Bromley Brook Boarding School for Girls Creates Focus Cards to Help Students Regulate Emotions, Solve Problems

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The Focus Cards, which debuted spring semester, integrate women’s psychology and relational-cultural theory to help students work on their behavioral issues and strengthen relationships.

The cards can help the girls be more mindful rather than just react in the moment.

To help students enhance their emotional regulation skills, learn to problem solve and build stronger relationships, Bromley Brook boarding school for girls has created individualized diary cards for its residents.

The Focus Cards were introduced to students at the beginning of the spring semester as a way to help girls label their feelings and thoughts and identify the behavioral issues they need to work on to enhance their treatment goals. The cards provide students with specific problem-solving skills to help them during difficult situations.

“The cards can help the girls be more mindful rather than just react in the moment,” said Sharon Hartunian, LICSW, LADC 1, CADAC, Bromley Brook’s clinical director. “The cards can help them look at what they’re struggling with and the process of how they handle problems.”

The Focus Cards highlight five skills for students to work on:

1.    Mindfulness
2.    Distress tolerance
3.    Emotional regulation
4.    Interpersonal skills
5.    Self-management.

Within each of those skills are 26 coping strategies. For example, if a student is struggling with self-management, she can use the Focus Cards to remind herself to follow rules, exercise, eat well, and take care of her personal hygiene and living space.

“We want to help girls look at what their struggles are and the process of how they problem solve,” Hartunian said. “It can help them realize that there is no absolute way of thinking and feeling, and they can see if there are certain skills that can help them.”

The Focus Cards were created by Bromley Brook staff in collaboration with the Stone Center at Wellesley College to develop a unique way of working with adolescent girls. The cards integrate the theoretical foundations of women’s psychology and relational-cultural theory in a way that can help girls foster healthy relationships and connections, and encourage them to have power with each other as opposed to power over each other.

The girls receive one Focus Card each week, which is added to a binder of collected cards that the students and treatment staff can refer back to. Three times each day, students are given time to reflect on their behaviors and fill in the cards. The school’s clinical staff and therapists were trained on how to help girls use the cards and process their observations.

“So many of our girls struggle with distress tolerance and emotional regulation,” said Mary Jo DeGrandi, MS, coordinator of Special Therapeutic Programs at Bromley Brook. “We want to create opportunities throughout the day for the girls to reflect on what’s going on with them and what strategies they used to help themselves.”

The Focus Cards are simplified versions of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) diary cards that have been successfully used in therapy since the 1990s. Bromley Brook has run a DBT group for students for years, but only a small group of girls participated. The cards allow all students to benefit from the DBT principles.

“We were already doing DBT work and realized that every girl would benefit from it,” Hartunian explained. “It provides a concrete way for students to measure and keep track of their emotions.”

About Bromley Brook

Bromley Brook is a boarding school for girls ages 13 to 17. The school aims to meet the specialized learning requirements and unique social needs of girls while providing professional mentoring, leadership training and strong family involvement.

Bromley Brook is a proud member of CRC Health Group, the most comprehensive network of specialized behavioral care services in the nation. CRC offers the largest array of personalized treatment options, allowing individuals, families and professionals to choose the most appropriate treatment setting for their behavioral, addiction, weight management and therapeutic education needs. CRC is committed to making its services widely and easily available, while maintaining a passion for delivering advanced treatment. For over two decades, CRC programs have helped individuals and families reclaim and enrich their lives.

For more information about Bromley Brook or CRC Health, call (866) 515-5202 or visit Bromley Brook.

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Kristen Hayes
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