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Help, My Teenage Child Refuses To Go To School Because Of Anxiety! When to Seek Professional Help for School Refusal

Seeking professional help and residential treatment for school refusal is an essential step toward resolving the issue. It provides a safe and structured environment for the child to understand and manage their fears or anxiety, helping them to overcome their reluctance to attend school.

Seeking mental health professional assistance and opting for residential treatment stands as a crucial stride in addressing school refusal. It furnishes a secure and organized setting wherein the child comprehends and learns to navigate their fears or anxiety. This approach aids in surmounting their reluctance to attend school, fostering growth and progress.

In this episode, therapist Tiffany Silva Herlin, LCSW, and Gentry Peppin, a special education teacher at WayPoint Academy, discuss:

  • The progression leading up to residential treatment.
  • The importance of a program that specializes in anxiety issues.
  • The process of reintegrating into school.
  • The impact on parents and the community
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If your adolescent is experiencing anxiety and emotional distress that are affecting their ability to attend school, we have the solution. WayPoint Academy has customized interventions that target the underlying causes and enable students to regain their confidence in learning. Our compassionate and knowledgeable team offers comprehensive care to help teenagers reconstruct their educational paths, reconnect with their social circle, and cultivate their mental wellbeing for a brighter future. Let us support you in this journey of healing and growth. To learn more about our services, call us at 801-334-2694

Listen to the podcast:

An image promoting WayPoint Academy's Podcast on School Refusal. This Episode is called, "Help, My Teenage Child Refuses To Go To School Because Of Anxiety! When to Seek Professional Help for School Refusal"

Interested in Learning More?

This is the third episode in WayPoint's podcast series on School Refusal. You can listen to episodes 1 & 2 by visiting these pages:

1. What is School Refusal: The Causes and Effects of School Anxiety on Teens

2. How To Help A Child With Anxiety About School: School Refusal Interventions for Teens & Their Parents

School Refusal Podcast Transcript:

Podcast Topics
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    Introduction

    Welcome. This is the transcript for our podcast on school refusal. Is your teen struggling with school refusal or are you uncertain about how to support your teen in overcoming school related anxiety? Then this podcast is tailored for you. Our goal is to offer helpful guidance and insight from experienced professionals who can help you navigate this challenging situation.

    My name is Tiffany Herlin, and I am a licensed clinical social worker, and today I'm interviewing Gentry Peppin. She's a special education teacher at WayPoint Academy, a residential treatment program that specializes in helping teens with anxiety.

    Please remember that this podcast is not a replacement for therapy. Please always seek a mental health professional for your specific situation.

    All right, Gentry, thanks for joining us today. Start with telling us a little bit about yourself and what your role is at WayPoint Academy.

    Gentry Peppin: Hi, I'm glad to be here. I've been working at WayPoint Academy since 2016. I started as a secondary math education teacher there and since then have gotten my special education endorsement as well as a master's in behavior analysis.

    Tiffany: Awesome.

    Gentry: And my role now is to provide support to both students and teachers and families. throughout their education at WayPoint.

    The Progression to Residential Treatment

    Gentry: So we see, you know, a spectrum of students and a spectrum of where they've come from, what they've done in the past, how quickly parents are looking for a place like WayPoint, a residential treatment center and sometimes that's a really fast progression because the student is declining quickly. There might be suicidal ideation or self-harming going on, that might speed up the process of looking, and that might be a longer term. Maybe there's been in and out of school the past year or two, and it works for a while, and then the student regresses. Then they're back in, and then they regress, and so then parents start to look for a more comprehensive program that can tackle the anxiety, the school, family therapy from all different angles.

    Tiffany: And from my understanding, sometimes those kids who take longer, they may, parents have gone to the school district and gotten their kid on an IEP, individualized treatment education plan, or you know, they've sought out the support in the school. They've sought out a therapist. They may have even tried a couple of schools, right? Maybe they've gone to homeschooling and they're still struggling to have their kid, you know, succeed academically, right? Is that correct?

    Gentry: Correct. Yeah, you know, most parents want to try things that keep their kid at home, understandably. You want to be a family. You want to have those experiences together. So parents have tried things within the school where their child's at. They've tried different schools, home tutoring, online schooling, outside outpatient therapy. All those things to try and help their student with being at home and attending school.

