Insider’s Guide: How to Pay for Therapeutic Boarding School (2017 UPDATE)

Before we dive into understanding the options for paying for a Therapeutic Boarding School, let’s quickly review what they are.

The Rise of Therapeutic Boarding Schools

Image result for boarding schoolAs public schools across the country have slowly been pruned back by state legislatures, funding for behavioral, emotional and academic support within schools have nearly dried up while public money is increasingly being used for private charter schools. Therefore, it’s not surprising private institutions that offer therapeutic (or quasi-therapeutic) environments like boarding schools and private schools have exploded. One of the fastest growing kinds of boarding schools is what’s called a Therapeutic Boarding School. Therapeutic boarding schools maintain the advantages of traditional boarding schools such as intimate class sizes, individual attention, great academics, developing student self-reliance, and the fun of living with peers in a completely “child-friendly” environment.

Some therapeutic boarding schools specialize in helping teens overcome certain psychological problems such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Bipolar, Asperger’s and even Depression. Others have programs for overcoming substance abuse problems or achieving weight loss. Some specialize in helping students who lack motivation get a fresh start in a nurturing environment. Most have some sort of family or parent involvement piece to ensure a team approach (ie. Weekly family therapy via phone or Skype).

While this all may sound great, there are definitely some risks and downsides (beyond the financial cost) of sending a kiddo off to therapeutic boarding school. I address those issues in great detail in another blog post. For now, let’s revisit the financial aspects…

Expense or Investment?

Parents often find themselves in a desperate situation with a troubled teenager. Their daughter runs away from home again, gets caught with the dealer down the street, crashes another car, and has yet another arrest. Parents become afraid for their teen’s lives as their teen’s risk-taking and lifestyle keeps becoming more extreme as the parents’ ability to set boundaries and expectations seemingly erodes.

It’s hard to think clearly and find solutions at times like this. Therapeutic boarding schools and therapeutic wilderness programs can provide answers, but they come at a price, with some programs running upwards of $50,000 a year.

But cost doesn’t have to be an insurmountable obstacle in getting your teen the help they need. We have helped countless parents in similar situations come up with creative ways to finance therapeutic boarding school, knowing that their child desperately needs an intervention. Therapeutic boarding schools are no longer exclusively the domain of the wealthy.

Top 10 Ways to Pay for Therapeutic Boarding School

Image result for therapeutic boarding school

Here are 10 ways families just like yours found to finance their teen’s therapeutic program:

1.   Hire a Consultant: Say what? More money? Yes, but trust me, this really will have super high ROI. Also referred to as case managers, therapeutic placement consultants or educational consultants, a good one is worth their weight in gold (a bad one is expensive and makes bad treatment recommendations). Make sure they are UNAFFILIATED with any program and have the clinical expertise to help advise and guide your family through the whole process. Some clinical educational consultants that specialize are able to handle this. A great case manager will be able to create a treatment plan, explain the process for getting a comprehensive psychological evaluation, walk with you through the intake process, support you while your teen is in the therapeutic boarding school, and coordinate discharge planning to ensure a seamless transition back to home or college. The last piece is essential – making sure your teen has everything they need to succeed after they return. Great case managers also know how to secure reimbursement from insurance providers for teens that attend therapeutic boarding schools. There are definitely some tricks (eg. Hire a case manager that’s also a licensed professional counselor and much of their work could be paid for by insurance) and inside knowledge necessary to make this happen.

Typical cost: $95 – 350/hr (some charge a flat fee of several thousand). 

2. Find the Program’s Financial Aid Officer: The private school or wilderness program should have a financial aid officer who can advise you about how to finance your child’s education. You should ask this person what programs, loans, discounts, or financial aid the school offers. Find out exactly what is included in the tuition and board bills, and if there are additional expenses such as buying uniforms or paying special fees for sports.

Typical Cost: Nothing – programs provide this to try to entice you into signing up. Beware of anything that sounds too good to be true – verify any claims they make about coverage from insurance, student grants/scholarships or loans. 

3.  Public School Funding: You may qualify for a loan through a kindergarten through 12th grade educational loan program. These loans work the same way as college loans, in that you pay what you can while your child is enrolled in the private school, and pay the rest off later. The terms of some loans let you spread out payments over 10 or 20 years. Your credit history will be a factor in securing a loan. Your school’s financial aid officer should be able to help you find such a loan.

Typical Cost: Your sanity – they will drive you crazy with the bureaucracy and take loads of time during your work day since everything in public school shuts down by 3:30pm. 

