The majority of adolescents’ time is spent at school. Because of this, academic responsibilities and/or challenges make up a significant amount of teens’ energy and stress, regardless of whether the teens are doing well or poorly in school. Because we see teens’ academic responsibilities and challenges as integral to their ability to succeed and achieve overall well being, we closely incorporate academics into all of our treatment plans. We have an on site classroom and teacher in order to support adolescents academically, to either get or stay caught up in their school work responsibilities while in treatment. All of our teens participate in an academic assessment within 48 hours of arriving at Paradigm, which allows the therapists and teacher to incorporate any particular academic needs or strengths into the treatment plan, and specifically, in the classroom work. With the combination of the small classroom size and individual assessments, the teacher is able help meet the students wherever they’re at, which allows every student to accelerate in his/her studies, thereby eliminating or at least limiting this as a stressor in their lives.
What we see in our teens at Paradigm, is almost all emotional difficulties, Mental Health Disorders, and Substance Abuse Disorders have corresponding academic difficulties. Whether or not the teen is getting poor grades in school, most of the time the adolescents we see express some sort of challenge related to school. Considering that so many Substance Abuse and Mental Health conditions cause teens difficulty paying attention, a tendency to withdraw and sudden struggles in areas of life that were once habitual or could be performed without much effort is understandable. It’s important to note that the cause-and-effect relationship between the emotional or mental struggle and academic performance can go both ways and is not always clear-cut. Sometimes, abusing substances can lead teens to become distracted and withdraw, which may result in their studies suffering. But other times, teens that are struggling in the classroom, perhaps because of an undiagnosed learning disability, might begin to experience symptoms of teen Depression or teenage Anxiety. Regardless of how the academic challenges come about, we want to support teens to make sure that the time in treatment which teens spend away from school doesn’t exacerbate their academic challenges, and secondly, that they gain the academic support they need to return to their classrooms, caught up, with more confidence and better equipped to succeed.
In line with Paradigm’s holistic perspective of adolescent treatment, while we work with teens to address the direct symptoms and underlying issues of their emotional and mental health struggles, we also work to help support and prepare them to better navigate the stressors in their lives. By having an on-site classroom and teacher available to teens, teens still have the structure and responsibility to complete school-work, but in a small, concentrated, and low-pressure setting where they have access to individual help and support. The value of this accessibility of the teacher as well as tutors cannot be overstated, as countless studies show that students are often less likely to ask questions in a larger group setting than in a smaller one.
Another benefit of the close attention afforded to teens by our on-site classroom and teacher and tutors is the opportunity not only for teens to catch up in their studies, but furthermore, to regain confidence in the classroom. One of the most overwhelming and consistent symptoms among Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders is teens experiencing a loss of confidence and sense of self. This extends to nearly every area of their lives and can contribute to common attributes of these disorders such as teens withdrawing from friends, no longer participating in social clubs or events, failing to follow through on responsibilities, and experiencing tension and conflicts in relationships.
There are a number of different ways that our academic support programs and on-site classroom prepare teens to return to their schools and succeed, academically. First of all, our teacher works directly with students to help them catch up on school work, including any problematic areas, looming questions, or reoccurring struggles they’ve been having. Secondly, our teacher helps to re-engage teens to become active in the learning process, to take responsibility for their school work, and to identify necessary changes they can make in order to succeed. And lastly, our teacher, tutors, and therapists work together to identify how the triggers and stressors that teens are experiencing could be contributing to their overall mental health struggles, and vice versa. Collaboratively, we work with teens to understand these connections themselves, as well as the solutions available to them, so that they can actively work toward academic recovery and success, as just one aspect of their overall recovery and wellness.