Friday, May 28, 2010


The Treatment Team

Sorenson’s Ranch School has adolescent clients with a variety of presenting concerns including Oppositional Defiance, Substance Abuse, PTSD, behavioral problems, school problems, Attention Deficit Disorder, mental health problems, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Borderline Personality Tendencies, and unresolved adoption issues, including Reactive Attachment Disorder. Because of the variety of presenting problems that our adolescent students display, it is important that we individualize their treatment. Each student has a treatment team that consists of their parent(s), their therapist, case manager, and her/himself.

The therapist is designated as the leader of the treatment team. The case manager will serve as the parents’ primary point of contact. They will speak to the parent(s) each week about their child in order to provide an update on how their child is doing in the program: including how they are doing following rules, interacting with staff and other authority figures, interacting with peers, performing in school and other extra curricular activities, and working in individual and group therapy. The case manager will be aware of how the student is doing in therapy due to the fact that the case manager and therapist “crossover” about how the student is doing in the program each week. However, the therapist will also contact the parents on an approximately every other week basis in addition, to provide some more detailed information regarding how the therapy process is going and to elicit useful relevant input from the parent(s) to assist in the therapeutic process.

There are times when students get caught up in comparing what their case manager, therapist, or parent(s) is/are doing. For example they may say “why is my case manager doing such and such when somebody else’s is not, or why is my therapist requiring this of me when someone else’s is not. It’s important that the treatment be individualized to the particular student. We encourage students not to worry about what any other case manager, therapist, or set of parents is doing, but to focus on their own work here at Sorenson’s Ranch. It should be noted that although the primary adolescent treatment team consists of the parent(s), therapist, case manager, and student, every staff member here at Sorenson’s Ranch is an important part of the student’s treatment. Group leaders, teachers, residential staff, cooks, ranch and maintenance workers, and administrative staff are all essential in playing their specific roles in assisting the students who have behavioral, substance abuse, and/or mental health problems.

It is natural for the student in treatment to want to know how long they will be in the program. Although parents are tempted to give their child a clear answer in hopes of motivating them, it has been our experience from working with thousands of troubled adolescents over more than two decades that how this question is answered can make or break the student’s motivation to actually engage and apply themselves fully to working on themselves and making real progress in the program. We feel strongly that the best answer to this question is to tell them that their length of stay is dependant on their actual progress in the program and that you are relying on their therapist to let you know when they have completed the program. The therapist will develop a treatment plan that includes treatment plan goals and objectives/interventions to assist in meeting those goals. It’s been our experience that if students do not believe that their discharge date is completely dependent on their actual progress, they will not work as hard, instead hoping that their parents will discharge them prematurely or at a designated point of time, or that their parents will “run out of money and discharge them regardless of their actual progress.” If you have any questions about what to tell your child about discharge, it is recommended that you talk to the child’s therapist about it before speaking to your child about it.

In addition to individual therapy, students receive group therapy weekly. We have groups on a variety of topics: including Teenage Substance Abuse Intervention/Prevention, Anger Management, Adolescent Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Adoption, Grief, Sexual Abuse and Rape Survivors, and Yoga/Meditation. Students may be participating in anywhere between two and five or more groups at a time depending on their specific needs and inclusion in the categories mentioned above, such as being adopted or being a sexual abuse or rape survivor. As therapists and case managers, we need and appreciate the participation and input from parents as one of the key members of our treatment team. We are open to questions and/or feedback regarding how we are working with your student and encourage you to work with us collaboratively on helping your child. Any questions or concerns are welcome.

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