4.  Discounts for Upfront Payment: Some schools offer discounts if you pay by the year, instead of by the month. The average student stays at a therapeutic boarding school for less than two years, and wilderness programs are even shorter. A good therapeutic placement consultant/educational consultant will save you thousands of dollars by negotiating these discounts.

Typical Cost: More money upfront but no other associated costs. 

5. Tap 529: Consider using your child’s college fund first. Think of the therapeutic program as a way to get your child back on the right path toward college. Without intervention, she won’t have the grades or motivation to get through college and use her fund.

Typical Cost: Make sure there are no withdrawal penalties for use for therapeutic boarding school. 

6. Put it On Plastic: When you enroll your child in these therapeutic programs, there will be upfront expenses such as processing fees and deposits. Some parents borrow these initial payments from credit cards, especially ones that offer “frequent flier” miles. This way their child is immediately enrolled. They use their free mileage for transportation to and from the school.

Typical Cost: Beware of high interest rates if you don’t pay off your balance in full. 

7. Angel Investing: Some parents borrow the necessary funds from employers or relatives, and pay them back after securing educational loans or home equity loans.

Typical Cost: If you go through a peer-to-peer or crowdfunding site like The Lending Club or Kickstarter, count on a 5% fee for total amount funded. 

8. Health Insurance Reimbursement: Your health insurance policy may cover part of the cost of a therapeutic program as a medical expense. When you hire a case manager, they will be able to tell you how to file the paperwork and what you need from the program to ensure a speedy reimbursement.

Typical Cost: Sanity… totally lost if your insurer are jerks that don’t reimburse when and how they should. You are attempting to pull money from their cold, dead hands. Expect a fight.

9. Consult Your CPA: Some expenses for therapeutic schools and wilderness programs can be deducted from your income tax return as medical expenses. If you own your own business, you likely have WAY more creative options for deducting medical expenses.

Typical Cost: $200/hr for a good CPA to walk you through if and how to deduct from taxes.

10. Tap Home Equity: Parents have taken out second mortgages or home equity loans and then deducted their interest payments on their income tax returns.

Typical Cost: Fees, closing costs total 2-6%. It also bumps the timeframe for paying off that home back several years.

11. Public School Funding: We lied – there turns out to be 11 ways to pay for therapeutic boarding school. Is your child enrolled in public special education classes because of problems like attention deficit disorder and learning disabilities? Does your child have an “Individual Education Plan” at a public school? Do you suspect your child has learning problems that the public school cannot address? In certain cases, public school districts have to reimburse parents for private school tuitions. The Supreme Court ruled on June 22, 2009, that an Oregon school district had to reimburse a family for private school costs because the child in question could not achieve a free and appropriate education within the district. The child had not been enrolled in special education classes but was diagnosed later with attention deficit disorder.

When it comes to what matters most parents are unstoppable in finding ways to get the services and support they need. Don’t let cost be the determining factor. If your teen needs help, speak with a case manager, your trusted CPA as well as a therapeutic boarding school you’re considering and work together to find a way to get your teen back on track.

Don’t Think Pain Meds and Heroin is Really a Big Deal? Check Out What the Surgeon General Just Did…

Surgeon General Writes to Every Doctor in U.S. About Opioid Epidemic

Opioid abuse is not like other problems. With very little use, pain meds and heroin can quickly become an addiction. This addiction has unusual drug dealers. Some are intentional (Big Pharma like Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions and Actavis) that exploit our pain and desperation. Other’s are likely well-meaning like primary care doctors most of whom are manipulated by the pharmaceutical companies to write prescriptions.

If you or a loved one is prescribed pain meds, take this seriously. Use as little as possible and work closely with your doctor. If you can’t stop, get help immediately. The longer someone abuses opioids, the harder it is to get back on track.

5 Stupid Things My Teen is Doing

For this installment of Stupid Things, we start off nice and easy and then drop down into some weird crap. Kids are bored. I get it. We clearly need more devices since the iPhone 6 Plus, iPad, Mac, XBox, Playstation and all the other tech stuff just isn’t stimulating enough. We humbly present to you more stupid things teens are doing…

images (2)1. GoPro
GoPro is a small video device created for skateboarders, mountain bikers and surfers to self-film their adventures. GoPro went public this year. Why does this matter? Because their marketing budget exploded and with it, their target market which is now anyone who wants to film them self doing anything. Just let your imagination wander and you’ll soon realize why gopro-ing could be a problem for teens. They do some stupid prank at school, film it, post it on instagram and, voila! Instant evidence for the local DA to use against them.   

