Supporting Teens That Have Struggled In Other Therapeutic Programs
With a smaller and more personalized community. Discovery Connections helps teens discover their true potential, reengage in the therapeutic process, and prepare for life as young adults.
The typical Discovery Connections student struggles with treatment resistance but is non-violent. Students often demonstrate their resistant behavior through self-sabotage behaviors, apathy, manipulation, or even minor physical posturing and temper tantrums. Most students who find themselves at Connections have poor impulse control.
The majority of students at Discovery Connections have been enrolled in two or three separate programs over time and have experienced and internalized a pattern of self-defeating attitudes. These clinical traits, coupled with various mental health diagnoses, tend to be disruptive in larger clinical environments. These students can be in need of a smaller milieu.
Discovery Connections is a residential treatment center for adolescent boys aged 13-17. Located in Utah. We are a small, focused milieu that stresses community, confidence, and character.
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About Discovery Connections
When treatment-fatigued students have struggled in other therapeutic settings to reach a maximum benefit, they often become dysregulated and escalate their negative thoughts and behaviors. The current interdisciplinary treatment team may discuss how these students are negatively impacting the program milieu or culture. These particular students often use various forms of avoidance and manipulation to exacerbate the principle of learned helplessness.
As a parent, educator, or allied health professional, we have all expended energy and additional resources in dealing with a son, a student, a patient, or a client whose current behaviors may lead toward a negative outcome. Every therapeutic environment has a certain percentage of their clientele that tends to struggle.
One of the main culprits in this situation is the student's inability to connect. For example, they struggle to connect with peers, connect with parents, and to connect with adults and authority figures. Most importantly, they struggle to connect with themselves authentically. That is why other programs call these students "Treatment-Resistant."
There is hope! The theory behind the Connections program is that these students have been in therapeutic environments that were emotionally overwhelming. Many of these students may struggle in larger therapeutic milieus. With a smaller and more personalized community, Connections offers specialized treatment. At Connections, we understand that students are more than their diagnosis. Many students fall within the Special Education Category of Mild to Moderate. Some of our students have diagnoses that include Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD, ADHD), Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), anxiety, depression, learning challenges and executive functioning issues.
Students experience success through personalized academic engagement, career exploration, and a small nurturing therapeutic community. The students at Connections are regularly mastering the skills of self-advocacy among peers, the direct care mentoring staff, and the local city community.
Discovery Connections offers a unique approach to residential treatment. Our students thrive in a small and focused population. That is why our groups are limited to 12 students. The smaller community allows for our well-trained staff to meet the students' specific needs. A sense of physical and emotional safety is one of the therapeutic benefits of a smaller community.
Discovery Connections students live and learn in a therapeutic environment that centers on community, character, and confidence. Students and families work through a personalized process that makes each student\'s treatment detailed and specific to their individual needs. Discovery Connections offers experiential and traditional therapy in a relationship-based environment. Each student immediately sees the impact of his or her actions on their family, peers, and community.
A skilled and seasoned group of clinicians work individually, and in groups, with the students. They also educate the direct care mentoring staff and attend regular staff training. We have designed the campus to encourage therapeutic opportunities outside the walls of an office. Therapists know and understand each of the student’s individual needs as well as the group dynamics of each community.
The overall goal is to meet the students where they are and walk with them as they struggle with the complex and often paralyzing emotional issues they encounter. As a part of the resistance previously mentioned, many of the students come to us saying that they don’t want or need therapy. Because the therapists and mentors are with the students and participate in the day-to-day activities, therapeutic opportunities arise and can be processed as they happen.
Discovery Connections provide therapy through a three-pronged approach:
- Traditional and Experiential Therapy
- Residential Living
This three-pronged approach to therapeutic intervention provides students the opportunity to learn and apply life skills that will help them transition home from Connections. The therapeutic, academic, and residential progress of each student is fully integrated through interdisciplinary treatment team communication and planning.
These therapeutic, academic, and residential interventions are all based on developing and maintaining healthy relationships. The end goal is to help students manage healthy interactions throughout their lives.
The Connections program opened in 2010. It started as a home located in Orem, Utah. It includes kitchen and dining areas, three dorm-style rooms with adjoining bathrooms, office space, and two living areas. The grounds include a sports court, garden, and a grassy playing field. Students are responsible for cleaning, maintaining, and developing the grounds and facilities. They learn to cook their own meals and earn their food handler permits. Discovery Connections' physical layout encourages trust and togetherness among the students.
Career exploration is a unique therapeutic aspect of the program that transcends all areas. After identifying their career interests, values, and abilities, students then have the opportunity to explore further through job shadowing, internships, and other hands-on experiences.
These experiences expose the students to other positive people in the surrounding suburban community in which they live. These business leaders and entrepreneurs interact and serve to mentor and encourage the students along the way. As the students engage in career exploration, they become excited about the prospect of independence and the future of becoming responsible and productive member of society.
