Parent FAQs

Q. How is Shortridge Academy different from other schools?

As a progressive therapeutic boarding school (TBS), Shortridge utilizes research-informed, strengths-based approaches in our work with students and families. This contemporary orientation focuses on developing strengths rather than prioritizing a reduction of problems. Nurturing the development and improvement of skills, such as better family communication and positive decision-making, and building and maintaining healthy relationships are key to our program. We do this in the context of a more-normalized, engaging environment than other schools.

Second, within clear boundaries around safety and security, we engage and partner with students on topics that are of interest and importance to them in their daily lives, while at the same time intentionally working toward developing strengths. Developing their individual treatment plans (called Positive Development Plans) and updating the dress code, dorm life, leadership opportunities, and recreational activities are all areas where we collaborate with students.

Third, we support and promote authoritative parenting approaches within our milieu. This is an evidenced-based parenting style that involves scaffolding students with both high degrees of nurturing support and appropriately demanding challenges. Authoritative parenting includes rational discussion between parents and youth, active listening, and the setting of boundaries that adjust as students become more responsible. This approach is brought to life on a daily basis and manifests in our technology policies, rules around relationships, privileges, food, and leadership expectations.

Q. How do you partner with parents/guardians?

Strong partnerships between Shortridge and parents are critical for successful outcomes. Our staff make continuous and intentional efforts to improve communication and partnership with families. We are grateful to Shortridge families who collaboratively engage with us to work through challenges as well as celebrate the many successes our students regularly achieve. Please see our family agreements outlined in our Family/Student Handbook.

Q. What kinds of support are parents/guardians offered?

Outside of weekly family therapy sessions between families and their student, parents are invited and encouraged to attend monthly parent support calls hosted by our clinical team, in addition to utilizing resources shared during New Family Orientation.

Q. How do you engage and partner with students on those topics?

Every student is assigned to one of three residential life committees that meet weekly. The committees are student-led and staff-supported and are structured as such. Students occupy the positions of committee chair, vice chair, and secretary/treasurer and are responsible for coordinating and developing weekly agendas, running meetings and taking/sharing notes. Each committee tackles a general area of residential life such as community service, leadership roles and responsibilities, privileges, and activities. After the committees meet, the entire school convenes and committee chairs report out what their committee discussed and is working on. This process not only engages students and gives them some ownership of their time with us but also fosters the development of strengths, particularly effective communication skills, mature decision-making, planning and organizing, and completing a task.

Q. What other leadership opportunities do you offer students?

In addition to elected leadership roles for committees, students can serve in leadership positions within one of our ever-changing activity-based clubs (e.g., culinary, surfing). Additionally, semester-long positions of dorm heads, dorm supports, and assistants are in place in each dorm room. Each of these positions is student driven and staff supported.

Q. Do students really have a say in everything?

In relation to safety or clinical issues, the adult professionals are in charge and are the decision makers. A limit in these areas (such as not allowing intimate contact, times for “lights out” allowing for proper sleep, no drugs or cigarettes) provides the scaffolding to a healthy, strengths-based community. Students are actively involved in decision making on topics of personal preference where there is little or no research backing a particular direction. An excellent example of such a topic is physical appearance during “non-business hours.” Hair length, hair color, facial hair, and jewelry are all topics of great importance to young people but about which there is little evidence that any particular policy impacts students’ future success.

Q. Does Shortridge have a dress code?

Shortridge Academy has a dress code policy stipulating that Monday through Friday, between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm, students and staff are to dress similarly to how they would dress at an average job. During other times of the day and on weekends, students can wear casual clothing reflecting more of their personal preferences as long as the clothing is healthy, clean, free of negative or counter-culture images, and properly fitting. We let “kids be kids” at Shortridge, thus making for a more normalized high school environment and allowing staff to get to know our students better versus power struggling over an imposed set of clothing standards.

Q. How is technology used to promote positive development academically and therapeutically?

Technology serves a variety of purposes at Shortridge Academy. Students use their assigned Apple laptop in class, to complete academic and therapeutic assignments, and for approved and appropriate entertainment. Students and parents connect electronically to stay in communication and work on family issues, therapeutic assignments, and improved communication. Students and parents get to practice new strategies such as boundary setting around emailing and computer use from the beginning of the program. A more “normalized environment” allows for this technology to be used for approved and appropriate entertainment during free time. Laptops are not allowed in the dorms, and there are “no-tech” times throughout the day and during some class time. Filters are in place to block inappropriate websites and social media.

Q. What is the structure of the program and how heavily does Shortridge rely on level systems?

Shortridge uses a combination of academic terms and multi-month therapeutic curriculum phases. Academic years are broken into five terms lasting roughly 8–10 weeks each. Between terms, students have opportunities to participate in fun activities or go on their planned home visits according to the visit schedule and phase they are in. Phases are used to outline eligibility criteria for privileges and types of off-campus/home visits but are not used to guide students’ individual academic or therapeutic work, nor do they measure individual progress. Phases offer students a framework to help manage expectations—both theirs and ours—in areas of leadership and life at and after Shortridge. With each phase comes longer and less structured (over time) home visits where parents and students get to practice or “rehearse” being together, negotiating, and communicating.