 

 

2. Vodka Eyeballingimages (1)
Pouring vodka in your eye sockets in order to get drunk faster and more efficiently is another dumb but real thing. It makes sense to the adolescent brain since the mouth is just soooo far away, best to use an eye. 

 

 

3. Beezin
Let’s continue our ‘eye’ theme. It’s called “Beezin,” (why do stupid teen things always leave off the last ‘g’?). Here’s the how-to – rub Burt’s Bees lip balm on the eyelids. It’s just that simple! No complicated steps like some of our other Stupid Things. The peppermint oil found in the balm creates a tingling sensation that some teens say enhances the feeling when they are already drunk or high. Others say its a way to keep them alert after a long night (…because that thing the brain and body do to restore itself each night is just soooo inconvenient, what’s that called? Oh, right! Sleep). If your kid is prone to stupid acts, look for pink-eye type irritation. Kids site the ‘natural’ ingredients as evidence of it’s safety but a Burt’s Bees rep argued “There are lots of natural things that probably shouldn’t go in eyes — dirt, twigs, leaves, food — and our lip balm.” 

images

 

4. Purple Drank
Just when you thought the good ‘ole days (1990’s) were behind us, creative teens desperate to feel something other than a stable middle class existence have resurrected use of cough syrup. Here’s the recipe – cough syrup, Mountain Dew (or Red Bull, etc) and Jolly Ranchers. Not sure what they’ll die from first, the dextromethorphan, guaifenesin, pseudoephedrine or Type II Diabetes. Keep an eye out for pilfered medicine cabinets (and pantries). 

 

 

5. Butt Chugging 
Yes, leave it only to bored American teens to come up with this one. It’s simple – take a tampon, soak it in alcohol, and insert into your butt. And yes, kids really do this.

That’s it folks. Join us next time for the sad but humorous exploration of how tomorrow’s leaders are spending their time today. 

Insider’s Guide: Getting Insurance to Pay for Residential Treatment

imagesThis is our second installment on how to get insurance to pay for residential treatment and therapeutic programs. Below is some great information to help you beat the insurance companies at their own game. Insurance companies count on your ignorance, laziness and distractibility to avoid paying for services they are legally obligated to cover. 

With the Affordable Healthcare Act and the Mental Health Parity Act in full swing it’s time to learn how to get the most out of the insurance you pay for. We’ve included some tricks, strategies and how-to’s to help you out. Though we’re focusing on Residential Treatment for our discussion here, this info is applicable to therapeutic programs like wilderness programs, therapeutic boarding schools and intensive outpatient programs.

Ok, let’s get started with some basics… 

What If I Need Additional Help?

First, read through everything below. These strategies are time consuming and require steady attention but they are not impossible. If you still don’t feel confident in holding your insurer accountable, contact us for a free consult and we’ll help you figure out how to move forward. 

What is the Insurance Company’s Criteria for Residential Treatment?

…Or more importantly, how does an insurer define residential treatment? Each insurer has their own definition but most have virtually identical criteria. For our purposes, residential treatment is defined as specialized mental, behavioral health or substance abuse treatment that occurs in a residential (overnight) treatment center where the provider is responsible for clinical service, safety, shelter, and food.

Licensure differs by state, but these facilities are typically designated either as residential, subacute, or intermediate care facilities and may occur in care systems that provide multiple levels of care. Residential treatment is 24 hours per day and often requires a minimum of one physician (or psychiatrist) visit per week in a facility based setting. 

What Specific Criteria Do They Look For?

Now, let’s drill down a bit more and look at some of the more common criteria requirements insurance companies are looking for when determining whether to pay for residential treatment to a struggling teen or young adult. 

  • Was there a sincere attempt to first use evidence-based outpatient therapy in the home community by a licensed professional before residential treatment was requested and outpatient therapy did not work? Basically, they want evidence that you tried outpatient therapy with weekly sessions (or more often) and because it was not effective, a more intensive level of care like residential treatment was justified.
  • Prior to admission, did you contact your health plan for list of in-network residential treatment options? More on this later – what to do if you can not find a good option.
  • Is there uncontrollable risk-taking to self or others or other dangerous behavior?
  • Has there been a documentable and rapid decrease in level of functioning in one or more life domains. Another way to describe it is a decline in functioning resulting in the ability to perform self-care. 
  • Is there a likelihood of no improvement in current environment (ie. home or college)
  • Is there a reasonable expectation that patient will improve in residential setting and be able to return to outpatient therapy for aftercare? 

How to Request this Higher Level of Care?

Now that you understand the criteria, let’s talk about how to actually request residential treatment. 

