Recovery high schools focus on serving students in recovery from addictions to drug and alcohol. They were created in response to the high rates of relapse among adolescents who returned from treatment to traditional high school settings and quickly resumed old patterns of behavior. The schools mission, unlike a traditional high school, is to support both a student’s recovery as well as their academic attainment. The initial recovery high schools opened in Minnesota in the late 1980’s. The first three recovery high schools in Massachusetts opened during the 2006-2007 school year in Beverly, Boston, and Springfield.
Students enrolling in a recovery high school have already established their motivation to achieve and maintain their sobriety. As part of the intake process each student develops their own individualized recovery plan that documents the activities they will participate in to support their sobriety. Each school has a licensed substance abuse counselor on staff and this individual meets regularly with the students to monitor and provide counseling on their recovery plan and any other addiction related issues. In addition to the individual counseling, recovery based groups are incorporated into the classroom curriculum. During these groups students receive information on various psycho-educational aspects of addiction a well as exposure to the concepts of the 12 Step Program. Finally, recovery high schools incorporate a strong peer culture in which all students identify as having an addiction and commit to supporting their fellow students as they face the challenges associated with early recovery.
Students who enroll in recovery high schools have already made the commitment to attain and maintain their sobriety. Being in recovery is not defined solely by an individual abstaining from drugs and alcohol. An enrolled student must also participate in activities outside of school that support their recovery. These recovery plans are developed as part of the intake/enrollment process and are individualized to meet students’ needs. Examples of activities that are contained on a student’s recovery plan: Participation in self help groups such as AA and NA After school one on one counseling. After school group counseling Mental health counseling One on one counseling with school recovery counselorMedication assisted treatment Family therapy The exact combination of activities for a student depends on that individual’s needs.
All teaching staff and administrators are certified by the state of Washington. In addition to the traditional academic course all recovery high schools conduct recovery-related groups/classes on a daily basis and incorporate a varied array of electives. Oftentimes the emotional and social development of students in recovery has been delayed by their prior use and addiction. As a result students may struggle to identify their personal and career goals. The curriculum and counseling services provided by recovery high school not only focus on developing students’ academic abilities, but also challenges them to focus on their own personal growth and development.
Students interested in attending a recovery high school must possess motivation in both the areas of education and recovery. Potential students must establish their willingness to work towards completion of district academic requirements. A student who lacks academic motivation and does not possess the desire to earn their high school diploma is not a good candidate for a recovery high school. Interested students must also be willing to participate in a Recovery Community defined as committing to abstaining from drugs and alcohol and participating in an outside plan of recovery. Although the schools are structured to support adolescents in recovery they are not treatment programs. Students cannot use the school as their only support for their recovery.
Experience has shown that family involvement is key indicator of success for a young person in early recovery. Consequently, family involvement is a core component of the recovery high school model. Once a student is enrolled, regular parents’ nights are conducted at each of the schools and parents have access to recovery high school staff on a regular basis. Additionally, all schools can connect students and parents to family counseling services when determined necessary or desirable by either the family and/or the school.
The recovery high school model is structured to support a student’s continued sobriety in early recovery. For some students, however, relapse may be part of this process. All recovery high schools have a clearly defined relapse policy that is reviewed with students and their families during the intake process. The policies are structured to account for the complex, individual nature of each relapse. Actual consequences will vary based on circumstances, but the safety of the school community is always a primary concern. The recovery high school model promotes student honesty and self-disclosure in relationship to relapse. In the majority of the cases where students self-report a relapse, they are able to access additional treatment and remain part of the school community. All schools conduct random drug tests as part of their program model.
Recovery schools have been found to be a tremendous success in both reducing rates of relapse and increasing rates of graduation. Since the original recovery high school opened in Minnesota I 1989 the model has spread to 8 states with 24 locations across the country. In their short period of existence Massachusetts recovery schools have replicated the success of the previously existing recovery high schools. Students have experienced increased sustained sobriety, higher attendance rates and increased GPA’s in comparison to students returning to their traditional high schools. A year one report is soon to be released and will be included as part of the website. In addition a more formal evaluative process is currently being initiated that will provide quantitative outcome data on the schools performance.
Our recovery high school’s services use an open entry/exit model. Students can be referred to the school at any time by our partner district during the calendar year. Specific information on how to apply to each school can be found on the individual links for each school on this website.