    Tiffany: And then on top of that there may be... we've talked about this but let's just touch on it for those who may be tuning in again, just for this episode: the signs and symptoms of school refusal. Fill me in if I'm missing anything but they have fearfulness of maybe things pertaining to school, emotional distress, you have behavioral avoidance, they're academically declining, social withdrawal, they're struggling with a regular sleep schedule at night. Is there are other signs and symptoms at this point?

    Gentry: I think that touches on the majority. We start to see them withdraw more and more. So it might start, once again, just as one or two classes, part of the day to all day to not wanting to go out with friends at night or on the weekends to even withdrawing from family as that anxiety creeps in and in and in.

    Tiffany: Yeah. It sounds like a big scary monster that's just impossible to deal with, yes.

    So when should you seek a professional for school refusal? Let's start there before we jump to they need residential treatment.

    Gentry: Right, so you're recognizing some signs in your child that, it's not that they're just sick a few days or that it's one day that they've come home early or woken up late, but you're starting to notice a pattern in your child that is getting in the way of their academics.

    And so when you start to notice that pattern or you're noticing they're no longer attending, or, you know, some teachers might start to recognize some signs of, you know, your student, your child once was actively involved in the classroom and now I notice them sitting by themselves and not engaging, not asking for help or not accepting help.

    When we start to see these patterns emerging, these signs and symptoms, that's when we want to start contacting for some assistance, whether that be within the school system or from outside professionals.

    Tiffany: When we talk about outside professionals, we touched on this in the last episode, but if you're struggling to find resources within your school district, and maybe you come from a more rural area, note that there are educational advocates, or what we call educational lawyers as well, that can help you in that regard.

    And then, in regards to, the therapy and clinical aspect. So you're going to want to find a therapist who specializes in ERP. And what that is, is exposure response prevention therapy. We actually did a whole podcast series on it prior to this one. So if you really want to dive into what that is, we'd recommend that you listen to those episodes prior to the last two that we had.

    We actually interviewed WayPoint's clinical director, Mark, and he helped us understand that, and how ERP is used at WayPoint, which we'll talk more about. But that is going to directly help pinpoint what is really driving this issue. And then, they're going to create a specific treatment plan to help your student be able to work through the exposures and fears that they're having around school and the anxiety around school that's causing them to refuse to go. So again, you want to dive more into that, listen to our podcast, but that's really going to be what you want to look for as a parent when you're finding a therapist for your child, correct?

    Gentry: Correct.

    Tiffany: Yeah, that's going to be a big one.

    Diagnosing School Refusal as Anxiety

    Tiffany: Next question is when is school refusal diagnosed as anxiety related to school?

    Gentry: So, that's going to come from the assessment, that diagnostic, where we're looking at what is the functions. There are several tools, interviewing, direct observation, and formal assessment that can be done to identify what is the cause of the school refusal. What's that base-level function or functions. We often know there's a combination of things going on that is leading to the student not attending school.

    Tiffany: So from what I'm understanding is some school districts may be able to provide an assessment that's gonna dive deep and try to figure out what's causing the school refusal.

    Gentry: Different districts are gonna have different tools that they use to assess what's going on with a student. You can also look to outside professionals to dive in deeper into the anxiety and the mental health of a student.

    Tiffany: That makes a lot of sense. What other conditions look like school anxiety, but may actually be something else?

    Gentry: So we see with students that other underlying conditions can appear. The other conditions can lead to school refusal, such as OCD where it, sometimes the school is a trigger for the OCD or other times it's just the OCD in general interfering with their life and their ability to function that then makes school difficult and makes something that that student wants to escape from.

    We also see generalized anxiety where it might not be specific to school. This might be affecting a student in all aspects of life, at home, in school, out in public, and, you know, school is just one place that teenagers, students are for a great portion, percentage of their life, and that's where we really start to notice it.

    Tiffany: How do you know when outpatient therapy isn't working?