  • Write a letter strongly recommending admission to residential treatment 
  • Provide copies of assessments and testing performed by a licensed professional that indicate 1) a formal diagnosis and 2) specific recommendations that list residential treatment.
  • Explain how outpatient therapy has not been successful
  • Explain why current circumstances make it unlikely that patient will show improvement (ie. Improvement is not likely in home setting due to social stressors such as negative peers that sell drugs but remain in the environment)
  • Document unsafe, declining behaviors – show symptoms and behaviors that represent a decline from usual state and include either self-injurious or risk-taking behavior that cannot be managed outside of 24 hr care. Can your kid maintain abstinence outside of 24 hr care? 
  • Explain that the residential treatment program uses evidence-based clinical interventions.
  • Request the residential treatment program directly contact your insurer for pre-authorization. Pre-authorization is the insurance company’s way of giving formal permission to use a higher (and more expensive) level of care. Make sure to obtain the tracking number and verification of the call from the residential treatment program. If approved, obtain written authorization confirming admission approval.

After you send off your request, your insurer should should respond in 5 days. Don’t wait that long – call them every day to find out the status of your request. Yes, seriously – call every day. 

Accepted! Now Some Additional Insurance Mandates

The insurance company accepted your request (more below on what happens when they do not accept it) and a wave of relief comes over you planning for some quiet time once your kid is safely transitioned. But before you get too comfy, there are a few things you want to make sure the residential treatment program will do to ensure insurance covers as much as possible. It’s easier to ask these questions during the admissions process rather than at discharge. Here’s a list of what to look for or ask for:

  • A basic physical during admission (urine screening for drug facility)
  • Onsite nursing and 24hr access to med care
  • Multidisciplinary assessment (also called a Biopsychosocial Intake) performed within 72 hr of admission, including information obtained from patient’s previous providers (ie. therapist, primary care physician)
  • Individual therapy with a licensed therapist (ie. LPC, LCSW, LMFT) at least one time per week
  • Weekly meetings with doctor for medication management
  • Weekly family therapy
  • Discharge plan created one week after admission which acts as a set of exit criteria
  • Licensed in the state in which they are located. Some facilities are owned by huge companies in another state. Make sure they are credentialed and licensed.

Denied. Now on to The Appeal Process

Denials are just a way of life in the therapeutic treatment world but it’s certainly not the end. Here are some information on what to do when you experience a denial.

  • First Thing – Do not let the denial get you mad and do not attempt to use logic, common sense or science to understand why. Insurance is a business and their business model is take in money and pay for as little service as possible – period. 
  • If residential treatment is verbally denied, request written denial. They must deny in writing and often will send the residential treatment program as well as the insured person a copy. 
  • Do not just ignore the denial and send your kid off unless you are willing to pay out of pocket and work your tail off at discharge to get the insurer to pay for it.
  • How to appeal depends upon the reason for denial. The insurance company will likely list specific criteria either your kid or the residential treatment program did not meet.
  • If the insurer states that residential treatment is not a covered benefit but they offer  other mental/behavioral health benefits, they are required by law to pay. In Harlick v Blue Cross of California – On August 26, 2011 the court confirmed that California’s Mental Health Parity Act requires health plans to provide coverage of “all medically necessary treatment” for “severe mental illnesses” under “the same financial terms as those applied to physical illnesses,” and are obligated to pay for residential treatment for people with eating disorders even if the policy excludes residential treatment.

And It’s Still Denied – What Next?

If you submit an appeal with additional information and site the law but still are denied or hear nothing, you can request an independent review from your state’s regulatory body that oversees insurance compliance. It’s amazing how quickly insurance companies can ‘find missing paperwork’ or reverse a denial when regulators and attorney’s get involved. 

  • Send a certified-mail cover letter describing the dispute
  • Provide all relevant evaluations, assessments and testing you already sent to the insurer
  • Submit a doctor’s letter stating care is medically necessary
  • You can also hire an attorney that specializes in insurance issues like this. They are often worth their specialist price tag.

Plan B – If You Can Afford It

If residential is denied and you don’t want to push the insurer for whatever reason, you can pay out of pocket for room and board and try to get the clinical services covered. This approach is often what is equivalent to out-of-network coverage. The insurer is more likely to cover outpatient therapy, group therapy and medication management (virtually the same as if client was living at home and going to therapy).

You can also request that the residential treatment primary therapist get a single case agreement which forces the insurer to pay at in-network rate and you only owe the copay, as usual. 

What if Our Family Member is at Therapeutic Boarding School?

