Emotional Development

9th Grade:                 The following is an overview of how the group will progress over the coming year. Please note that changes may occur due to topics taking longer to cover then expected, the needs of the group requiring a different therapeutic intervention or group dynamics requiring a change in approach. Please feel free to contact your case manager for any additional information regarding your child.

Over the course of the school year, the 9th grade students will be working on a class movie project. The project will provide the students with a real life situation with numerous social, emotional and executive skill demands. The students will be tasked with creating a movie together, requiring them to work as a team, articulating their own ideas as well as listening to each others’ and incorporating the opinions and needs of others into their own thinking. The project will also give the students an opportunity to practice flexible problem solving, perspective-taking and emotional regulation, particularly in situations when the students do not agree on the solution. Making a movie provides the students with a creative and fun experience that will result in a product that they will be able to take home and keep as a memento at the end of the year. For students that are concerned with performing, the project will provide them with a supportive setting to try something outside their comfort zone.

Over July and August, the students will be introduced to the project. The purpose will be explained, and while the students will be encouraged to explore their imagination, they will also be asked to consider the limits of what the class can realistically do. Students will be given an opportunity to view movies created in previous years in order to give them a sense of what is possible. The class will then discuss different types of genres as a way to spark ideas. As ideas are generated, the students will develop a general plot outline, flesh out the main characters, and then cast the movie. It is likely that this process will continue into September.

In September, the class will finalize a general plot outline and discuss different ways of opening a film. The class will watch the opening of a popular Disney movie to illustrate different considerations one should have when designing the look and content of the first ten minutes of a film. The class will also focus on problem-solving practical issues such as where should a scene be filmed and how to acquire costumes and props. It is hoped that the class will begin filming their projects by the end of September.

Filming will likely continue over much of the school year. Emphasis will be placed on ongoing scripting, solving minute-to-minute problems as a group, being supportive of each other when one make mistakes and learning to use the camera. The students will have opportunities to negotiate the sensory demands (i.e. the high level of energy and enthusiasm in the room), as well as practice various skills such as flexibility, empathy, perspective-taking, emotional regulation and collaborative problem-solving. Emphasis at all times will be placed on encouraging the students to function as a group i.e. listening to each other, being open to considering different ideas, disagreeing in a respectful manner, encouraging each other. Throughout the process the students have been encouraged to reflect on their experiences. In May and June, the class will focus on completing the filming of the movie and the editing of the footage.

10th Grade:               For the coming school year, the 10th grade emotional regulation class will be focusing on the topic of mental health. The students will explore what it means to be emotionally healthy, to normalize and de-stigmatize emotional difficulties, to educate them about different psychiatric disorders and to work on prevention and coping strategies for depression and anxiety. Topics will be introduced to the group through presentations and video clips and then explored through group discussions.

The following is an overview of topics that will be covered in the therapeutic groups. Please note that changes may occur due to topics taking longer to cover then expected, the needs of the group requiring a different therapeutic intervention or group dynamics requiring a change in approach. Please feel free to contact your case manager for any additional information regarding your child.

Over July and August, initial lessons will focus on generating rules and expectations for the students around disclosure and maintaining an atmosphere of mutual respect, exploring what it means to be emotionally healthy and creating a definition or criteria for mental health. The students will be introduced to the five domains of health: social, behavioral, mood, cognition and perception. In September, the students will learn about the history of psychology and explore the issue of the social stigma associated with mental illness. The students will learn how our understanding of mental processes and mental health have evolved over the centuries. Special emphasis was given to the 20th century and the rise of psychodynamic theories, behaviorism, and experimental psychology. The students learned the origins of the contemporary fields of cognitive-behavioral therapy, social psychology and psychodynamic talk therapy. One class was devoted to the history and impact of Sigmund Freud.

In October, the class will focus on Depression. Initial lessons will discuss the features and prevalence of depression as well as specific diagnostic criteria that distinguishes clinical depression from everyday sadness. Emphasis will be placed on de-stigmatizing the illness. Several clips will be shared of real individuals discussing how hard it was for them to make the decision to seek treatment due to their own misconceptions about depression and due to the larger stigma in society. To illustrate the points, the students will watch the movie, Shall We Dance?. The film features a man who at the outset of the film is depressed and devoid of passion in his life. Over the course of the movie, he acquires the elements of a happier life that he was previously lacking i.e. friends, interests, engagement and most importantly communication. The overall theme of the movie is that feeling ashamed of being depressed leads to silence and greater depression. After finishing the movie, discussions will focus on introducing the students to preventative steps one can take to reduce the likelihood of developing depression as well as the range of treatment options available should depression arise. Continued discussion of the way in which stigma prevents people from pursuing treatment will be addressed. It is likely that the unit on Depression will continue through November.

In December, class discussion will focus on one treatment option in particular: cognitive behavioral therapy. Students will learn about the role our thoughts have in how we subsequently feel about things and the subsequent choices we then make as a result. Then the students will learn about the basic principals of how one can reshape their experience by reframing and redefining situations. The unit on depression will conclude with a discussion on suicide and self-injury.

