Northwest Teen Alternative Program - Program Description


The Northwest Teen Alternative Program (TAP) is a therapeutic day treatment program for adolescents with mental, behavioral, or emotional problems that have interfered with the adolescent’s functioning. Eligibility is determined following an eligibility intake meeting with a mental health professional who will determine the level of clinical necessity.

The program is designed to meet a variety of significant therapeutic needs of adolescents who have been diagnosed with:

  • mood disorders
  • substance use disorders
  • anxiety disorders
  • psychotic disorders
  • other disorders noted in the DSM IV-TR

Teens enrolled in TAP participate in counseling, rehabilitative services, and school five days per week for at least six consecutive hours per day. The program operates year-round from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday at the North County Human Services Center (1850 Cameron Glen Drive, Suite 600, in Reston [get directions]) and is four to six months in duration. The program follows the Fairfax County Public Schools schedule for holidays and weather-related closings.

Through a combination of individual, group, family therapy, and academic instruction, adolescents and their families use their strengths to overcome difficult situations.

For more information or to arrange an intake appointment, contact Program Director Margee Eife or Team Leader Ruth Attebury at 703-481-4100, TTY 711.

Learn more about the group therapy sessions at the Northwest Teen Alternative Program

Groups for Teens

  • Peer Helping Group – Identifies problems that may interfere with therapeutic functioning when they first arrive in the morning. Participants will:
    • give each other feedback
    • learn interpersonal skills
    • learn and practice active listening skills
    • receive assignments related to communication with peers, family and friends

The Peer Helping group meets daily.

  • Community Meeting – Opportunity for staff and program participants to:
    • discuss progress in treatment
    • present clinical assignments
    • identify issues of concern

The Community Meetings are held once a week and are led by program participants, with the assistance of clinical staff.

  • Mental Health Process Group – Psychotherapy group that explores mental health-related topics such as:
    • trauma
    • clinical diagnoses and what they mean
    • stress and its impact on functioning
    • coping skills specialized to the needs of program participants

The Mental Health Process group meets daily.

  • Co-Occurring Disorder Process Group – In this group, participants will examine core issues related to their treatment. Topics can include:
    • dealing with substance-using friends
    • drug dealing in the community
    • how to develop and maintain sober lifestyle
    • how to deal with peers in the community
    • honesty
    • relapse behavior
    • dealing with the juvenile justice system
    • family issues

The Co-Occurring Disorder Process Group meets daily.

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – Teaches participants skills to manage their emotions, tolerate distress, pay attention to what is happening in the here and now, and improve their relationships. Coping skills and educational groups are held a minimum of one time per week and meetings with clinical staff about the use of DBT skills occur daily.

  • Life Skills Group – Addresses age-appropriate development of:
    • healthy coping skills
    • supportive choices
    • positive and negative relationships
    • responsibility
    • health and hygiene

Additional topics include: money management; getting a job; interviewing; image consultation; preparing for college vs. military service; homework/study skills; housekeeping in the program and at home; and time management. The Life Skills Group meets once per week.

  • Expressive Therapy Group – Participants use art, music, drama, play and other media to express their emotions. This creative work helps them gain insight and improves their confidence, self-esteem, and can create a sense of accomplishment. It also provides an excellent outlet for participants who have a harder time expressing themselves in words. The Expressive Group meets once per week.

  • Gender Group – Provides an opportunity to examine and process issues that are better discussed with one gender. Topics include:
    • personal choices
    • positive and negative relationships
    • responsibility
    • health and hygiene

The Gender Group meets once per week.

  • Chemical Dependency Education – Addresses the process of addiction and recovery and the tools used to reach recovery. The “Stages of Change” and relapse prevention are also covered. Chemical Dependency Education occurs once per week.

  • Clinical Assignment Group – Gives participants a chance to work independently on their treatment plan assignments which typically include:
    • autobiographies
    • drug history
    • progression of addiction charts
    • genograms
    • support networks
    • discussion of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings

The Clinical Assignment Group meets once per week.

  • Therapeutic Recreation – with the guidance of a Fairfax County Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, participants engage in recreational activities designed to develop healthy, positive, drug- and alcohol-free leisure activities. Therapeutic Recreation occurs twice per week.

  • Shrink Rap Group (with a psychiatrist) – the following topics are discussed:
    • anatomy and hygiene
    • sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV and Hepatitis C
    • contraception
    • healthy relationships
    • decision-making
    • smoking
    • depression

Groups for Parents and Families

  • Family Therapy – A collaborative process that is facilitated by clinical staff and includes parents, siblings, caregivers, and program participants to address issues related to the therapeutic program. Participants work to improve communication skills and family relationship issues. Family Therapy is held weekly.

  • Multifamily Group – parents and program participants discuss issues related to familial strengths and challenges. Multifamily Group meets every other week, alternating with the Parent Group.

  • Parent Group – parents explore patterns of behavior that can interfere with effective parenting practices and learn coping skills for self and effective parenting practices. The Parent Group meets every other week, alternating with the Multifamily Group.

Groups for Teachers and Clinical Staff

  • Teachers Meetings – Teaching and clinical staff collaborate to address challenges and progress of program participants, identifying intervention strategies that can be helpful in the education or treatment setting. Teachers Meetings occur daily.

  • Staff Briefing – Teaching and clinical staff exchange information regarding any specific challenges or successes a program participant might be having that day. Staff briefings occur daily before and after the students’ daily program.

After Program Completion

Upon successful completion of the program, TAP facilitates transition to the appropriate school setting. Individuals are referred back to their referring psychotherapist and psychiatrist. The Primary Therapist will find an outpatient therapist before discharge if needed. All participants are invited to attend a monthly alumni group after school.


Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board

12011 Government Center Parkway, Suite 836, Fairfax, VA 22035-1100
Phone: 703-324-7000 | Fax: 703-324-7092 | TTY: 711

24-Hour CSB Emergency Services
Phone: 703-573-5679 | TTY: 703-207-7737
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