    Gentry: When we're not noticing a change or a student has maybe gone back to school, doing well, regresses, and we're seeing that pattern that back and forth. So they do really well for a time and then they're back into the old habit, doing well for a time, back into the old habit, and that's where we might need to take a more holistic approach at addressing the school concerns.

    Tiffany: So again, I'm hearing that with this issue, there tends to be a pattern and for parents to look at how long has this pattern been going on for. And is it, are they able to redirect and break the pattern? And if not, then that's when they need to seek out further treatment.

    Gentry: Yes.

    Exploring Treatment Options Before Residential Care

    Tiffany: Okay, so then, what have parents tried before they come to a place like WayPoint?

    Gentry: Most of our parents have tried a number of things before their student comes to WayPoint. They have looked into school related and school provided interventions, such as accommodations in the classroom, reduced schedules for school, altering class schedules, so maybe that anxiety provoking class is at a different time of the day, looking at alternative schools that a student can go to that maybe has a smaller class size, a different peer group. They've tried out patient therapy. The school refusal will continue so they try home tutoring or virtual online schools and all of these things, they just notice the student continuing to withdraw from.

    Tiffany: So those are all going to be great signs, if you're listening. If you've tried all those scenes, it may be time to start looking into further treatment for your student and for your child.

    WayPoint Academy's Approach and Focus

    Tiffany: So there are a lot of different options out there for parents to look up. Like if you were to go And, you know, look up a program, you're going to see that there's many different programs, but WayPoint Academy is unique because it specializes in anxiety.

    Gentry: Our focus is primarily anxiety, OCD, depression, and because of that we really focus on those students who are internalizers. We're not seeing big behaviors in the classroom. They're not throwing, screaming, yelling. They're holding it all in, just trying to make it through the day. They're keeping those emotions inside. They're not quite sure what to do with those and that's why we try to specialize in that population because when we put those students in other programs where you have also externalizers, it can just drive them internal more and by them being in an environment with other internalizers, it provides that experience for them to open up and start to work through those issues.

    Tiffany: You said WayPoint students, about 90 percent of them started off with school refusal, is that correct?

    Gentry: They, 90 percent of them have experienced some level of, experienced some level of school refusal.

    Tiffany: So you guys know these type of kids that are coming because it's the majority of the kids you take.

    Gentry: Yes.

    Tiffany: I think one other thing to point out that really makes WayPoint different from other programs is you guys specifically use ERP, which again is exposure response prevention therapy, which really, if you listen to our other podcasts, really hits this issue head on and is really going to address it specifically, which not all programs use that.

    I would say, if you guys tune into the other one that I did with Mark, he says a lot of even therapists and programs don't even know what ERP is and so it's such an amazing therapy module that, I wish, honestly, more programs used because we all, you know, all programs take kids with some type of anxiety at some point. So I think that really differentiates you guys from other programs that makes you so unique.

    The Role of ERP in Residential Treatment

    Tiffany: So how do you know that your teen needs residential treatment that uses ERP for school refusal?

    Gentry: I would say when, when we're looking at students with school refusal and we're looking at that it's a specific instance or event in the school that's leading to that anxiety, that's a really good place for ERP to take place, where we can break that down, look at what is triggering the anxiety, where is the fear coming from and in a safe environment do those exposures around that, where the student is prepped beforehand on coping strategies and what to do when you start to feel those feelings, and then we get to practice being in those situations that are going to bring up the fear and the anxiety and then work through that in a productive and healthy way with support.

    Tiffany: That makes a lot of sense. I recall talking with Mark. He said he actually works with his students to make a scale of 1 to 10 and he has them list out, you know, 1 through 10, a step of like, one is I could totally show up and stand like, I'm just giving an example, like I could stand outside the school and ten is like I'm asked to do a presentation in front of class, you know, and that's my worst fear, you know. So then he has them work through the scale one through ten and they may not get there to 10, he talks about in our podcast, but he works slowly up the scale until they're at that point where it's, you know, that "goldilocks effect." It's not too hot, it's not too cold, but they're feeling like, Oh, I can manage this anxiety around whatever this issue is and they, like you said, they target what that specific issue is, what's driving the scolar refusal, and then they work through it step by step, which is so amazing, and as a therapist just really makes sense for this issue in my brain.

