Transitioning to Life Beyond Gateway

Of course, life within our walls has to prepare students for life in the real world. We prepare boys to return to their homes and communities as confident, healthy individuals who are invested in their own success.

DISCHARGE AND TRANSITION

This period, the “Gateway Phase,” is where it all comes together: preparing young men for success beyond our walls. Wherever they are bound—home, college, or boarding school—we are focused now on creating skills and structure that our students and their families can take with them following graduation. 

MAKING A SUCCESSFUL SHIFT

Just as it’s been all along, this final treatment phase in a young man’s journey at Gateway is uniquely his own, and no two experiences are alike. However, research points to two factors that successful outcomes have in common: 1) active family participation and 2) opportunities for practicing and solidifying new skills in the community.

Months before discharge, each boy’s therapist will work closely with his parents and our experienced Transition Therapist to design a transition plan. The future is the focus, and this phase includes forays into the community, structured interventions, visits home and more independent experiences.

Following the agreed-upon therapeutic transition plan, everything is geared toward the next step. The level of structure and support each student will need post-Gateway—as determined by his family and treatment team—is the vision that sets the roadmap for his transition.

 

GATEWAY HOUSE

The Gateway House is a residential home in a family neighborhood located around the corner from Gateway Academy’s main campus. In this smaller eight-bed setting, boys have the chance to try out fledgling skills in an atmosphere of greater flexibility and freedom. It’s a period of applying the treatment gains they’ve made to new contexts—with the full safety net and support of Gateway behind them.

During this final phase, our emphasis shifts from clinical intensity to community-based in vivo (“real life”) interventions and increased independent choices. Will he choose to study at 5:00 p.m. or 8:00? Apply for a part-time internship that interests him, or volunteer at one of the myriad of businesses with which we have connections in the local community? He may opt to sign up for a community sports league at this time, or join a local yoga studio or climbing gym. From getting himself up, fed and ready for school in the morning to deciding how to balance free time, study and fitness, each student—within his individual abilities—is given the chance to test and refine new skills little by little.

Students will continue in individual therapy, family therapy and group therapy as well, though the topics and focus will largely shift to transition planning and the future. A carefully designed curriculum, taking into account the possibility of regression during this delicate transition period, is followed week by week, allowing the family and student to monitor progress at every step.

The Gateway phase is also a time for exposure to aspects that are inevitably part of life. Electronic privileges are gradually reintroduced, and learning how to balance time on the Xbox or his iPad with studies, fitness and community involvement is critical to a young man’s success. Students are asked to set a weekly schedule and share it electronically with the group, outlining their plans for studies, fitness, or volunteering, and recreational outings.

For those who struggle with anxiety, trust, and social issues, we are watching as they try out budding relational skills in the community while in the company of staff and teachers they have known for months. It’s an exhilarating emotional period, one of success and setback, triumph and trial, all intentionally guided week by week until each young man is confident and prepared.

 

MIRRORING LIFE AT HOME

During his time at the Gateway House, we begin to focus on mirroring what life will look like beyond our walls. A plan is made for regular home visits at key milestones throughout this final phase. During these strategic visits, students are assigned tasks such as interviewing new therapists, visiting potential new school settings, interviewing for jobs, and locating recreational outlets in the home setting.

At the same time students are working on setting up connections and practicing healthy transitional behaviors, parents will work with our Transition Therapist to address the inevitable apprehension such a monumental transition causes, as well as to put in place structures that will ensure his success.

With each consecutive home visit, layers of responsibility and stressors are added, so that by the final visit, each young man’s schedule and experience looks just like it will when he leaves Gateway. Both students and families can visualize what to expect; what’s more, he’s had the chance to practice over and over again the skills and self-advocacy he will rely on every day at home.

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