Melody Bongiorno Frank is a 2014 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee

  • Susan Hawes, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Colborn Smith, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Michael Foot, Ph,D. Committee Member

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In the last decade of the 20th century, several large-scale studies suggested that the developmental trajectory for students diagnosed with emotional disturbance is bleak. Middletip School (MTS) is an alternative day treatment program that serves emotionally disturbed (ED) students (ages 12-19) through a daily offering of academic classes, and counseling and treatment groups. Using individually tailored, strength-based programming, MTS is designed to help ED youth in the areas of emotion regulation and behavior management, with a focus on building coping, relational, social, and communication skills. This dissertation project was a program evaluation in a natural setting examining the processes of assessment, treatment, and integration of knowledge by MTS while serving their ED students. It examined whether MTS accounts for individual differences (IDs) when implementing their program to enhance coping skills. It was anticipated that results from the program evaluation will help MTS explore the extent to which their practices embody best practice standards in the field. The Utilization-Focused Evaluation (U-FE) model employed here was process-focused, improvement oriented, formative, and used primarily qualitative methods. Thirty-seven MTS staff members were recruited to describe assessments, educational and mental health interventions, and organizational communication practices at MTS. Results revealed that MTS appears to attain fidelity to best practice standards in their treatment process. Their prioritization of clinical services and inclusion of transitioned-aged services place them as innovators in the field. MTS also achieves fidelity in training; multidisciplinary inclusion throughout the assessment process; and their longitudinal approach to monitoring and reviewing student growth toward academic and clinical goals. MTS is a culturally competent program when engaging in assessments and treatment. MTS did not achieve fidelity in training for assessment or standardized methods of assessment. MTS needs to improve in their use of assessments through increased training on monitoring, measuring, and documenting clinical growth. MTS also needs to have extensive, in-depth training in assessment and use standardized assessment measures to determine program effectiveness. MTS would further benefit from continued development in the implementation of a multidisciplinary and longitudinal approach, more reliable informal methods of communication, and an enhanced supervision model.