Entering treatment doesn’t have to interrupt students’ academic progress. Some treatment programs collaborate with schools to ensure that teens continue to reach their academic goals during their time in care. When a teenager is in residential treatment or a full-day outpatient program, it’s important that they receive support to reach their educational goals.
Therefore, families should look for a treatment program that prioritizes education. Many mental healthcare programs do not offer as much time for education or as many supports in the classroom, which means students may need to postpone their education. Since teens with mental health issues often have anxiety around school, continuing with their education while in treatment is extremely helpful, because it means they will not have to make up all their work when they return to school.
Ideally, students are set up for success once they leave treatment, with the self-regulation skills, academic abilities, and self-confidence to launch into adulthood and a bright future. Treatment can help nurture teens’ love of learning and give them the executive-functioning and organizational skills to be more engaged, inspired, and successful when they return to the school environment.
Academic programming, as part of treatment, may include:
- A fully accredited curriculum
- SAT and ACT prep
- Individual academic plans
- Specialized tutoring to close proficiency gaps or support strengths
- College application support
- Ongoing communication with students’ home schools to ensure a smooth transition after treatment
Academic experts should ideally be:
- Credentialed and/or licensed by the state, most with Master’s degrees and special education backgrounds
- Specializations in learning disabilities and reading, math, and science intervention
- Extensive training in social emotional learning and adherence to Individualized Education Programs
What Is Strengths-Based Educational Programming?
In a typical classroom, everything is focused on what a student can’t do well, and that narrative often becomes ingrained in the students’ and teachers’ minds. Strengths-based programming flips that narrative and that negative internal dialogue by focusing on what each student is good at, while acknowledging that we can’t all be good at all things. The arts and creativity might be a high strength for some students, and math might be a “lesser strength” rather than a weakness.
Strengths-based programming also focuses more on individual students and less on standardized curriculum. Teachers and tutors provide tailored interventions to address each student’s specific needs and improve their skill sets. This type of programming is ideal for students who have learning differences, emotional dysregulation, behavioral struggles, or other difficulties functioning in the classroom.
Some students who enter treatment may find school to be a trigger, or they have been skipping school due to experiencing mental health symptoms. Others might be excelling in multiple AP courses. Therefore, the best educational models are individualized for each student, to best meet them where they are on an academic, emotional, and social level.
The Interplay Between Healing and Academics
Academic and life skills education is an integral part of the treatment experience. Learning, like every other aspect of a young person’s experience, is inextricably intertwined with their self-esteem, relationships, and sense of empowerment.
As young people experience greater levels of well-being and reduction in severity of depression and anxiety symptoms, they feel more prepared, organized, and excited about learning when they return to their home schools or to college. Clearly, there is a strong correlation between mental health and academic progress.