Therapeutic services are an integral part of the NCA program. The Clinical Staff/Therapists at New Connections Academy (NCA) are here to provide individual, group & family therapy, and crisis intervention for each of our students.

Each student has an individual therapist who will meet with him/her at least for the stipulated therapy minutes on the IEP, and more often if needed. These sessions focus on a wide variety of issues, including the student’s: reason for referral to NCA; primary issues and concerns; level of self-awareness and insight; emotional and behavioral management skills; coping, problem-solving and self-soothing skills; communication and relationship skills, etc. Therapists serve not only as the primary contact person for parents, but also the case managers who coordinate their work with outside service providers, such as: Therapists, Psychiatrists, DCFS Caseworkers, Probation Officers, SASS Workers, School Counselors etc.

Dr. Gwen Grant serves as the Clinical Director of NCA as she is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who supervises for all of the clinical staff. NCA is a well-established and respected training site for graduate students in clinical psychology who are at various points in their training to earn Master’s in Counseling or Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology.

Therapists are available throughout the day for individual therapy and crisis management. If any staff member feels a student requires therapeutic support, or if a student requests to meet with his/her therapist, the therapist will be contacted immediately, and s/he will pull the student for a session as soon as possible. Therapists collaborate with the NCA teaching staff to identify appropriate times to pull students from their academic day for therapeutic services and support.

If a student reports any distressing and/or concerning event, or shares information about the following three issues, staff members must report this information to her/his therapist or supervisor immediately:

1. The student intends to harm her/himself.

2. The student intends to harm someone else.

3. The student is being harmed by, or is harming, someone else.

Within individual therapy, clinicians utilize multiple approaches depending on the needs of the students including cognitive-behavioral/problem-solving, psychodynamic, family-systems, and narrative principles. In addition, the Lakota-Sioux Circle of Courage, which teaches the value of belonging, independence, generosity, and mastery, is explored to help students develop these essential life skills. This multi-faceted approach works to assist the students in: overcoming issues at hand; practicing more successful behavioral alternatives; and exploring ways to rewrite their negative life stories. The goal is to work with students’ strengths and gifts, and to help them be aware of their challenges and obstacles to their success. The therapeutic milieu is based on a positive, nurturing model, where natural, logical consequences for behaviors are frequently utilized.

Therapists facilitate group therapy within the students’ homerooms every day. These groups are focused on the development of social/emotional skills, life skills (Circle of Courage), coping & problem-solving skills and relaxation, self-soothing & stress-management skills. Students also rotate through the various specialty groups throughout the week: Art Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Music Therapy among others. There are also specialized pull-out groups for our students with identified needs: Grief and Loss, Guys’ Issues, Girls’ Issues, etc.

Individual art therapy and occupational therapy are also options for our students who would benefit from, or require, these additional supportive services. Both the Art Therapist and Occupational Therapist(s) are active members of the clinical team, who frequently collaborate with the therapists and other related services staff.

In order to support our students in their efforts to make and sustain progress in their lives. NCA offers, and strongly encourages, family therapy for our students, their parents/guardians, and if possible, siblings and extended family who live in the home.

In addition, there are monthly parent groups and activities in the evenings (the schedule is shared monthly via SchoolMessenger), where collaboration and communication are reinforced with NCA staff and families; and where guest speakers and educational programs are utilized to explore a variety of topics relevant to our NCA families.

Dr. Shazia Tayyab, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist from Counseling Connections, meets monthly with all therapists for individual psychiatric consultation. Dr. Tayyab is also available at other times of the month for psychiatric consultation, observations and evaluations.

In addition to the services identified above, NCA offers a comprehensive array of support services, including: ● Small Group & Individualized Academic Instruction ● Occupational Therapy and Speech & Language Evaluations and Services ● Social/Emotional, Problem-Solving & Coping Skill Building ● Comprehensive Case Studies ● A Strength Based Behavioral Management Program ● Daily School Nurse Services ● Transition & Post-Graduation Preparation