Follow Joe: A day in the life of residential treatment

At Oaklawn’s child and adolescent residential facility in Mishawaka, every day is structured, yet different. Some things will be the same – wake-up, hygiene, meal times, school and bed-time – and other things vary throughout the week – individual, group and family therapy; recreation therapy; meetings with skills trainers and care facilitators, and psychiatric visits. The campus offers a full menu of best practices – all masterfully woven into a schedule flexible enough to meet the individual needs of each youth and all working together to create a therapeutic environment where healing happens.

Here’s a peek at a day in the life of residential treatment.

We’ll follow Joe – a composite sketch of an Oaklawn youth – on what an average school day might look like.

The alarm rings at 6 a.m. Time to wake up.

Joe sits up on the edge of the bed. He has a few minutes to rouse himself before a busy morning. He showers, dresses and tidies up before room checks. Theo, one of his favorite unit staff, is on today. Theo enters the room and asks Joe how his rec league game went yesterday.

“Phoenix won, of course,” Joe is happy to report.

“You earned it,” Theo says. “You’ve been working hard.” He looks around the room to make sure the beds are made and desks are clean, then reminds Joe and his roommate: “Community meeting starts in 15.”

Before the unit meeting, the nurse, Lindsay, gives Joe his morning meds and asks how he’s doing. “Fine,” Joe says. But Lindsay senses something is off. “Really?” she persists.

“Well, I had a game yesterday. My shoulder feels a little messed up is all.” She asks him a few more questions and decides he should see the on-site pediatrician. She arranges for ice and ibuprofen in the meantime.

At 7:15, Joe and the rest of the guys on his unit gather to talk about the day’s schedule, then it’s off to breakfast.

After breakfast, Theo leads the group on the short walk from the dining hall to the on-campus school. Everyone studies math and English together – not Joe’s favorite subjects – but he gets to choose his own electives through an online platform.

During individual work, Joe meets with his teacher to talk about credits. He needs 40 to graduate, and so far, he only has 18. A few months ago, he wouldn’t have cared, but he’s been thinking a lot about his future and working with his treatment team on making better choices. He and his teacher put together a plan to catch up.

Joe and his unit head to the dining hall for lunch. School’s done for the day, and he has some down time before group therapy. He calls his grandma, plays some games with his friends, then heads back to his room to finish an assignment his therapist gave him after last week’s session.

At 1, it’s time for group – one of three group sessions the unit will do this week. One of the guys on the unit, Carlo, is getting discharged. They go around the circle and everyone shares something positive about Carlo. Joe talks about how he helped him when he first came to campus – Joe didn’t want to be there, didn’t think he needed help. Carlo was a good example and helped him see he could be better, too.

After group, Joe meets with his skills trainer. When he first arrived, they focused on communication skills and anger management, but Joe has made a lot of progress in those areas and lately they’ve been working more toward independent living skills – cooking, cleaning and finances. Tonight, they’re making muffins.

After session, Joe sees the doctor about his shoulder – she instructs him and the staff to make sure he continues the ice and ibuprofen and come back if it still hurts in a few days. After his appointment, Joe has about a half hour of free time before his daily half hour of gym time.

At 5, it’s time for dinner, then they’ll head back to the unit for reflection and evening hygiene. At 7, they’ll do chores and gather for another community meeting. The evening nurse brings meds about 8, with more ice and ibuprofen for Joe’s shoulder. The unit has a little time to watch TV, before getting ready for bed. At 9:30, it’s lights out.

Joe is eager for a good night’s rest. He applied for an honor job on campus and has an interview tomorrow with the manager. He turns on his side, closes his eyes and drifts off to sleep.


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