With the growth of therapeutic boarding schools, we’ve received a ton of questions about how insurance pays for the clinical aspects of these hybrid programs. Here are some tricks we’ve picked up over the years:

  • Think like the insurance company – they want to hear your son or daughter is being referred to as a patient and not a student.
  • Make sure to request a physical assessment is done at admissions. This promotes the perspective that he/she is a patient and not a student. Remember – we want the insurer to understand this is a therapeutic program, not as much an academic program.
  • We also want to ensure the program is keeping daily records such as treatment plan updates, nursing and medical notes and service notes – health plans will want copies. We want to be documenting progress as well as setbacks. 

When we conduct placement services, we always request the therapeutic program develop a treatment plan with some specific exit criteria. The first day of treatment is the first day of discharge planning. Some plans will want exit criteria so err on the side of having the program provide it early on. It’s also a good clinical practice to give the providers a clear target. 

In Which State Should Insurance Regulators Be Notified if Insurance Refuses to Cooperate?

The state in which treatment is being provided is where insurance regulators should be contacted if your insurance company refuses to play nicely. The state in which you live may be where your insurance is attached, but legal oversight for provision of service and insurance regulation is in the treatment state. 

Can Insurance Pay for Services Retroactively?

Theoretically, yes. Practically, it’s pretty difficult and will require regular attention and contact with the insurer. They will likely ‘lose’ applications, claim forms and anything else you send. If you get insurance to agree to pay for residential treatment or other therapeutic services after treatment has started, you can request for retroactive coverage. It’s best to write a letter (and send it certified mail and keep a copy for your records) stating why you didn’t understand or it was not stated clearly in a policy that treatment was covered. 

Will Insurance Cover Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)?

Partial Hospitalization Programs or PHPs is typically a level of care designed for individuals who need structured mental health, behavioral health or substance abuse programming but do not need 24-hour supervision (ie. inpatient or hosplitalization). Many hospitals and residential treatment programs offer partial hospitalization or day treatment services. Good PHPs are designed to provide support, education, medical monitoring and accountability during the hours of the day often identified as most troublesome for patients. Patients participate in therapeutic groups, structured activities and discharge planning similar to those offered in the inpatient and residential programs. Many patients who have been in an inpatient or residential program can “step down” to this level of care because it continues to provide a high amount of structure and support. 

Insurance generally covers PHP at a per diem rate (daily rate) but will not cover overnight which the hospital or treatment program may charge extra for. Make sure to clearly understand how the treatment center charges for PHP before signing up. Also make sure insurance covers it and what portion it covers. 

So we covered several of the topics and tricks that can help you navigate the insurance company maze when it comes to paying for residential treatment. If you need additional help, contact us today – help@fonthillbehavioralhealth.com 

FREE Parent Support Group: Residential Treatment and Higher Levels of Care

If you are a parent who wants to learn more about residential treatment for your teen or young adult child, our Parent Support Group is for you. This group is specially designed for Parents of Teens and Young Adult Children either in residential treatment or in need of residential treatment. Whether you have an acting out teen obsessed with gaming or a daughter exhibiting what seems like an eating disorder, residential treatment may be an option. But how do you choose? How do you know the good ones from the bad? We will walk you through the basics of the therapeutic program world through a discussion format. 

Topics will range from residential and treatment options, how to creatively pay for programs and use insurance, myths vs reality of treatment, parenting advice and skill building, and finally, sharing and venting. This is also an open forum to address any other problems related to acting out teens/adults – you’re not alone. 

WHEN

Mondays 7:00pm Starting September 8

WHERE

Fonthill Counseling Conference Room – 141 Providence Rd Suite 160 Chapel Hill NC 27514

COST

Free

FACILITATOR

Licensed therapist with expertise in residential treatment, counseling and parenting education will lead didactic, interactive and experiential sessions.  

RSVP

Due to limited seating, preregistration is required. Please email us at help@fonthillcounseling for sign-up instructions. 

Is CRAFT the Best Unused Substance Abuse Treatment?

Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Training

Today I’d like to introduce you to one of the most effective treatments/interventions for substance abuse that is rarely used and even-more rarely discussed. It’s called CRAFT and is a behavior therapy approach designed primarily for those with substance abuse issues. Developed by Nate Azrin in the 1970s, his technique focused on operant conditioning to help people learn to reduce the power of their addictions and enjoy healthy lifestyle. CRA was later combined with the FT (…family training), which equips family and friends with supportive techniques to encourage their loved ones to begin and continue treatment, and provides defenses against addiction’s damaging effects on loved ones.