    Gentry: And it's great to be able to do it in an environment where not only your therapists understand what's going on, but your teachers are trained in that this is happening. So that as teachers, we get to kind of almost role play with the students without maybe even the students knowing that we understand what's going on and that they feel the support coming back at them.

    And so they're able to confront those fears and anxieties in a safe space where it's not going to cause further traumatic events as they're working through these fears but that the teachers can help support them implementing their skills into the classroom.

    Tiffany: Well, and that's a key thing. ERP isn't to, you're not exposing someone, say, who's scared of spiders and dumping them in a pit of spiders, right? That's only going to cause more trauma for them. You don't want to cause more trauma for someone as you're slowly exposing them to the fear and anxiety that they have. So having the support system, I think helping parents who don't understand or have never been aware of residential treatment programs is good to help our listeners realize that you're going from this open, uncontrolled environment to this more closed and controlled system.

    And it's not just the parents and maybe a few teachers. It's like a whole team that's working with your kid, which is so cool. You've got treatment team in most of these programs where it's the teacher, you know meeting and the therapist and the even the residential staff.

    Gentry: Yes, they play a huge role in supporting the students through their work.

    Tiffany: Yeah and they're all discussing this kids and their needs and their treatment plan and what the ERP goals are so like you said, as you know that student is working on being exposed to this next step that they might be fearful of you are aware and you have this cool supportive working system to help the student move ahead and be successful, which is awesome.

    I do want to take one step back before we move forward into more of like, what treatment looks like at WayPoint Academy. But it's a big and daunting thing as a parent. So, you know, you need residential treatments for your student and especially one that maybe treats school refusal anxiety and you're looking for one with ERP. Like, how do you know where to start, right? Say you've never heard of a place like WayPoint. You've never heard of residential treatment programs. You go to Google. I mean, that's a daunting task.

    So one thing I want to educate our listeners about is what we call educational consultants. I'm sure you've worked with some educational consultants, right?

    Gentry: Yes, they are an excellent resource to families in helping them find the programs, what are their options available, why would that fit their particular student, and how do you navigate the process of picking one.

    Tiffany: And also, they're a great support system when you're in a program and say there's, you know, needing to be advocated for or anything, this education consultant can do that and also be like, it's okay. This isn't my first rodeo. I'll walk you through it. This is really scary dropping your kid off at a program. You've never, you know, met anyone there, saying goodbye to your kid, hoping they'll be, you know, are they going to be taken care of safe and tucked into bed at night? You know, things like that. The education consultant can show up and support our parents through a really difficult process.

    I've talked about them in even the other episodes I did with Mark, but just to reiterate, they are specifically trained. This is their career. They go and visit these programs. They learn about the programs. They develop a relationship with the staff and the peers, and they meet with the students. So they are just educated. That's what they do. That's their job is to be educated and develop these relationship with these programs so that when you go and hire one, it will be absolutely worth your time and money because they can say, Oh, your kid has school refusal. Oh, they have anxiety. Oh, they have some OCD as well. Okay, here's the top programs that I need you to look at, you know, one being, you know, maybe also WayPoint Academy. That's what they specialize in. This is what you want. You may not want to program that, you know, might touch on this topic. You absolutely want a program that specializes in it, right?

    Gentry: Right.

    Tiffany: Yeah, they're a fantastic resource for our parents out there if they know, if you know that you need a residential treatment.

    Using ERP to Address School Refusal

    Tiffany: So how does WayPoint Academy use ERP to help teens and families with school refusal?

    Gentry: So we use ERP to look at what's that underlying cause, right? Like Mark talked about that fear hierarchy, the making that list of what are the things I'm fearful of, what's really scary, what's a little scary, and working through those by intentionally building that into our academic program, as well as into our milieu program, our residential life, because it's not just happening in school. A lot of these students also have fears around judgment with peers and interacting with others and new situations out in public. And so all of that gets built in very intentionally and through exposures that are then supported by teachers and residential staff.