Q. What is Shortridge’s view on the use of token economies and consequence systems?

One of Shortridge Academy’s goals is for students to leave the school having internalized positive decision-making skills as well as other healthy lifestyle and relationship skills. Our focus on strengths and the “internalization of skills” yields to a prioritization of individual goals and measures rather than external mechanisms like token economies and rigid consequence systems. We aren’t a school that simply acknowledges external compliance to rules and regulations. It is important to note that incentives and consequences are used when appropriate, such as to promote a safe community or for clinical purposes. These tactics, however, are not our primary vehicle to support the internalization process. Consequences are based on the infraction and typically are a combination of cognitive/introspective assignments along with some behavior-based ones such as an “apology in action” consisting of a community service project.

Q. How many and what type of group therapy is offered per week?

Shortridge has two group times per week on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 2:15 to 3:45. These groups are typically process groups and focus on conflict resolution between students and overall community-building. Students who are struggling or need some positive peer influence will also get support via these groups. Occasionally, we will deliver specialty groups during one of these group times or at other times throughout the year, focused on a theme such as substance use, anxiety, adoption, emotional regulation, and social justice. This format of 2–3 groups per week is typical of a therapeutic boarding school-level of care given the need to balance full-time academics, activities, and recreational time each week.

Q. How many individual therapy sessions are there per week?

We offer one weekly session by each therapist for his or her assigned caseloads. These sessions are focused on processing issues within the milieu, debriefing family and off-campus visits, and reviewing the status of and data from their personalized plans.

Q. What are the credentials of the therapists?

We are fortunate to have a variety of professionals, including social workers, counseling psychologists, and marriage and family therapists.

Q. How and who provides clinical oversight of the program, therapists, and staff?

Our licensed clinical director supervises all therapists and provides clinical oversight of the residential staff and programs.

Q. How are the therapists and clinical staff integrated into the program?

Our team model, weekly work within the milieu, and participation in and the lead of off-campus activities are all opportunities that allow for integration and better care.

Q. What kind of family therapy is part of the program and how often is this provided?

We offer weekly updates and therapy via phone, monthly face¬to-face sessions, New Parent Orientations every quarter, and regular parent conferences.

Q. How are other staff and areas of the program integrated into the clinical program?

We have an integrated team model of care where a therapist, academic advisor, and residential advisor meet once per week and discuss issues with each therapist’s caseload. This allows for enhanced internal communication for topics such as consequence status, home visits, and other administrative issues.

Q. Do you have on-site medication management?

Yes, our medical director, a member of the management team, manages this.

Q: Can Shortridge accommodate students transitioning from a residential treatment center in a “user-friendly” way?

Shortridge was designed to serve students transitioning from a short-term, primary intervention program such as a therapeutic wilderness program. However, due to Shortridge’s model of a partnership-based milieu and a more normalized environment than most therapeutic boarding schools, our program can be more palatable than other schools. For example, while our off-campus family and home visit structure is earlier and more frequent compared to other therapeutic boarding schools, a student who has completed a residential treatment program is usually going on extended off-campus and home visits. This can be an issue for some students and families. However, our technology policy, dress code, allowance of digital music players and music of choice, and the number and type of on and off-campus activities are very appealing to students who have been at an RTC where the structure and privileges were more stringent.

Q. How does Shortridge measure student progress?

Shortridge does not rely heavily on a level system to measure progress. We use data collected at enrollment by multiple reporters including staff, students, and families to develop an initial Positive Development Plan. At several other junctures while a student is at Shortridge, therapeutic instruments are administered to measure progress toward goals and to help guide revision of the individual plan. In addition to providing the framework for student progress, these therapeutic instruments are part of Shortridge’s formal program of evaluation.

Q. How is the family work at Shortridge different from other therapeutic boarding schools’ approaches?

Family work at Shortridge Academy is highly prioritized because we believe the family is a culmination of individual member strengths that influence development of each family member and the family as a whole. For this reason, our family work focuses on utilization of authoritative parenting (partnership/power-sharing) approaches where the family’s strengths are leveraged in promoting Positive Youth Development. Shortridge Academy embraces our family component through this “co-parenting” approach and takes this collaboration seriously from the day of application to after graduation. From initial communication and correspondence, family goals (short and long term) are discussed and drive the creation of the Positive Development Plan and influence revisions based on progress and further needs. Shortridge Academy partners with families, facilitating the identification of inherent strengths, positive attributes, and characteristics while empowering families to recognize the “6 C’s of Positive Youth Development” (Caring, Character, Connection, Competence, Confidence, and Contribution) unique to their student.

Q. What is the length of stay for students at Shortridge Academy?

Our minimum length of stay is a full academic year (roughly ten months) in order to take full advantage of the therapeutic and academic curricula and opportunities for rehearsal of skills to be used after Shortridge. Individual lengths of stay are determined by progress made toward academic objectives, personal and family goals outlined in the Positive Development Plans, and the timing of transitions to next schools.

Q. How does Shortridge promote a healthy and positive community?

We strive to promote a healthy and positive community by focusing on positive and healthy relationships. Critical to both Positive Youth Development and Authoritative Parenting approaches are healthy and sustained relationships between adults and adolescents. Shortridge utilizes staff¬led, student-driven committees to collaborate on topics of residential life (activities, privileges), academic life (schedule, field trips), and leadership positions.