The first part of this acronym – Community Reinforcement Approach (CRA) was originally created for individuals with alcohol issues. Clinicians later went on to apply it to a variety of substance use disorders for more than 35 years. The clinical premise is based on operant conditioning (…type of learning in which an individual’s behavior is modified by its antecedents and consequences), basically, CRA helps rearrange the client’s life so that healthy, drug-free living becomes more interesting/stimulating and thereby competes with substance use.

CRA is designed to be a time-limited intervention. The time limit is decided upon between the clinician and client. For example, a set number of sessions (for example, 16 sessions) or time limit (for example, one year) may be decided upon either at the very beginning of therapy or within the early stages of therapy.

One major goal of CRAFT is to increase the odds of the substance user who is refusing treatment to enter treatment through close support of family members, as well as improve the lives of the concerned family members. CRAFT clinician and participants teach and reinforce the use of healthy rewards to encourage positive behaviors. Additionally,  it focuses on helping both the substance user and the family strengthen their relationships which is often torn apart.

In the model, the following terms are used:

  • Identified Patient (IP) – the individual with the substance abuse issues that is refusing treatment
  • Concerned Significant Others (CSOs) – the relevant family and friends of the IP.

Three goals

When a loved one is abusing substances and refusing to get help, CRAFT is designed to help families learn practical and effective ways to accomplish these three goals:

  1. Move their loved one toward treatment
  2. Reduce their loved one’s substance use
  3. Improve their own lives

This comprehensive behavioral program accomplishes these objectives while avoiding both the detachment espoused by Al-Anon and the confrontational style taught to families by the Johnson Institute Intervention.

CRAFT and these traditional approaches all have been found to improve CSO functioning and increase CSO-IP relationship satisfaction. However, CRAFT has proven to be significantly more effective in engaging treatment-resistant substance users in comparison to the Johnson Institute Intervention and Al-Anon (or Nar-Anon) facilitation therapy. 

CRA Breakdown of Treatment

The following CRA procedures and descriptions are typical recommended clinical content areas for the substance user:

  1. Functional Analysis of Substance
    • explore the antecedents of a client’s substance use
    • explore the positive and negative consequences of a client’s substance use
  2. Sobriety Sampling
    • a gentle movement toward long-term abstinence that begins with a client’s agreement to sample a time-limited period of abstinence
  3. CRA Treatment Plan
    • establish meaningful, objective goals in client-selected areas
    • establish highly specified methods for obtaining those goals
    • tools: Happiness Scale, and Goals of Counseling form
  4. Behavior Skills Training
    • teach three basic skills through instruction and role-playing:
    1. Problem-solving
      • break overwhelming problems into smaller ones
      • address smaller problems
    2. Communication skills
      • a positive interaction style
    3. Drink/drug refusal training
      • identify high-risk situations
      • teach assertiveness
  5. Job Skills Training
    • provide basic steps for obtaining and keeping a valued job
  6. Social and Recreational Counseling
    • provide opportunities to sample new social and recreational activities
  7. Relapse Prevention
    • teach clients how to identify high-risk situations
    • teach clients how to anticipate and cope with a relapse
  8. Relationship Counseling
    • improve the interaction between the client and his or her partner

Communication 

With CRAFT, CSOs are trained in various strategies, including positive reinforcement, various communication skills and natural consequences. One of the big pieces that has a lot of influence over all the other strategies is positive communication. 

Here are the seven steps in the CRAFT model for implementing positive communication strategies.

  1. Be Brief
  2. Be Positive
  3. Refer to Specific Behaviors
  4. Label your Feelings
  5. Offer an Understanding Statement – For example, “I appreciate that you have these concerns, … [or] I understand that you really want to talk right now, and that this feels urgent, … [or] I would love to be there for you.”
  6. Accept Partial Responsibility – This step “is really designed to decrease defensiveness on the part of your loved one. … It’s not about accepting responsibility for things you are not responsible for. … [Rather, it’s to] direct you towards the piece that you can own for yourself. … [For example, ] what you can take responsibility for are the ways that you communicate,” etc.
  7. Offer to help

Take home message – Help decrease defensiveness on the part of the loved one that you are speaking to, and increase the chances that your message is really going to be heard—so, increasing the ability that you have to really get across the message that you want. 

Consequences with specific limits/expectations being in place is essential in terms of communicating your message, but it’s also really important, maybe even more so, to be consistent in following through with those consequences and rewards.

Al-Anon 

As an organization, Al-Anon does not currently adopt, hold, or promote the view that CSOs can make a positive, direct, and active contribution to arrest compulsive drinking, which is the opposite premise of CRAFT. Al-Anon is a fellowship with a focus on helping families and friends, themselves, without promoting a direct intervention process for alcoholics. Because “no one ever graduates” from Al-Anon, it can be viewed as an open-ended program, not time-limited.