    Tiffany: So again, it's this whole working system that is not just around school, it's around their living environment, family therapy, it's just all built in and integrated, which again, parents, if you're listening and you're feeling like you're on an island and you're alone and you just can't conquer this challenge on your own and you've tried everything, know that there's programs like WayPoint that has this whole support system that can help your kid and you don't have to do it alone, which I think is the biggest thing for our parents, right?

    Gentry: Yeah there's a team that really wraps around you to support from all angles and support your student through what they're feeling and going through

    Tiffany: Besides using ERP at WayPoint Academy and within the academic setting, what other skills and tools do you teach our kids, you know, kids at WayPoint or how else do you help them?

    Gentry: Yeah, so we look at the student from a couple different lenses, one of them being working on coping skills and distress tolerance. So when things such as a bad grade or lack of time comes up, how do you navigate through those situations, use a coping skill to get yourself calm again into a thinking space to move forward through that? How do you communicate and reach out for help? A big thing we focus on with the students is, you don't have to do this on your own. We're not expecting you to be perfect, nor do you have to be as an adult, right? You have a boss, you have coworkers who you can lean on and ask questions.
    You can do the same thing in school. Reach out to your teacher if you have a question. Reach out to a peer for support. So we practice those skills within our classrooms of reaching out, communicating, asking for help and support.

    You don't have to, you know, our students like to focus on what's the end, right? Like, how do I know I've made it? That you can recognize when you're overwhelmed, when you need support, and ask for it.

    Tiffany: Which is such a vulnerable place to be and to teach a teen that is a valuable life lesson. We should teach all our teens that, right?

    Gentry: Yes.

    Tiffany: Like, it's hard as an adult when you're struggling. You often want to white knuckle it and you don't want to ask for help because that's vulnerable and it, sometimes we think it makes us look weak when in reality, I said this in our last episode, is reaching out and asking for help is one of the bravest, strongest things we can do and teaching our, you know, youth that we work with that that's okay and that's part of advancing forward is going to help them in so many aspects in their lives, especially as they move into adulthood.

    Gentry: Right. Yeah. Another focus that we do is we focus on executive functioning skills.

    Tiffany: Oh, that's a big one.

    Gentry: Big one, especially for students who have come from, maybe school's been easy for part of their life. They didn't have to implement, you know, specific study skills, prioritization, time management, and then you hit that world of eight classes and eight different teachers, and that takes a lot of executive functioning, especially for a young teenage brain that's developing and rewiring.

    Tiffany: Especially if they have like ADHD or OCD or something else that's going to really be a struggle for them.

    Gentry: Right, and so we focus very directly with direct instruction as well as then the teachers take that direct instruction and incorporate it into their daily classes on how do you manage your time? How do you estimate how long this is going to take you? How do you break down a big project into small manageable steps so that you're not doing it at midnight the night before it's due and then just feeling overwhelmed?

    Tiffany: Which I've never done by the way.

    Gentry: Oh yeah, me neither. Never ever. So that's another thing is giving them those skills to tackle the big scary things of school.

    Tiffany: I feel like I probably needed that before I went to college, honestly.

    Gentry: Yes.

    Tiffany: Every teenager could use those skills, especially moving it past when you graduate high school.

    Gentry: Yeah, when you have those routines and habits and supports of, you know, how to plan your day out, how to prioritize what tasks you're gonna do. When you have systems in place that help you do those, when then on the other hand we're getting overwhelmed from our anxiety, our depression, and that's starting to set in, we can lean on those routines and habits to help us through those difficult times when our brain is trying to go somewhere else.

    Tiffany: Yeah, but yet, say let's, we have a youth with ADHD who lacks that executive functioning or severe anxiety or depression, right, and they haven't developed those skills and those neural pathways in their brains to be able to have proper executive functioning, that's when we get the lack of motivation, the low, the depression, the lack of self esteem, right? And so, I mean, it's such a key thing that all of our teens, whether they have issues or not, should need to be learning.

    Well, what I'm really trying to say is the more that like a school like you and as a special education teacher can help teach those skills to those kids who maybe have a neurodiverse brain, and are able to naturally develop those executive functioning skills is gonna be so important to take that time and to teach them that, so that they can be successful.