In January, the students will do a unit on social psychology. The lesson will focus on being more aware of how the presence of others can subtly impact our feelings and behaviors both positively and negatively. Examples from well-known studies will be described to illustrate points about social facilitation and inhibition, groupthink, conformity and obedience. Presentations will include lectures and videos of experiments by such persons as Asch and Milgrim. Then class lessons will focus on the topic of anxiety. The students will learn about the general features of anxiety as well as the more specific types of anxiety described in the DSM-V manual such as generalized anxiety, phobias, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Strategies for prevention and treatment will also be discussed. Lessons will likely extend through February.

In March, the class will begin a unit on autism. They will watch a video documentary created by a young woman with Asperger’s describing the disorder and sharing her own experiences and that of friends of hers that have also been diagnosed with Asperger’s. The class will then learn about the basic features of autism. Emphasis will be placed on de-stigmatizing the diagnosis.

In April, May and June, the students will be given the opportunity to request the topics that will be covered for the remainder of the year. In the past, students have requested lessons on Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Multiple Personality Disorder, ADHD, Psychosis, perception and eating disorders.

11th Grade:               For the coming school year, the class will be discussing dating and emotional intimacy in relationships. This class is meant to focus on the emotional and interpersonal aspects of dating and less on physical intimacy and reproduction. The students though will have an opportunity to have input on the topics and issues covered. The lessons will use a combination of lecture, open discussion and video clips to illustrate points. The following is an overview of topics that will be covered in the therapeutic groups. Please note that changes may occur due to topics taking longer to cover then expected, the needs of the group requiring a different therapeutic intervention or group dynamics requiring a change in approach. Please feel free to contact your case manager for any additional information regarding your child.

In July and August, students will be introduced to the topic and then be encouraged to create class rules together, so as to promote an environment in which each student’s comfort level with this topic can be respected. Then the class will be challenged to consider where teenagers often get their information from and the reliability of those various sources. The class will discuss “lies” or fallacies perpetuated by movies and television shows that create false expectations for viewers if they are taken literally. The rest of the summer will be spent exploring what makes dating different from friendships and then shift to discussing how one knows when they are ready to start dating. One issue that will be explored is the ability to be able to strike a balance between being flexible (i.e. trying new things, being willing to change certain aspects of oneself) and being able to set reasonable boundaries and say “no” to a partner. The students will be challenged to consider how their expectations for a relationship might differ from that of their partner.

In September, the students will explore issues around how one chooses a suitable person to date i.e. the pro’s and con’s of seeking to date someone who is similar in experiences, values and interests versus dating someone who on the surface might seem very different. The students also discussed issues related to choosing someone you know well versus someone you have noticed at a distance. Emphasis was placed on understanding that the other person has their own perception, feelings and agenda and that liking someone earnestly does not in and of itself guarantee that the other person will reciprocate. The class will then watch (mostly for fun) a video produced in 1949 that imparted dating advice to teenagers.

In October, the lessons will focus on how to choose a place/activity for a first date and what are reasonable expectations for that date. The class will also have lessons on how to approach someone, the myth of the pick-up line, and using nonverbal body language to ascertain interest or disinterest. The issue of dating friends and its possible implications will be addressed.

In November and December, the class will consider different issues that might arise during the early stages of a relationship. The students will be asked to consider mistakes that one might commit early on such as prematurely pushing emotional and physical intimacy before the relationship has developed to that point. The students will discuss different ways one might intentionally and unintentionally communicate pressure. The students will then discuss what are reasonable expectations for when one is in a romantic relationship i.e. fidelity, respect, attention. The class will discuss how being in a relationship can impact one’s daily routine i.e. when one devotes time and attention on the relationship, they are taking it away from other things like friends, family and familiar activities. At the end of December, the students will discuss issues related to introducing a person to one’s friends and family.

In January, the class will explore dating issues faced by specific groups such as those in the LGBTQ community and those in the autism community.

In February and March, the class will discuss the differences between being in a healthy relationship, an unhealthy relationship and an abusive relationship. Lessons will focus on the role insecurity can play in undermining a relationship. Two classes will be dedicated to discussing dating violence i.e. what does it look like, how to avoid it, what to do if one finds themselves in one. In April, the students will learn about issues related to breaking up. The students will explore how to safely end a relationship and what this might feel like to go through it. Lessons will also cover strategies to help one get over a break up and prepare oneself for the next potential relationship. The topic of being friends with one’s ex will also be discussed.

In May and June, the class will explore the topics of marriage and divorce. Issues such as how marriage differs from dating, what to consider when choosing a life partner, when to decide divorce is a better option than working on a troubled relationship will be covered. At the end of the school year, for fun, the class will watch videos depicting unusual but appropriate dating reality television shows.

12th Grade:                            This year, the psychologist will be pushing in to two academic blocks during the school year to provide additional support to those students. Specifically, the psychologist will assist the students with perspective-taking, problem-solving and self-advocacy skills in the context of an academic lesson. If an individual student has an emotional reaction or would benefit from meeting privately to discuss a specific issue, the psychologist will pull that student during this time to provide that additional support.

PHS:                            This year, the psychologist will be pushing in during two blocks to provide additional support to the students. Specifically, the psychologist will assist the students with perspective-taking, emotional regulation, problem-solving and self-advocacy skills. The psychologist will have the flexibility of pushing in during a variety of times including morning meetings and different trips into the community. If an individual student has an emotional reaction or would benefit from meeting privately to discuss a specific issue, the psychologist will meet individually with that student to provide additional support.