Compass Rose Academy’s Growth Model is based on the work of psychologist and author Dr. John Townsend, Ph.D. In addition to addressing symptoms with elements of therapy models such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Compass Rose Academy’s clinical program features a major emphasis on affect-based approaches that utilize the central role of experience in the therapeutic healing process. Based on advances in affective neuroscience, these corrective experiences in therapy create new neurological pathways that reinforce new ways of being and relating, leading to changes that are deeper and longer lasting.
Instead of focusing solely on reducing symptoms like depression, anxiety, or defiance, our Growth Model looks at the hard-wiring issues (or character structure) that drive symptoms. We address this “character structure” in four primary developmental levels – Bonding, Boundaries, Reality, and Competence. The focus of the counseling and all other aspects of our program at Compass Rose are on developing the character, or internal structure, necessary to face the issues of life. As we focus on building healthy internal structure in these areas, we find that symptoms like depression, anxiety, and defiance decrease and often are eliminated. In fact, we find that students are empowered and their potential is unleashed like never before!
Counseling at Compass Rose Academy also focuses heavily on improving students’ ability to self-regulate emotions and address cognitive distortions that contribute to negative behavior patterns. Skills based on the core elements of DBT (mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness), are taught in both individual and group settings. A key emphasis is also on mending family relationships to change negative cycles within the home environment.
Group therapy sessions, as well as the overall approach, is attachment-based to foster healthy connections with others since healthy relationships provide people with the resources needed to meet life’s challenges. Our model places an emphasis on the importance of accurate diagnosis, including a structural diagnosis in addition to the primary mental health diagnoses.
Therapeutic services descriptions:
AA or NA Groups
Students dealing with substance abuse are able to attend Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous groups during the week. These 12-step groups provide a tremendous support network for the recovery process in addition to all of our other counseling services.
Each student meets with a counselor for weekly individual therapy. The therapist also plays an active role in the daily lives of the students, including participating in many of the experiential activities and daily routines. Individual therapy identifies and addresses problems that led to placement by targeting the deeper “hard-wiring” issues that led to the emotional and behavior problems. Additionally, therapy teaches valuable skills like conflict resolution, anger management, emotion regulation, making friends, and recognizing and challenging negative thoughts. The individual therapist keeps in weekly contact with the student’s family.
In family therapy, the therapist works with the parents and the student to explore ways that improving family relationships and communication can help improve the student’s emotional and behavioral health. Families learn to relate on a deeper emotional level than ever before as family members practice new communication strategies that target common relational needs. Family therapy can take place via telephone or video-conference for out-of-state families. Sessions also take place during special Family Weekends that occur four times annually.
In this group, students participate in an open and safe environment of sharing, giving and receiving feedback, and experiencing new ways of being and relating. Our therapists utilize affect-based experiential exercises (e.g., role-plays, empty chair or two-chair techniques, feelings expression, and more) in the group sessions to create live, new experiences and to allow deeper access to emotions that consciously or unconsciously drive behaviors in order to create deep, lasting change.
Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Group
Our Didactic Group meets twice weekly and builds in key components of our Growth Model. The aim is to help students to develop and maintain healthy relationships as a way of regulating emotions/behaviors, develop an ability to separate from others and increase the ability to say “no” to negative influences, develop capacity to manage grief, loss, and failure, and identify passions, talents, and interests that give her a sense of mastery and meaning for her life. Group session content in each area includes:
- Bonding The Importance of Bonding, How to Bond, Who to Bond to
- Boundaries Healthy Boundaries, Reclaiming Your Boundaries, Energy Management, Developing Passions, Redeeming Anger, Boundaries in Relationships, Grieving the Need for Dependence
- Reality Learning to Balance Good and Bad, The Result of Failure to Accept Reality, Learning to Deal with Loss, Reclaiming Identity, Affirmation and Challenge
- Competence Reclaiming Your Competence, Developing Expertise, Developing Your Power
This weekly group focuses on a range of goals including emotion regulation, anger management, problem-solving skills, relationship and trust-building, boundaries, and responsibility. It takes place at a nearby horse arena with a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and an Equine Specialist. In equine therapy, horses function as a “transitional object” with whom students can build relationships and develop trust, then transfer that trust to therapists and others as treatment progresses. Particularly with students whose ability to bond or trust has been hindered by developmental trauma or a traumatic incident, this process can be transformational and can assist in developing “object constancy,” the ability to hold both good and bad feelings toward the same “object,” or person.
Some students are already prescribed psychotropic medication by a psychiatrist prior to their admission to Compass Rose. These students continue receiving monthly medication consultation with a consulting psychiatrist. If Compass Rose identifies a need for psychotropic evaluation, parents are always contacted and must give approval before any new or increased medications are administered.
This weekly group educates students on a variety of essential life domains such as social/interpersonal skills, money management/budgeting, drug education, and healthy sex education.
This group for parents is led monthly on the Compass Rose campus by a therapist. The goal of the group is two-fold. The primary goal is to provide a support network for parents who often feel alone or isolated due to the difficulties they have been facing. A secondary goal is to educate and support parents on various aspects of parenting and the growth model including healthy communication, boundary-setting, and consequences.
Since the beginning, Compass Rose has hosted quarterly Parent Weekends where the parents of our students come from around the country to spend the weekend together, not only visiting their daughter but also finding support in one another. While the weekends are programmed with activities aimed at improving family communication and resolving tension, they also have a strong focus on allowing opportunities for parents to support and encourage one another. When asked about the most helpful part of our Spring 2014 Parent Weekend, parents indicated they appreciated the help they received in connecting with their daughters, but there was also a primary theme related to the importance of gaining support from other parents:
- The short exercises that we did between parent and daughter. They gave me deep insight into my daughter’s true feelings and I am glad that she was able to express them.
- Listening to the other parents, and feeling validated when we shared our own journey. Having a safe place to talk about what is on our hearts.
- Meeting the other parents was nice in helping us feel less alone in our current situation
- Talking with other parents. We need to support one another.
- I would strongly encourage to continue with the “parents only” Saturday night to give them a chance to talk to each other. It is a great experience to be able to meet each other, share, console, and draw support from. The parents feel so isolated and judged at home.
Often teens are initially hesitant to be open in traditional “talk therapy.” To help students connect and become involved in therapy, and because experience is the best way to learn new ways of being and relating, we create experiential ways for students to develop new capacities. Examples of individualized therapeutic experiences that our team uses include:
- Attending professional sports games
- Connecting to individual passions and interests, like horses and other animals
- Arts and crafts
- Playing musical instruments or singing
- Interpreting musical lyrics
- Developing expertise through cooking
- Running, or other athletic outlets
- Outlets for creativity – such as designing a flyer or graphic on the computer
- Attending plays and musicals
For many students, these and other live experiences, have unlocked the door to potential in unbelievable ways by tapping into personal power, initiative, passion, and expertise.
To learn more about Dr. Townsend, visit: http://www.drtownsend.com or to order his resources visit: www.cloudtownsend.com
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