takes a few weeks and maybe even a month or two to work through the teen’s resistance to change.  We use empathy and strength until teens slowly recognize the safety of their current surroundings and begin to let down their guard and become more honest.  By placing their teens at Shelterwood, parents are clearly communicating to their teen that there are consequences. And by keeping their teen at Shelterwood through graduation, those teens are learning that their mom and dad are serious about them learning these lessons before they return home.

It is important to remember that each teen is a free moral agent with his or her own will. Some teens act on what they are learning while they are still in the program.  For others, they might need to return and struggle again before what they learned can be solidified into lasting change.  Earlier this year, I heard from one young man who wrote to thank me and to tell me what he had learned at Shelterwood. The remarkable thing is that this young man did not finish our program; in fact, he had to be removed from the program. He described in some detail the things he learned in our program and the desire to come back and visit.

So, if you are dealing with a struggling teen right now, you are not alone, and you are not a bad parent. However, you are in a massive battle. You cannot focus on your past mistakes, and lose heart and give up. The Bible reminds us to “forget what lies behind and to press on.”  Seek the prayer and encouragement of others, and the wisdom and counsel of professionals.  And continue to believe that love never fails!