Growing up involves developing a series of complex psychosocial skills that allows one to successfully navigate and structure one’s life and relationships. Some teens get stalled in the maturation process and end up on a downward spiral of social difficulties, academic failure, conflict with parents, dangerous behavior, emotional instability and a loss of direction in life. This downward spiral becomes exacerbated by emotional, psychiatric and/or learning problems. Examples include: depression, anxiety, trauma reactions, bipolar, and ADHD.
The Summit Model™ provides a nurturing relationship-based developmental approach to helping these teens get unstuck and back on track. This process begins immediately upon admission to Summit Preparatory School as students become actively engaged in therapeutic and recreational activities designed to promote healthy relationships with staff as soon as they can safely participate. These relationships provide students the encouragement and non-punitive professional support they need to develop new psychosocial maturity skills; and this process is also bolstered by expert academic and clinical interventions designed to mitigate and treat emotional, psychiatric, behavioral and/or learning problems.
The ability to self soothe is the foundational psychosocial skill upon which other skills build. This skill involves the ability to keep one’s internal anxiety in check (through self reassurance) when frustrated so one can deliberate on a course of action instead of just acting on impulse. Many adolescents have great difficulty self soothing and cannot handle structure or limits. Their response to frustration is to act rashly or to melt down in a fit of anger or depression. Summit Prep’s first stage is designed to promote an adolescent’s ability to self soothe by supporting students in learning how to adjust to and tolerate (but not circumvent) reasonable, non-punitive structure through supportive, trusting relationships with staff.
The ability to form meaningful relationships with others is a skill that many times needs to be relearned in adolescence as relationships tend to be selfish and people are treated as objects to be discarded when no longer of use. Once an adolescent’s ability to self soothe is strengthened, however, they are able to focus beyond just immediate gratification and other people begin to mean more to them than just their current function. Summit Prep’s second stage is designed to encourage students to develop relationships with staff which gradually become meaningful enough that students want to be trusted by staff and to participate with staff in exploring and discovering (or rediscovering) positive passions and competencies they can build upon in life. Examples include: art, music, reading, academic subjects, sports, drama, photography, rock climbing, and hiking. Repairing relationships with parents and family also takes a more active focus in stage two and continues throughout the rest of the adolescent’s stay during Summit’s Intensive Family Program.
The ability to structure one’s own life begins by an adolescent incorporating into their life similar ways of thinking and behaving as those with which they identify (this is the beginning of identity development). This identification is strongest with the people the adolescent has a meaningful relationship with, especially when they relate positively on a day to day basis. By Summit Prep’s third stage the adolescent has experienced success at Summit and begins to identify with the school community, staff and students. The positive identification with staff and positive peers is encouraged within the school community in reinforcing newly learned problem solving, coping and communication skills.
The ability to develop and maintain an independent identity (i.e. identity consolidation) is important as initially an adolescent’s sense of identity is overly dependent upon their identification with others. This connection to others is so important (and can be so complete) that the adolescent does not separate their own opinions and values from those with which they identify, resulting in a vulnerability to group pressure. Remaining connected with others while also developing a separate identity is difficult, until the adolescent learns empathy - the ability to understand and connect with another person different from oneself. This ability allows the adolescent to choose to be different from others and to establish their own personal values and goals without sacrificing meaningful connections. Summit Prep’s fourth stage of the program focuses on students learning and practicing empathy as leaders in the community, mentors to new students and through participation in community service and volunteer activities; while also identifying their own values and goals in life. This includes testing their resolve and ability to live up to their goals and values in life in increasingly autonomous settings. In addition students are required to develop a comprehensive aftercare plan in collaboration with their parents.