It’s More Than Just Friends

In a pre-COVID world, one of the major highlights of Phase IV for our students was the integration of friends into the family system. In a COVID world, this feels like an unrealistic expectation with the reality of lockdowns, masks, social distancing, and everyone working together to keep our campus safe by minimizing contact with those outside of the family. Although integrating friends is an exciting part of Phase IV, it is only one small part of what students accomplish in a successful Phase IV and in the program.

Phase IV’s primary goal is to set students and families up for a successful transition back home. Key components of the phase include developing a transition plan and testing in the home environment on visits. Students and families create a home structure that integrates the academic, personal, interpersonal, and wellness skills the students have been working on at Spring Ridge in the other phases. After home visits, students and family members process what worked, what didn’t work and address this therapeutically and adjust the transition plans. Returning to the routine of our campus is often difficult for our Phase IV families. So much has changed in the student’s level of responsibility and maturity and the family system feels more connected and stable, which makes it feel like the transition is complete before it really is. The processing of visits as a family and returning to the structure of campus re-enforces the new level of responsibility and family bond and promotes honesty as family members reflect on the events and situations.

Students on Phase IV also serve as leaders on the campus and take risks in their peer relationships by setting boundaries, showing up authentically, asking to get their needs meet, practicing problem-solving, and finding the balance between privileges and responsibility. In our world today, these interpersonal skills are going to get the most practice on our campus.

Phase IV is also a time for students to develop and live within their system of values and rely on their internal motivation. They do more than comply with expectations; they make healthful decisions based on their values and their concern for others. They are empathetic: They ask you about your day to truly listen and understand your experience. They value the relationships they have with others because they are both a source of positive support for themselves and they support others.

They also have a level of responsibility that goes beyond compliance. They understand the value of their responsibilities—whether that is wearing a mask where appropriate without having to be reminded; checking in with their teachers when they miss class due to therapy, transition work, or visits; and completing their daily chores, both on campus and at home, without direction.

We strongly believe in the need for a Phase IV that prepares our students and families for the reality of the student’s transition from Spring Ridge. It’s not about perfection or compliance, but rather practicing how to be a mature young person who part of a family and a community. Mistakes are inevitable, but how they work through those mistakes demonstrates their level of maturity, their care for themselves, and their care for others.