Schools try web-based drug treatment program

Providers of a web-based adult drug and alcohol treatment program have created a version for teenagers that can be accessed on school computers, helping to reduce barriers that prevent teens from receiving treatment.

Ten million teenagers need treatment, but only 1 million teens get it, according to CRC Health Corp., the creator of internet rehab programs eGetgoing and teenGetgoing.

Barriers such as access, affordability, and confidentiality prevent many teens from getting help, said Judi Kosterman, vice president for business relations at CRC Health Corp.

“Just looking at those numbers, realizing that people need treatment and aren’t getting it … spurred the idea that treatment might be brought to people in another way,” Kosterman said.

The adult service, eGetgoing, has an 80 percent completion rate and an excellent sobriety rate as well, Kosterman said. “We had people who relapsed, but the great thing is that they come to group and tell you instead of disappearing,” she said.

The company offers two programs for teens: teenGetgoing Discover, a live counseling program, and teenGetgoing Aware, a self-paced learning program that makes students aware of their drug and alcohol use.

TeenGetgoing Discover costs $1,200 for 24 group therapy sessions conducted over the internet, which is half the cost of typical outpatient counseling. Families can make an initial $300 payment and can pay in installments thereafter.

Up to 10 teenagers participate in the group with a counselor. The voices of each teenager, as well as the counselor’s image and voice, are streamed to each person’s computer through a secure, encrypted connection.

“It’s not type-text chat. It’s a live counselor. They can see and hear that counselor on the screen,” Kosterman said.

Teens participate in the counseling twice a week for 12 weeks. Because participants often need time before and after sessions, the counselor is available for two hours, although each session is formally an hour long.

Because people can’t see and touch each other over the internet—and doing so is an important part of substance-abuse treatment—the company hired actors to portray teens undergoing treatment. During the group sessions, participants watch these short dramatizations of teens interacting at home with their parents, at parties with their peers, and at school with their teachers.

“It almost has a soap-opera effect. People want to come back to see what happened to Tony in the video,” Kosterman said.

By removing the face-to-face contact usually found in group therapy, teenGetgoing’s creators discovered that teens actually are more eager to talk.

“People engage more quickly in this environment. People share more,” Kosterman said. “People are not judged. They can say anything they want to in this environment because of the anonymity.”

To ensure their privacy and safety, participants are only identified by their screen name.

“We monitor messaging so participants can’t divulge personal information. They have to use their screen name,” Kosterman said. “This is especially important for the use with kids.”

In addition to attending group sessions, students also use the web site for keeping a journal and completing therapy homework.

“The great thing about the web is that everything can become data. We track mouse clicks, participation, everything,” Kosterman said.

The company provides reports to officials who are authorized to have them, such as school counselors or probation officers.

TeenGetgoing Discover is best for teens who are at an early stage of drug or alcohol use and still have support structures in place, such as living at home and attending school regularly. It’s also ideal for teens who have recently returned from a 28-day program and need extra support coming back into an environment where their peers might still be drinking and using drugs, Kosterman said.

“It’s not for an out-of-control, full-blown addict who needs residential stay,” she said.

TeenGetgoing Aware is an asynchronous, self-paced learning program that makes students aware of their drug and alcohol use. Kosterman said this program is ideal for principals or teachers to administer during detention for at-risk kids.

The program, which consists of three 30- to 45-minute sessions, combines audio, video, and questions. The first session addresses alcohol and drug abuse, the second addresses abuse and dependency, and the third session identifies where the teen fits into this picture.

When a student completes the sessions, the program generates a summary that teachers and principals can use to make informed decisions about students.

The summary shows the students’ level of alcohol and/or drug use, their readiness and willingness to change, and the factors that increase their risk for substance abuse.

TeenGetgoing Aware costs $40 per student, but there are volume discounts.

Mike Mikesell, a school psychologist for the Northwest Regional Educational Service District in Hillsboro, Ore., Mikesell gave the teenGetgoing program high marks.

Twenty students from the district’s West Slope Senior Academy—a school for students who were expelled from regular school programs—have participated in teenGetgoing throughout the school year, Mikesell said.

“Everyone liked the program. School attendance was higher, some parents commented favorably, and—most of all—I believe that drug consumption in the school is beginning to fall,” he said.

“Before teenGetgoing came along, we were having a pretty tough time reaching the kids in a positive manner and obtaining lasting outcomes,” he added. The students who attended the school’s drug and alcohol groups were filled with resentment toward adults, so the teachers couldn’t really help.

TeenGetgoing “provided extremely effective, individually tailored direct interventions for students who were actively using or abusing,” Mikesell said.




eSchool News Staff

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