Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology


According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2000), the incidence of child and adolescent mental health problems is a concern because an estimated 5-9% of all children and adolescents struggle with mental health problems. Examination of the mental health needs among children and adolescents is a priority for clinical psychology, and a major goal for researchers and clinicians is to better understand how these needs will be most appropriately addressed. The present study is a program evaluation of a group therapy pilot study that was offered to adolescent students who were placed in an alternative classroom setting within a public middle school as a result of their behavioral and academic struggles. A school setting was used as the venue to offer group therapy to a number of adolescents who otherwise would not have had access to formal mental healthcare services in their home communities. By focusing on primary psychosocial developmental competencies, the group therapy program sought to improve student participants' adaptive functioning and skills while decreasing clinical symptoms. The group was comprised of 6 adolescents (2 females and 4 males), ages 12 to 14 (M = 13, SD= 0.89), and in the 7th or 81 h grade (3 seventh graders and 3 eighth graders). With the exception of 1 male of Hispanic descent, participants were Caucasian. Participants exhibited mental health issues of a heterogeneous nature. Group therapy sessions were conducted for 6 consecutive weeks and focused on psychosocial developmental competencies based on developmental theoretical models. The Behavior Assessment System, 2nd Edition (BASC-2), was used as a pre- and post-intervention measure. Post assessment also included qualitative interviews with student participants and their alternative school teacher. Research findings support the conclusion that participation in the therapy group had a positive impact on adaptive functioning. However, clinical symptoms, as measured by the BASC-2, did not show improvement at post-intervention assessment. Group therapy offered within a school setting that focuses on primary psychosocial competencies, and which is grounded in developmental theory, may be a potentially effective and valid intervention approach in the treatment of adolescent mental health problems.