    You know, and they don't have this narrative script that's like, Oh, I can't do that. I'm a failure. Because that's not true. The reality is maybe they don't have the skills, their brain's not naturally firing those neuropathways, but they can develop them. We know that our brains are neuro, we have neuroplasticity, that they can grow. They can learn new things. So I think kids who struggle with any of these diagnoses sometimes feel like they're not going to make it. They're not going to get to that finish line. But the reality is they will if we're able to teach them, especially these executive functioning skills.

    Gentry: We give them that direct instruction and direct support with them, because they might not be picking them up just from noticing the world.

    Tiffany: It's not natural.

    Gentry: It's not natural, yes.

    Tiffany: I think, yeah, the more and more we can make that a explicit theme versus we just assume our kids know those things, right?

    Gentry: Yes.

    Healing is a Process

    Tiffany: Let me ask you this. Is there anything else from an academic point with kids struggling from school refusal that parents should know about what to expect at WayPoint Academy that we haven't touched on?

    Gentry: I think the biggest thing is to understand that it's a process. You know, when you've reached the point that a student is looking at a residential treatment center, there's a history there that the student has with school and with school refusal.

    So some students come in and they're ready to hit the ground running. They want to dive in, start working on this. They see our small class sizes and students just like them and they instantly feel that support and they're ready to go and jump in.

    Other students it's going to take time. We might start off with shadowing for a while, where they're just getting used to being in the classroom again because just stepping through the door is really scary and provokes that anxiety. And so we're going to start with that, getting to know their teacher, building the relationship, being in the room, just experiencing what's going on, and then slowly work up to doing more and more in the classroom.
    So every student's going to take their own path and that process of reintegrating into school is going to look different.

    Tiffany: So you're telling me that if they've been refusing school for a year or two years, it's not just going to change overnight?

    Gentry: Right.

    Tiffany: Most likely, right? I think that's important to know. I say that facetiously, but what I really try to say is, I think parents have the perspective that it took a long time for these problems to really come ahead to the point where they're needing to look for treatment, right? It doesn't happen overnight and the change isn't going to happen overnight either and I think that can be frustrating for some of our families, right? Because they want their their child home. They want to be back. They want their kid back healed and whole and functioning again, like they knew they could But again, healing takes time, and it's a process, and it's hard to trust that process, but the more our parents can trust that process, the more success they can see in themselves and in their child.

    Gentry: Correct. Yeah, and recognizing that it's a whole community approach, not only within WayPoint's walls, but also with the family, working through that family therapy, family dynamics, through visits home and kind of restructuring those habits at home and taking skills that they've learned from WayPoint back home.

    Tiffany: Yeah, I agree. I think the hardest thing I've had to do as a therapist, especially when I first got out of college, it was, and I look younger usually than I am, and so having to tell parents, like, when they're doing those accommodations, when they're doing things that are enabling, or when they're contributing to their child's problem, not saying that they cause a problem, but their behavior is, and is only feeding into the system and the outcome. And that's hard to, as any person, have to look at yourself and be like, how do I play a role in this and what can I do to change that?

    Again, it's vulnerable. It takes a lot of self-reflection, courage, strength and bravery to do that, but yet as a family knowing that it's not just, "here fix my child", it's like, no, we need to all look at our whole system and realize what we can all do differently and that's when you're gonna see the biggest success as a family and those kids who go home and who actually make long lasting change and not just change it only lasts for a short time.

    Gentry: Right. And that's the goal, right, that they go home and they get to stay there and continue and live out their hopes and dreams.

    Success Stories at WayPoint Academy

    Tiffany: Well, let's talk about, share a success story with us or a couple, if you have any, of what you've seen while working at WayPoint Academy.

    Gentry: One of the most impactful days of the year for me is our spring parent day, where we also do our high school graduation. Full cap, gown. So our older students who have come in as juniors or beginning of their senior year who are sometimes up to a year deficient in credit or more, and when you have those older students in that place, you really see that self-confidence is pretty low in their abilities. And is high school possible for me? Is a diploma possible for me? What's the point of doing this work? I've already screwed it up by now.

