Support in schools

Aggression Replacement Training will be offered in the district beginning in February

Aggression Replacement Training (ART) will now be offered in the school setting.

The program, an offering of Family Services of Warren County, will be offered at the Warren Area High School/Warren County Career Center in collaboration with Beacon Light Behavioral Health, Forest-Warren Human Services, and the district, starting February 20 according to FSWC Director Mike Philhower.

If there are enough referrals and the first cohort goes well, said Philhower, offerings will expand to provide ART in other school locations, on a rotating basis through schools in the district over the coming year.

According to a Dec. 17, 2016, WTO article, ART is about helping students learn the skills to avoid conflict.

The goal is to divert a youth who may be on the path toward placement or other escalated consequences of acting out. The program is open to youth age 12 to 17 who have threatened staff, peers, parents or siblings; those with a history of verbal, physical, or relational aggression such as intimidation, bullying, and social manipulation intended to exclude or alienate others; those who meet the DSM-V criteria for Oppositional Defiant Disorder or other related behavioral disorders; those who are emotionally reactive or explosive; those who exhibit trouble controlling impulses or are disrupted; those who often suppress anger or have difficulty expressing anger and emotion; or those who demonstrate deficits in social skill proficiency. Not all of the selection criteria need be met for a youth to qualify for a referral, however. The criteria, rather, represent a set of possible hallmark signs that ART may be a good method to addressing a student’s issues.

The 10-week program gives students opportunities to develop a better understanding of – and ability to respond to – social interaction, anger control, and moral reasoning. Outcomes of ART are positive when youth exhibit reduced frequency of antisocial or overtly aggressive behaviors.

Part of what’s driven the change of venue for the program, which seeks to address behavioral issues, is accessibility. “Having mental health and other services at school increases accessibility to students who are in need, reduces school absences, and reduces barriers to treatment such as lack of transportation.” Transportation has been an ongoing barrier to ART clients, said Philhower. The program being offered at Family Services outside of school hours can be prohibitive to some families, he said. Attrition in past ART cohorts not only reduces effectiveness of the program itself, which depends on relationships built during group sessions, but reduces the efficacy of the program for individual participants as well.

The ART program is typically seen offered in more restrictive settings like inpatient and residential treatment facilities, said Philhower, because the more structured the setting in which it is presented the better the outcomes tend to be. “While school is not a restrictive environment, it is more structured than outpatient, the students are there, and those that are in need can access services consistently.” Transportation and other scheduling issues has made providing ART in the outpatient setting prohibitive, said Philhower.

Groups will be provided Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 to 10 a.m., for 10 weeks, for a total of 30 hours. Therapists Jennifer Forquer and Sierra McCorrison, who have been trained in the ART model, will be providing in-school services, said Philhower. “We are looking for 8 to 10 students for the group,” Philhower said. “Referral sources are the school district, juvenile probation, children and youth services, the court system, and other treatment providers, as well as self-referrals.

“If a student or parent is interested in the group they can call Family Services for more information at (814) 723-1330.” Philhower said that he will be presenting the program to principals and guidance counselors, as well as making the referral process clear, on Jan. 29. Referrals are currently being accepted.

Dr. Patricia Hawley, Director of Pupil Services for the Warren County School District, said that the district is “thrilled with the opportunity to engage students in the program.”