The Grove School, a therapeutic boarding school in Madison, Conn., provides a holistic environment for students in grades 6-12. By integrating education, therapy and recreation into a year-round program, the school creates a family-type structure that allows residents to heal, learn and enjoy group activities in a non-restrictive setting.
Utilizing the “Educateur” program model, teachers have roles that extend well beyond the classroom.
“They are dormitory parents, activity leaders and mentors,” explained Executive Director Peter Chorney, M.Ed. “This requires our teachers to work long hours and live on site. They understand that part of the work to heal and connect to a child requires caring for them in many ways.
“Often times, the person who wakes them up in the morning is the same person who puts them to bed at night. Just like a parent, this continuity enhances our ability to connect with the students.”
The school was established in 1934. “My father [Richard] and I are the third owners of the school since it opened,” said Chorney. “We have been a part of Grove School since 1986 and are intimately involved in all aspects of the school. I still carry a caseload, coach our baseball team and hire staff personally.”
At capacity, the school can serve 115 residential students, 25 day students and 18 graduates in a residential transition program (132 are currently enrolled). They are treated for anxiety disorders, OCD, ADD, ADHD, mild PDD/autism spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, depression and mild personality disorders.
“Kids with serious substance-abuse issues, violent acting-out or significant suicidal tendencies are too risky for us and would be better served elsewhere,” noted Chorney.
The extensive admissions process requires that students and their families understand and are committed to the program. About 60 percent of the 60-80 applicants are accepted each year. The average length of stay is two years.
Each student is assigned to a team comprising a therapist, psychiatrist, advisor, executive-level representative, dorm staff and teacher. The team meets on a regular basis to share information, discuss ideas, and present solutions.
“This constant communication and interaction make for coordinated and high-impact treatment,” said Chorney.
Grove School provides a host of recreational activities, such as sports, drama groups, art, music, junior and senior proms and trips to the Virgin Islands through the Alternative Site Therapeutic Educational Experience©.
And the relationship with Grove School doesn’t end when the student graduates.
“After graduation, many advisors and clinicians stay connected to students and families,” said Chorney. ”We typically help them find support systems while in college or back at home but the connections usually last a long time. I remain connected to kids I worked with when I lived in the dorms back in the mid-90s.”
By Howard Newman