October 2021

New Adolescent Services and Programming

Psychological Testing and Ecological Systems Theory

Shannon Easley, Communications Director, Skyland Trail


The Skyland Trail primary psychiatric adolescent residential treatment program has implemented new services and programming: psychological testing and ecological systems theory.

The adolescent residential treatment program is appropriate for teens ages 14 to 17 with a primary mood or anxiety disorder. The typical length of stay is about 12 weeks, and treatment includes evidence-based psychiatric care, integrated nutrition and wellness services, family therapy and education, and academic services.

Psychological Testing

During the first two weeks of residential treatment, most Skyland Trail adolescent clients now participate in psychological testing with our psychological services team. Some assessments include feedback from parents and guardians. Adolescents complete several tests, including self-report questionnaires, computerized tasks, and some interactive components. Results of psychological testing are used to clarify a client’s diagnoses and to help match clients with the most appropriate evidence-based treatment (e.g., medication, goals for individual sessions, academic skills coaching, etc.). Standard psychological tests may uncover learning, behavioral, emotional, psychiatric, or cognitive challenges as well as identify strengths that a teen may apply to achieving their goals. Families may use results of psychological testing after treatment at Skyland Trail to guide continued mental health treatment in the community or to request specialized services or accommodations from schools or other programs.

Specialized Skills Groups Paired with Ecological Systems Theory

Each Skyland Trail adolescent client is assigned to one of two diagnosis-specific core groups: CBT Skills or DBT Skills. Clients meet with their core group each day, Monday through Friday.

CBT Skills core group helps clients who struggle with perfectionism, low self-esteem, fear of failure, or social anxiety learn how to manage stress, balance their own needs with the expectations of others, and confront and reframe recurring negative thought patterns.

DBT Skills core group helps clients who struggle with emotion regulation, anger outbursts, fear of abandonment, or self-harming behaviors learn how to tolerate uncomfortable situations, ask for help or support in healthy ways, and acknowledge emotions without allowing them to drive behaviors.

All residential adolescent clients also participate in groups throughout the week based on the Ecological Systems Theory therapeutic approach. This evidence-based approach helps clients examine their own unique identity and values as well as how they are impacted by and can influence the people, systems, and environment around them. Clients are given tools and support to explore questions about their gender, sexual, and cultural identity; peer and family relationships; attitudes and behaviors related to alcohol and substance use; and their concerns about their role in larger issues such as climate change or social justice.

The Skyland Trail adolescent residential treatment program accepts referrals from mental health professionals, educational consultants, and interventionists. Self-referrals and inquiries from families also are welcome. For more information, visit www.skylandtrail.org or call 866-528-9593.