The IPTAR On-Site School Program provides on-site psycho-therapeutic services at a New York City public elementary school, and at two middle schools for intellectually gifted students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. In 2013, the school program was awarded the American Psychoanalytic Association’s Educational Achievement Award, which honors outstanding psychoanalytically-informed work with educators and schools.
Over the past 12 years, a group of clinicians at the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research (IPTAR) has been developing and refining a psychoanalytically informed model for working with a range of inner-city children who struggle with complex histories of trauma and loss. From the beginning, we recognized that our challenge was to find a practical way to offer treatment that would be intensive enough to be effective. We hoped that by embedding our service within the school setting, we could provide convenient access to services for multiply stressed families. In addition, inspired by Bruno Bettelheim’s writing about his work at the Orthogenic School in Chicago, we wanted to help students to use the school as a therapeutic milieu.
In 2013, the IPTAR On-Site School Program was awarded the American Psychoanalytic Association’s Educational Achievement Award, which honors outstanding psychoanalytically informed work with educators and schools.
Over the past 10 years, we have forged partnerships with five schools that strive to use education to break cycles of intellectual, emotional and economic poverty. In a time when testing students’ academic performance is emphasized everywhere, these schools also maintain a focus on working with the whole child and on the idea that learning takes place best in a supportive community. Cognizant that emotional and behavioral problems interfere with students’ capacities to take advantage of their opportunities, the school administrators were interested in working with us. By buttressing and expanding their psychological services, we have, together, been able to help students to use their relationships with therapists, teachers and peers to learn to interact in new and meaningful ways.
The students we have treated range in age from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Some require special education, while others are intellectually gifted. In addition to struggling with the stresses of inner-city life, they cope with a variety of genetically-based concerns.
We offer psychodynamically-oriented individual and group therapy on-site during the school day, tailored to the needs of each school and its students. Therapists integrate treatment, available at whatever frequency is clinically indicated, with regular consultations with parents, teachers, and administrators. Each school has a site supervisor, an IPTAR graduate, who works with the educational staff to design and evaluate programs. Over the years, in addition to our regular clinical services, we have run groups for parents, teachers and for pregnant or parenting adolescents. We have provided therapeutic tutoring, case management, and organizational consultation. We have also offered psychoeducational workshops for adolescents, parents and faculty members on such subjects as child development and recovery from trauma. We have instituted a continuity of care policy for children who have graduated or changed schools and we offer free or low-cost therapy to interested family members at the IPTAR Clinical Center. Since 2002, we have treated over 700 students and provided training to 124 therapists.