Adolescent Transport

Our Respectful Adolescent Transport Protocol™ underscores a young person’s right to be treated with dignity and respect, while providing safe transport to treatment programs

Heather developed the Respectful Adolescent Transport Protocol andRespectful Adolescent Transport Process® in response to the unnecessarily harsh treatment she saw teens in transport receive early in her career. Today’s teens call it being “gooned.” In most states, individuals under 18 can be checked into treatment by their parents. This disruption in the harmful trajectory lets the brain heal and develop normally while allowing the adolescent to develop non-destructive coping skills. This disruption in the harmful trajectory allows the brain to heal and develop undeveloped while developing non-destructive coping skills.

Many of our teens who have behavioral issues, eating disorders, Substance Abuse or Use, Anxiety or Depression have experienced some form of childhood trauma or sudden loss. The Respectful Adolescent Transport Process® and the Respectful Adolescent Transport Protocol® are based on Trauma-Responsive clinical principles designed to avoid retraumatizing or adding trauma to a patient in crisis. For many teens, as necessary as it is to disrupt the destructive trajectory they are on, it is still traumatic to transition from home to a residential facility or wilderness treatment program.

Respectful Adolescent Transport Protocol in Action

When a family hires transporters, they should feel confident that the care their child receives is grounded in a model that takes into account trauma, adolescent development, and protective factors. The Respectful Adolescent Transport Protocol (RAPT) involves two trained transporters who are aware of the client’s history, including their history of trauma, substance use/abuse, and mental health concerns. An essential element of this protocol is the constant involvement of parents and others in the family support system. Prior to the physical transport, our clinical team prepares the family with respect to what to say to their child about the transport process. This preparation includes a meeting with transporters, family, and other loved ones in order to outline the transport process and coach family on how to speak to their child about the transport. As part of this process, parents and family members are asked to write a letter to the young person being transported. The focus of this letter is two-fold. First, the letter emphasizes the family’s love for their child and their child’s positive qualities, strengths, and resilience. Second, the letter further reinforces that the family has made this decision with their child’s best interest in mind and will not back down from their decision to seek treatment on their child’s behalf. This letter provides a solid foundation for the introduction of our transport service, emphasizing both the family’s love for their child and supporting the family in being accountable for their decision to engage treatment. The child is kept safe throughout the transport, from the moment the process begins. We have found that our model reduces any abduction trauma and asks the parents and family to be a part of their teen’s and family’s healing from the beginning.

Transports are often done in conjunction with an intervention, but regardless of whether an intervention has occurred, our team works diligently with families to minimize the risk of traumatizing or re-traumatizing a young person. On a practical level, this means that we do not wake children in the middle of the night for the sake of shock value and escort them out of the home while asking the parents to leave. Our protocol respects and supports the dignity of each child being transported and focuses on parental accountability, building rapport with the young person, and acknowledging their resistance and frustration in a trauma-informed way. The child’s potential responses are normalized and predicted for the parents. Safety and containment are always prioritized, and the child understands that this is the decision that has been made by the family. Having the family express their love and reasoning for their decision to send their child to treatment also supports the paradigm of healing and change for the entire family system and reduces abduction trauma.

Our transporters understand that trauma can contribute to a slew of behavioral traumatic adaptations and that these behaviors can include physical intimidation, verbal assaults, dissociative behavior, or overly compliant behaviors. How transporters respond to these behavioral adaptations is critical to a successful transport experience, as many adolescents are not excited about the idea of treatment. From a trauma-informed perspective, behaviors are not perceived as good or bad but simply as information. This information allows transporters to tailor their responses to the specific needs of each client.

Transporters stay with a young person from the moment of introduction until they reach their final destination. Throughout their journey, transporters keep parents informed of their progress and provide updates regarding the emotional and physical well-being of their child. Our Respectful Adolescent Transport Process® underscores a young person’s right to be treated with dignity and respect, while still providing safe transport to treatment programs. In addition, our protocol embraces the following principles as essential to successful transportation of adolescents:

  • A client’s safety and wellbeing are most important during any transport experience.
  • Transporters are an important part of the client’s treatment team, and their actions should support the establishment of safety, relationship building, and mutuality.
  • It is normal for clients to struggle in this process, and the job of the transporter is to ease fears, de-escalate crisis, and offer soothing communication and genuine concern.
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