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The History of SteppenStone

Counseling and Consultation Services was established in 1990 as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization.  Founded by Dr. Mike Adler and Tom Herington, CCS has been dedicated to the prevention of child sexual abuse since its inception.  Over the years, CCS has assisted in preventing thousands of children from being sexually victimized and helped make East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and Western North Carolina a safer place for children, women and families to live. For the first 13 years, Counseling and Consultation Services, Inc. provided community based treatment services to youth, adolescent, and adult populations.

In 2003 Counseling and Consultation Services opened SteppenStone Youth Treatment Services (SSYTS) to provide a comprehensive continuum of treatment programs featuring year-round residential, day, and intensive out-patient treatment services for behaviorally and emotionally disordered youth who have sexual issues. SSYTS utilizes a cognitive behavioral treatment approach combined with strong family therapy designed to reduce or extinguish dynamic risk factors associated with their risk to re-offend.  It is an evidenced based, intensive, clinical treatment program led by a highly trained, experienced, and dedicated treatment team.   The “clinical team approach” to treatment provides a comprehensive treatment milieu to address each boy’s individual emotional and behavioral needs as they explore their sexual issues. These programs serve adolescent boys ages 12-17 within a safe therapeutic environment.  Individuals that do not meet these criteria will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

SteppenStone Youth Treatment Services’ on-campus residential facility, SteppenStone Youth Treatment Center (SSYTC) is licensed by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health for 15 boys.  Each resident is provided an individual room and they are required to take care of their personal hygiene needs separately to increase feelings of personal safety and decrease opportunities to act out. A high staff to resident ratio (day 1:3, evening 1:4, night 1:8) along with state-of-the-art technology assures each boy an environment that encourages personal responsibility, accountability, pro-social interaction and the respect for self and others.

Upon admission to SSYTC, the adolescent receives a comprehensive 12 to 16 hour orientation program. Every adolescent participates in a strong behavior management program utilizing logical and natural consequences. The behavior management program is designed specifically to address dynamic risk factors such as personal responsibility, accountability, choices, problem-solving, and decision-making skills. The primary clinical goal of our behavior management program is to establish a healthy pro-social environment that challenges the adolescent to behave and interact differently than when he was acting out.

Within 72 hours of admission, the treatment team develops an initial treatment plan. Over the next thirty days, the clinical treatment team will begin assessing and evaluating the presence of dynamic risk factors associated with his acting out. This evaluation is done through the clinical contacts as well as the adolescent’s behavior on the unit. Clinical contacts include a minimum of three therapy groups and two skill development groups each week. Group therapy addresses the dynamic risk factors associated with interpersonal social skills, communication, peer relationships, self-respect, and self-worth. In addition to group, each client receives a minimum of one hour of individual therapy each week. Individual therapy is used to help the adolescent identify and address ongoing risk factors, identification of his cycle, and development of adaptive coping responses. Along with individual therapy, the adolescent will participate in family therapy a minimum of twice a month. Family therapy focuses on the supervision, structure, family roles, communication, and appropriate discipline. In addition to receiving family therapy, for adolescents in our region, in home family services are also provided a minimum of once a week to assist the family in incorporating the changes in the home. For those adolescents outside our region, our in home family services are provided a minimum of once a month.

Adjunct clinical services include daily therapeutic group activities to assist the adolescent in addressing peer relationships and managing peer conflict. Adolescents participate in peer groups daily to further assist in developing and practicing communication, social, and interpersonal skills. Twice a week the adolescent participates in motor skill development to address delays/deficits in motor skills. Deficits in motor skills impact body image, self-esteem, and self-worth. Throughout the adolescent’s treatment, he will develop personal goals on a weekly basis. This allows adolescents to practice self-evaluation, self-care, and personal responsibility for their treatment. Successful completion of weekly goals allows adolescents to participate in goal activities. Success in meeting individual goals quarterly allows adolescents to participate in extended off campus activities.

In addition to the clinical treatment services, Monday through Friday adolescents receive 6 ½ hours of education on a daily basis.  These exceptional academic services are offered through an on-campus school that is licensed and accredited by the Tennessee Department of Education.  SteppenStone Academy operates year-round and provides the opportunity to graduate with a full high school diploma or complete the requirements and testing to receive a GED.  For many troubled youth, their poor performance in school is precipitated by underlying emotional, behavioral and sexual issues. At SteppenStone, the individual academic needs of each student are addressed as an integrated part of their treatment program.

The Day Treatment Program is designed to address each individual’s emotional, behavioral and sexual issues in an environment that provides intensive therapeutic intervention with the identified client and his family/caregivers/support system, while the individual is residing in the community or is transitioning to community.  The Day Treatment Program will be available for clients who are served by SteppenStone Youth Treatment Services’ continuum of care and for clients who are not part of the continuum of care and who do not need residential services, but cannot attend public schools due to their treatment needs.  The treatment will be intense and will be individualized to each client.  Clients will receive the same clinical and academic services as our residential clients Monday through Friday.  However, they will reside with their family/caregivers each night.  No services except emergency services will be provided on Saturday or Sunday.

The Intensive Out-Patient Treatment Program is designed to address each individual’s emotional, behavioral and sexual issues in an environment that provides intensive therapeutic intervention with the identified client and his or her family/caregivers/support system, while the individual is residing in the community or is transitioning to community. Clients in this program will be getting their academic needs met outside of SSYTS.  Each individual and/or their families/caregivers/surrogate families will participate in 3-4 hours of treatment services per day in the evenings (Monday - Thursday).  The number of days they participate in the treatment services is determined by the level of intervention needed to address their emotional, behavioral and sexual issues in an effective manner.

In the spring of 2005, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services licensed SteppenStone Youth Treatment Center to provide foster care services.  Therapeutic Foster Care is a crucial component to the continuum of services already being provided by SteppenStone, allowing day and intensive out-patient treatment services to be an option for youth who do not have family resources.  Transitioning back into the community without significant incidents of behavioral and/or sexual problems is a gauge of the internal changes taking place in the youth we serve.  Therapeutic Foster Care provides a less-restrictive, structured, safe environment that continues to promote the physical, social and emotional growth necessary in assisting the youth to successfully integrate back into the community from residential care.

In April 2006, SteppenStone Youth Treatment Services was licensed by the Department of Mental Health to open the Summit Center which is located in Johnson City, Tennessee.  This facility provides room and board for 10 boys.  There are two residents per room in an effort to begin to integrate them back into a more family-like environment.  In the same manner as SteppenStone Youth Treatment Center a high staff to resident ratio along with state-of-the-art technology assures each boy an environment that encourages personal responsibility, accountability, pro-social interaction and the respect for self and others. These boys are transported to SteppenStone Youth Treatment Center each week day where they continue to receive the same high quality and intensity of academic and clinical services as the boys residing at the SSYTC.

Another milestone for SteppenStone Youth Treatment Services was becoming Joint Commission Accredited in September 2006.  We were told that SteppenStone Youth Treatment Center was the first Behavioral Health Care accredited program with the specialty of treating sexual behavior problems as their primary focus.  This accreditation is verification that the boys we serve are being provided the highest quality of care available to address their physical, emotional and behavioral needs.

Located in rural Northeast Tennessee, SteppenStone Youth Treatment Services is nestled in the beautiful foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.  It is also in close proximity to the culturally attractive Tri-Cities area consisting of Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol, as well as Jonesborough, the oldest town in Tennessee.  This diversified setting provides numerous social, cultural and recreational opportunities which enhance the quality of our treatment programs being provided to the youth of Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and Western North Carolina.



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