At last-chance high schools around the country, students are often faced with remedial classes and a strict behavioral code that can make improving personal outlook and performance especially difficult. Though schools for students who have been expelled from other institutions may earnestly hope to rehabilitate those who attend, many grapple with dismally low graduation rates and a prevalence of violence or other security issues. One such high school in Chicago, however, is providing an encouraging model for other administrators and teachers through its use of intensive psychotherapy services along with traditional learning. Recognizing that many of its students are faced with gang-related violence, family instability, financial difficulties, and other potentially emotionally influential experiences, Morton Alternative High School offers both individual and group-based sessions with a therapist or social worker to help students navigate their daily lives.
The program has shown considerable success. Students are given standardized tests to assess their psychological well-being both at the start and the conclusion of each year, and recent data analysis has shown that students on average feel significantly less depressed at the conclusion of the school year as compared to their emotional state when the year began. The school works with a relatively small number of students, and though some do not manage to graduate successfully, others show considerable progress, obtaining important qualifications, helping to teach classes, or even going on to an associated two-year college program.
The achievements of the school and its approach to working with expelled students has gained national recognition, and has also recently inspired a pilot program to develop a similar school in Michigan. As the potential of psychotherapy to help youths overcome personal difficulties and complete basic education becomes more clear, other institutions are likely to adopt the practice, helping to introduce mental health and well-being to a much wider audience.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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