Al-Anon view

Regarding the CSO’s relationship to alcoholism and sobriety, the view from the Al-Anon organization can be summarized:

  1. PowerlessnessAl-Anon‘s First Step promotes a powerless view for families and friends, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”
  2. Disease viewAl-Anon writes, “As the American Medical Association will attest, alcoholism is a disease.” Al-Anon also states, “Although it can be arrested, alcoholism has no known cure.”
  3. Three C’sAl-Anon has a dictum called “the Three C’s—I didn’t cause alcoholism; I can’t control it; and I can’t cure it.”
  4. Loving detachment. Al-Anon “advocates ‘loving detachment’ from the substance abuser.”
  5. Family illnessAl-Anon writes, “Alcoholism is a family disease,” and “we believe alcoholism is a family illness and that changed attitudes can aid recovery.”

Summary

CRAFT is not perfect and is not easy to implement partially due to lack of clinician training and also because of having multiple people involved (ie. IP, concerned others, and clinician). Programs, agencies and clinicians may not even be aware of CRAFT if you ask so if you or a loved one are in need of a non-residential approach that’s well researched and effective, find a substance abuse therapist able and willing to use it. 

California Fight Over Affluenza Defense

California lawmaker, Mike Gatto, is proposing a new law that would ban the use of “affluenza” as a defense in criminal trials. In December, a Texas teenager was spared jail time in a fatal drunk-driving crash. The teen’s defense team’s supporting evidence was that he was incapable of understanding consequences for his choices due to affluenza

The Los Angeles-area state Assemblyman introduced a bill this week that would prohibit considering a person’s privilege when sentencing – basically, environmental conditions impacting a defendant’s behavior should be ignored. 

“The fact that a defendant did not understand the consequences of his or her actions because he or she was raised in an affluent or overly permissive household shall not be considered a circumstance in mitigation of the crime in determining the punishment to be imposed,” the bill states.

The bill is a response to a controversial Texas case. In December 2013, State District Judge Jean Boyd sentenced a 16 y/o Ethan Couch to 10 years probation for drunk driving and killing four pedestrians and injuring 11 after his attorneys successfully argued that the teen suffered from affluenza and needed rehabilitation, and not prison. The defendant was caught on surveillance video stealing beer from a store, driving with seven passengers in his father’s Ford F-350 pick-up, speeding (70 MPH in a 40 MPH zone), and had a blood alcohol content of .24‰, three times the legal limit for an adult in Texas, when he was tested 3 hrs after the accident. Traces of Valium were also in his system. Dr. G. Dick Miller, a psychologist hired as an expert witness by the defense, testified in court that the teen was a product of affluenza and was unable to connect his behavior with consequences due to his parents teaching him that wealth buys privilege and insulates him from repercussions. The rehabilitation facility near Newport Beach, California (Newport Academy) that the teen will be attending will cost his family an estimated $450,000 annually.

Back to Gatto – He said he is trying to prepare for the next time someone attempts to hide behind the affluenza defense. 

“People often think of the Legislature as too reactive,” Gatto told the L.A. Times. “Up until last year, for instance, it was not illegal to commit rape if the victim thought the rapist was her husband or boyfriend, and people said how did you let this stay on the books so long? We’re trying to be proactive.”

The bill, introduced Tuesday, January 14, may be debated in committee as early as February.

Treatment 101: Therapeutic Boarding Schools and Residential Treatment Centers

Today we examine some of the basic differences and similarities between therapeutic boarding schools and residential treatment centers (or programs).

 

THERAPEUTIC BOARDING SCHOOLS

Also known as Emotional Growth Boarding School (not used so much any more), is a boarding school based on the therapeutic community model that offers an educational program together with specialized structure and supervision for students with psychological, behavioral, substance abuse, or learning difficulties. Another newer term is Academy which lends some gravitas and impressions of legacy. Basically, it sounds fancier. 

In contrast with Residential Treatment Centers, which are more clinically focused and primarily provide Behavior therapy and treatment for adolescents with serious issues, the focus of a TBS is toward emotional and academic realignment involving clinical and academic oversight for physical, emotional, behavioral, family, social, intellectual and academic development. Therapeutic and educational approaches vary greatly; with the approaches best described as a combination of interventions often based on the founders’ perspective. The typical duration of student enrollment in a TBS range from one to two years with many schools mandating a minimum stay of at least 1 year. Students may receive either high school diplomas or credits for transfer to other secondary schools. Some therapeutic boarding schools hold educational accreditation within their respective states. TBS’s may be for-profit or non-profit entities and might also be owned by a much larger company (eg. Aspen Education Group, Red Cliff Ascent, Universal Health Services to name a few). 

