Carlbrook School Celebrates Five Years of Transition Services Programming

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Carlbrook School is pleased to announce that this week will mark the fifth year of existence for its Transition Services programming, a comprehensive aftercare curriculum designed to assist parents and students in acclimating to life after Carlbrook and sustaining the gains achieved during their tenure at the school.

Carlbrook School is pleased to announce that this week will mark the fifth year of existence for its Transition Services programming, a comprehensive aftercare curriculum designed to assist parents and students in acclimating to life after Carlbrook and sustaining the gains achieved during their tenure at the school. It should be emphasized that research suggests that support during the first year immediately following residential care of any kind is critical to participants’ long-term success; anecdotally, Carlbrook concurs with such findings and cannot overstate the importance of this transition component to the continued success of its graduating students. Given the original goal of increasing the level of support for its alumni base, along with receiving critical feedback about the unique needs of Carlbrook graduates, the evolution of these services has been driven by the information gathered through working directly with alumni students and parents.

In response to the significantly increased awareness of the specific needs of Carlbrook alumni, Transition Services programming remains true to its original mission of serving three primary functions – Preparation, Education and Support.

With the objective of encouraging the utilization of skills learned at Carlbrook to make appropriate and responsible choices, the Department of Alumni and Transition Services works with students and their parents in the months preceding graduation to outline academic, social and emotional goals, with a substantial focus on the identification of familial expectations and the response associated with a deviation from these agreements. The creation of appropriate boundaries and structure within the family unit helps to foster an environment that supports and reinforces the positive behavioral changes that students have experienced during their enrollment at Carlbrook. Recognizing the challenges that many parents face in the implementation and maintenance of such plans, Transition Counselors then provide ongoing support to parents in upholding this framework for one year following their students’ graduation from the school. The Department of Alumni and Transition Services collaborates closely with the Recovery Services, College Counseling and Advising Departments of Carlbrook School, and views strongly that it is through this level of multi-disciplinary communication that the most comprehensive support available can be implemented for each family.

To ensure that all upcoming alumni possess the requisite knowledge and skills to achieve success following graduation, Carlbrook School facilitates several groups and conferences for each graduating class including the following:

(a) A series of nine psycho-educational groups and seminars are held for students beginning approximately six months prior to graduation. Content is focused on college preparation strategies, relevant life skills and social issues (i.e. sex, dating, substance use, personal finances, etc.) and the effective transfer of coping strategies learned at Carlbrook to mainstream environments.

(b) Regular collaboration with the Department of Recovery Services allows for students to participate in a series of seven groups focused specifically on substance abuse alongside the transition programming curriculum. In addition, the Family Brain Defense Weekend, which prepares families for addressing the topic of substance abuse with their students, is offered through the close partnership with Dr. Aaron White, Jeff Georgi and Becky Georgi out of Duke University Medical Center.

(c) Two months prior to graduation Carlbrook hosts a Transition Conference, which focuses on assisting families in the development of the afore mentioned boundaries and structure needed to support their students outside of the school. Additional emphasis is placed on fostering effective, honest communication between students and parents.

(d) Approximately one week prior to graduation, each class participates in an Orientation Conference, which aims to provide students with a final opportunity to prepare for a successful transition from Carlbrook School. The focus of this event is to orient students to the alumni community and reiterate expectations for their year long involvement with the Transition Services faculty and program. Discussions include a review of support services provided by counselors following graduation, students’ concerns about their transition, and advice from alumni student panelists based on their personal experiences of making a successful adjustment from Carlbrook.

With the goal of assisting alumni in the successful navigation of the inevitable challenges faced during the first year following graduation, Transition Counselors provide considerable guidance and support throughout the transition period. An essential component to this is the establishment of regular contact with both students and parents through a minimum of bi-weekly phone conversations for the first several months after leaving Carlbrook. Counselors also engage in monthly conference calls with local therapists working with each family. The frequency of phone calls are decreased slowly over the course of the final six months of the transition year in an effort to effectively transfer students and parents to their local resources; however, increased contact is available at any time that additional support is needed.

Support services also include the facilitation of regional support groups and alumni gatherings. Carlbrook School strives to visit alumni students within their first year following graduation to not only provide direct support, but meet with local outpatient therapists or additional professionals involved to ensure a continuity of care and expand the network of resources for future alumni families. A critical part of the transition programming at Carlbrook, these visits provide counselors with an opportunity to maintain the necessary connection with their students that allows for more effective comprehensive support designed to ease the difficulty of the adjustment process. The Department of Alumni and Transition Services typically facilitates over thirty of these routine visits each year, and are greeted by students with enthusiasm as they are shown around numerous college campuses, day and boarding schools or hometowns.    

On-Going and Future Initiatives
Carlbrook continues to develop and improve upon its already established Transition Services programming by seeking regular feedback from students and parents once they have completed the initial year of support. Routine monitoring of student success rates is also an important part of the general Alumni Services, in hopes of consistently improving the overall efficacy of the school. In addition, alumni students are given the chance to return to the campus of Carlbrook School, if desired, to visit with faculty and current students – approximately sixty students choose to return to the school each year to take advantage of this opportunity for reconnection and share their experiences with the campus.

Offering resources in perpetuity for all alumni students remains a priority for Carlbrook. The Department of Alumni and Transition Services routinely avails itself for support to families as needed, irrespective of the length of time that has spanned since their students’ graduation from the school. Finally, the school is excited about its plans to launch a comprehensive website for alumni students and parents in coming months that offers opportunities for increased networking within the Carlbrook community. The password protected site will serve as a resource to maintain a personal profile, connect with other families, and stay up to date on events both on campus and among alumni.

Carlbrook School is proud of the dedicated and hardworking faculty members that have developed its Transition Services programming into an effective and critical component to the ongoing success of its students. The school is committed to continuing this evolution to ensure that all families consistently receive the most up to date and comprehensive support services available.

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Anna Gerard
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