    And then they go through, you know, the ERP and the therapy and working with their teachers and end of school year comes and they've met their credit requirements and they're walking down in their cap and gown and that moment where they, to see their self-confidence from the day they walked through the door to now they're standing up in front, all our seniors give a speech at graduation and to watch them stand in front of pretty decent sized crowds of parents and their peers, teachers, dorm counselors, therapists and give that speech and the sense of accomplishment of "I did it, I'm heading off to be an adult" is probably the best day of the year.

    Tiffany: I'm just imagining a party of fireworks of serotonin and dopamine in the brain happening.

    Gentry: Yes.

    Tiffany: Like, I don't know if you've seen Inside Out, but I'm imagining like the unicorn and all the little figures and they're just dancing, you know, so.

    Gentry: And then getting to hear where they go, a lot of those students will, you know, come back and they head on to some four year colleges, some tech colleges, some go just, you know, get jobs and start being active in the community, but to see that they're getting to do what they want to do and pursue what they want as a young adult and that's the biggest success story. We have our younger students who are there as, you know, ninth or 10th graders, they go back and finish high school somewhere. And we hear years later, oh yeah, you know, we get requests for transcripts or recommendation letters and they're heading off to college on their own.

    And it's, oh, it made a lasting impression. They were able to take what they did with us, finish out their high school somewhere else, and now they're going on to what they want to do in life and those doors are open to them again and I think when a lot of them come in, they feel those doors are closing. The opportunities in life, I'm not going to be able to go to four year school. I'm not going to be able to get the job I want because I have this experience, and when a lot of them actually end up writing their college essays about their experience at WayPoint and how going through that process was difficult, maybe not always something they wanted to do at the time, but that it truly made an impact on their life.

    Tiffany: What a cool thing to witness that, you know, their weaknesses become their strengths and that something that maybe crippled them, so to speak, and left them hopeless and discouraged now is something they can say, no, actually, this helped me get to where I am and yes, it was a stumbling block at first, but actually the doors weren't locked shut. And a place like WayPoint was able to help me open up those doors and realize that, I mean, just, I'm just imagining in their brains, all the neuro, you know, neural pathways being built and just the dopamine, serotonin, just going off of like, and then the confidence, increasing and the scripts being rewritten, I mean, this is a part of therapy that I love. This is a part of change that I'm like, this is why we do it. So those hard days where the kids, you know, stumble and fall and they refuse to, you know, to, you know, move forward, it's like, that's okay because I know that there's going to be this kind of outcome.

    Gentry: Yeah.

    Tiffany: Just stay with me.

    Gentry: Right. On those days I'm walking over to the dorms of, Hey, are we going to make it today? Are we going to, you know, the first step is let's just get out of bed and put our shoes on and walk over. That's all I'm asking for today. If that's all we get to, that's a win. And then at the other end, we're cap and gown graduating high school. It's pretty remarkable.

    Impact on Parents and the Community

    Gentry: What about the parents? Because, I mean, these parents who have been through this journey of, will my kid graduate? Are we going to make it? What do you see on the parents end of this?

    Gentry: Watching, so as a teacher, I get to sit up front facing the audience and I have to sometimes not look directly at the parents because watching them fills me with so much joy and makes me just want to start crying.

    Tiffany: You're gonna make me cry. I'm just envisioning like the struggles our parents go through and then finally get to see their kid walk across that stage and get that diploma.

    Gentry: The joy and pride in their students and knowing that, like those doors open for the family as well. It's not just for the kid and then also watching the parents of other students. Maybe some of the students that are brand new to the program. They're just starting this journey and getting, for those parents, getting to hear from our graduates, getting to interact with the parents of our graduates is also remarkable. It's that support system and knowing that you're not going through it alone, that there's other parents in that same boat and there is an end.

    Tiffany: Which is one of the key factors of healing through the therapy process is that we're not alone in our struggles and that what connects us as human beings is that we all struggle, maybe not with the exact same things, but with similar things and we know those similar emotions and that there's hope on the other hand.

    Thank you so much for joining us. This has been, I've loved learning more about this. This isn't my expertise as a therapist and so knowing that there's help out there for our families who are really struggling with school refusal and anxiety, it's just been so beneficial for me as a therapist and I've really enjoyed talking with you today. Thank you for joining us.

    Gentry: Thank you for having me.