Therapeutic boarding schools are generally middle schools and high schools that have comprehensive therapeutic interventions (medication management, individual/group counseling, life skills) for the students and a program to help them with self-esteem and problem behaviors. Some are more therapeutic than others while some boarding schools are actually therapeutic but will not list themselves in that category to avoid any negative connotation. 

Most of the therapeutic boarding schools do not have a medical plan for bipolar disorder, and do not provide psychiatrists on staff. If you want your child to attend a therapeutic boarding school he or she needs to be stable enough to attend school with therapy support (typically includes individual counseling 1-2x/wk, group counseling 1-2x/wk and 1 weekly phone conference with parents/therapist), while maintaining a relationship with an outside psychiatrist. Additionally, some schools do not wish to administer psychotropic meds. Ask the admissions folks if this is something important for you. 

 

RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT CENTERS

Sometimes the school that best meets the child’s needs just doesn’t exist anywhere near home, or the child may become too unstable to stay at home and attend school. It may become painfully obvious that a change in environment with a twenty-four-hour peer group and non-parental authority figures may help the child grow and mature in a safe environment. Maybe they are a danger to themselves or others and they need to be in a setting that can monitor their illness and behavior, as well as provide them with tools to understand and deal with their illness while not losing ground in school.

Residential Treatment Centers (RTCs) are medical facilities (most of the time). They should have psychiatrists and nurses on staff. They administer medications, make medication adjustments, and provide therapy and schooling. They are required to follow a student’s IEP.

Residential schools can cost anywhere from $56,000 to over $125,00 per year. A school district may pay part or most of the fee of such a placement, but typically only after a due process hearing. This process is not recommended for parents – Definitely bring in professional support for this (yes, a case manager or educational consultant with expertise in IEP/504 process and laws within your state). 

If you have not noticed the theme, here it is – Parents should ask for help from a clinical case manager or educational consultant. While the vetting and application may seem like an easy project for accomplished parents, the timing, financial and clinical complexities can create significant challenges. The case manager should have any professionals working with your child contribute to the discussion on placement strategies and options. Leave this to the professionals. It costs money on the front end but will save you thousands of dollars over months and years and also help you to understand your child, family and the education/psychological process much better. 

Here are some additional resources:

Time to Start Thinking about Cyberbullying Again

Cyberbullying: The Fist of Technology

By Mary Hannah Ellis

Most of you probably remember your school bully at each level of your education – the tall fifth grader who liked to knock over kindergartners on the playground, or the burly, egotistical jock who made everyone else feel inferior with his brash jokes. However, a student could mostly avoid these school bullies by staying out of their way. Today, technology has enabled a new, ubiquitous form of bullying called “cyberbullying.” Cyberbullying involves a minor’s harassment, tormenting, humiliation, embarrassment, threatening, or otherwise targeting of another minor via technology.

Cyberbullying occurs through a variety of media, including social networking sites, text messages, online chat services, and email messages, to name a few. Facebook and twitter are some of the most active sites for cyberbullying

Do you suspect that your child or teen is a cyberbully or a victim of cyberbullying? Here are some warning signs to consider:

Your child or teen may be engaging in cyberbullying if he/she:

• Constantly uses the computer, even at all hours of the night

• Is secretive about his/her activities on the computer

• Appears nervous when using the computer or cell phone

• Quickly stops using the computer or switches screens when someone approaches

• Becomes excessively angry when cell phone or computer privileges are revoked

• Uses multiple accounts on different websites

Your child or teen may be a victim of cyberbullying if he/she:

• Unexpectedly stops using the computer or cell phone

• Avoids talking about what he/she is doing on the computer or cell phone

• Appears nervous upon receiving a text message, chat message, or email message

• Appears angry, depressed, upset, or frustrated after using the computer or cell phone

• Withdraws from interacting with usual friends

• Seems uneasy about going to school or going out in public

Children and teens who are victims of cyberbullying are more likely to use alcohol and drugs, have lower self-esteem, skip school, experience physical bullying, have poor academic performance, and have more physical health problems. Interestingly enough, cyberbullies themselves are also more likely to be bullied in real life and to have low self-esteem. There is also a significant risk of suicidal ideation associated with cyberbullying. With very little warning, a victimized kid could snap and hurt themselves or others. Without a doubt, cyberbullies and victims of cyberbullying could benefit from counseling or psychological intervention.

Contact us to find out how we can help.