Career exploration will also allow students to recognize and internalize their personal strengths, provide a productive outlet for energy, provide real-life experiences, and encourage resilience.
Our students routinely participate in projects that benefit the surrounding community. These projects include areas of interest that the students have. Some service activities have included planting flowers and other beautification projects, playing bingo with seniors at the senior center, food drives, and other opportunities as unique needs arise.
As students serve others, they develop compassion and learn to care about something besides themselves. They realize they can make others' lives better by sharing their time and talents. They connect with the community at large and learn they have a role to play in making their world better.
Discovery Connections students participate in at least one hour of physical exercise five days a week. PE may include basketball, soccer, weight lifting, and various cardio activities. Students can receive high school PE credit for their participation. Most activities are held on our campus, but students also take advantage of neighboring college sports facilities.
In addition to exercise, students share meal planning duties, discuss healthy food choices and portion sizes, and what constitutes a nutritionally complete meal.
Body mass index is tracked monthly and students learn the difference between muscle and fat as well as what healthy body weight is.
Weekly Family Therapy
Each student and their family participates in a weekly family therapy session with the student's therapist. These visits are conducted via video call and can be scheduled at times that best accommodate the family's schedule.
These sessions are critical to the student's therapeutic progress, and both parents are strongly encouraged to participate.
Besides the student's weekly family session, parents are welcome to contact their child's therapist by email whenever they have a question or concern.
Parents may visit their students when therapeutically appropriate. Student visits progress from day area visits to overnight visits. Eventually, students can participate in-home visits. Visits help to gauge the therapeutic and behavioral progress of both parents and students. Visits must be approved by and coordinated with your child's therapist.
Connections offer an individualized learning environment where students begin their academic journey from where they left off, regardless of where that may be. Our year-round academic calendar allows us to make up for lost time and get students caught up faster than traditional schools. Connections have a custom academic program that builds competence and confidence whether the student is preparing for college or working towards a high school diploma. Many students enter Connections with an Individual Education Plan (IEP).
The Connections academic services are administered through Discovery Academy. As a State, National, and Internationally accredited school, Discovery Academy can assist each student in their individual educational needs. Parents have been thrilled to see their son re-engage in academics and find confidence in learning.
We have open enrollment based upon program capacity. The designated enrollment days are Monday and Tuesday of each week. We have the availability to set up a virtual tour of the campus as well as introduction visits with the clinical and academic departments. (Personal tours and visits are subject to COVID-19 National, State and Local safety protocols)
Most parents exhaust themselves trying to monitor, outwit, and provide 24-hour structure for their teen. Many parents have mentioned they find themselves in the position of playing "Cops and Robbers" with their teen. Parents end up sacrificing time with other family members, personal time, and job performance trying to help their troubled teen - all without any real success. Many feel guilty they are unable to change their child\'s behavior even after all of the outpatient therapy visits. If your teen is refusing outpatient or is skilled at manipulating outpatient therapists, that is usually a good indicator you need residential professionals.
The length of stay varies for each student, depending on their therapeutic progress. On average, students stay six to ten months. Each family dynamic is different and length of time is determined by the individual clinical needs of each family.
It is clinically important for students to feel a part of the community at large as early as possible. Since Discovery Connections is located in the heart of a recreational and educational center, with canyons, mountains, reservoirs, and two major universities close by, our students enjoy the outdoor adventure as well as cultural events of the city. As most parents understand, the higher the student's engagement in the program and demonstration of trustworthy behavior, the more opportunities students participate in.
All visits by family members are coordinated through the student's therapist. Whether you are planning an onsite visit, off-site visit, or home visit, it is important for parents to remember this is a time to assess your son's therapeutic progress. While there may be some fun activities included in your time together, it is not meant to be a "vacation". Visits are a time for you as the parent to assess your teens' reintegration into the family system.
We welcome all family members to be included. That involvement may be different for each member. This will be coordinated by the therapist to maintain level focused interventions and emotional safety for all involved.
Yes. Our academic program is administered by our sister program, Discovery Academy. The Academy is accredited by the AdvancED.
Discovery Connections is also accredited by The Joint Commission.
Yes. Students can earn a regular high school diploma while attending Discovery Connections. This diploma is issued through Discovery Academy, our sister program. Students who qualify may also be able to participate in concurrent enrollment online college courses.
Discovery Connections can help your student prepare for and successfully pass the GED exam and earn a high-school equivalency certificate. Students also participate in an extensive career evaluation to determine career interests, values, and competencies. Students participate in personalized internships and job shadowing opportunities in the local community. Many families find their son's academic abilities and interests improve significantly while attending Discovery Connections. The combination of effective therapy, tailored academics, career evaluation, and internships often results in new-found abilities and confidence in post-high-school learning. Your student's therapist and educational advisor can provide you with information to help you make the best decisions on your child's next academic step, whether that is vocational development or secondary learning opportunities.