Personal Growth

The therapeutic components of NSA stem not only from the experiences we offer but also from the relationships that are built between students and other students and staff. Therapists work evenings and weekends, recreation and Aventuras, as well as student life activities so that there is a strong sense of relationship, trust, and advocacy for each individual student. Families are a key part of the process with weekly phone calls, family workshops, and other opportunities for growth. Our model is based on a philosophy that is truly specialized and holistic to provide maximum growth for each young man.

Personal Growth Planning

NSA’s integrated planning for each student include a Master Goal Plan (MGP) and an Individual Goal Plan (IGP). Both are key parts to the integrated goals required to successfully complete the NSA program.

Master Goal Plan (MGP): This is a plan organized by the student’s case manager. Information from previous placement, testing, transcripts, and application documents is used to create a list of areas that the student and family wish to address while at NSA. From these areas, specific goals, interventions, and indicators of success are outlined.

Individual Goal Plan (IGP): This is a plan organized by the student himself with the help of his IGP team (consisting of at least the case manager, one teacher, and one experiential education mentor). The IGP is a plan of goals, steps to reach the goal, indicators of success, and recommendations for how the IGP team can support the student in reaching their goals. This plan is made at the beginning of each academic quarter and is revised or updated by students on their mid-quarter Aventura trips. This has proven to be an effective way to empower the student in a process of goal-setting and self-monitoring that has proven very beneficial to student engagement in their own personal growth process. Furthermore, it is an experiential way for the student to learn how to set and monitor their own goals—a skill that can prove invaluable after graduation from NSA.

Graduation from the NSA program: Students are encouraged to do more than simply complete high school graduation requirements. NSA has an integrated approach to graduating from the NSA program to transition on to their next step. In order to do so, students must continuously set and reach the goals outlined in their IGPs. During their final quarter at NSA (and before their final Aventura challenge of summiting Mt. Chirripo), students must complete a transition plan that is approved by their IGP team and their families. Furthermore, successful completion of the Aventura program throughout the year is essential to receiving their certificate of achievement in graduating the NSA program.

Therapeutic staff
  • NSA's full time milieu therapists are a part of the family community and participate in everything from classes to cookouts to experiential education trips, creating a rich, intensive, therapeutic milieu. This creates a mentoring- and relationship-based approach instead of an institutionalized office approach.

    • Case Managers are licensed therapists who manage the overall planning and growth process for a student and his family. They also run wrap up groups and individual sessions with students.
    • Personal Growth Advisors are therapists or psychologists who assist the case managers with communication, reporting, logistics, groups, interventions, and milieu activities.
    • The Family Services Coordinator is the hub of information needed by and for families and therapists to coordinate services, logistics, and group events such as workshops.

  • Therapists focus on helping students set goals, solve problems, learn how to use surrounding resources, and "own" their own process, choices, and lives.

  • They meet regularly with students individually as well as in groups and keep notes regarding personal growth goals, progress, and strategies.

  • Therapists communicate with guardians through emails & weekly phone calls.
Therapeutic Philosophy, Approaches & Interventions:

New Summit Academy is a community where students gain motivation to continue their process of change and to live a healthy lifestyle, embracing new social and learning skills. The therapeutic component of the community is substance-free, cross-cultural, and incorporates a system of psychotherapy and self-help techniques inspired in the Transtheoretical Model of Change and Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) in a milieu primarily supported our student-empowered & positive peer influenced philosophy.

Through our own model of peer-centered Honor Council Meetings, 3 weekly community meetings, supportive academics, team-building recreational activities, and therapeutic Aventuras, students use their individual strengths to support each other and create the kind of home and family in which they grow and mature into healthy young men.

  1. A variety of humanistic and cognitive therapeutic approaches provide staff at NSA with a practical approach to help the students change dysfunctional emotions and behaviors by showing them how to become aware of and modify the beliefs and attitudes that create these unwanted states.  
  2. Through community wrap-up meetings 3 times a week, peers problem-solve as a group about issues that affect the entire community.  Students are encouraged to be proactive & resourceful in writing & presenting proposals for changes & improvements to their community living agreements, including issues such as study halls, dorm cleanliness, dish chores, weekend recreational activities, internet use, etc..  This initiative is encouraged & rewarded as part of the process of learning to "own" one's life & community.
  3. Individual therapy not only happens in the one-on-one interactions with the student's personal therapist, but it also happens in our unique peer/staff Honor Council Meetings. These meetings consist of at least 3 peers and 3 staff members who give feedback & discuss issues with the student before reaching a consensus of what decisions and recommendations (including therapeutic tasks, restrictions, privileges, recommendations, etc.) will apply to that particular student & situation. This is a forum that takes advantage of a non-reactive, peer-influenced, problem-solving approach to an individual student's situation & natural consequences (both positive & negative).
  4. NSA hires therapists from the US, Costa Rica, and other countries who have the common denominator of wanting to mentor young people in a nurturing and empowering environment.
  5. Therapeutic Disorientation: Students feel therapeutically disoriented away from the high levels of energy & stress in American lifestyles, and the natural lifestyle of the Ticos provides a calm and non-threatening environment in which to grow and change.
A Healthy Milieu Supported by a Peer-Based Philosophy

1. All of our difficulties arise and are expressed in our relationships with other people.
By focusing on interpersonal relationships and cooperation within a social community, students have an infinite number of opportunities to gain insight into how their thinking and behavior may be self-defeating, and to develop and practice new ways of relating to the world around them. A boarding school environment provides the ideal canvas to create a structured and carefully defined social system, free from many of the pressures of the larger social milieu, while reflecting the realities of young adult social interaction. The goal is to provide an environment that provides safety while practicing new coping skills while developing resources to transition to the “real world.”

2. Healthy and open relationships are crucial in milieu therapy as all members of the community must be open to personal examination and growth. Faculty and staff model patience, flexibility in thought, and a willingness to continually work to solve problems and grow. This self-reflective teaching model recognizes that all human beings share similar psychological processes, and by doing so, creates a therapeutic environment that allows students to let go of emotional defenses and experiment with new ways of thinking and behaving.  The development of a strong, supportive peer culture is the community goal of milieu therapy while the goal of milieu therapy for an individual student always focuses on helping him to gain insight and practice more adaptive ways of engaging the world.

Research and studies have proven that peers have a greater impact on each other than anyone else during adolescence. A positive and empowering peer culture is the most powerful component in the equation for effective change as peers live and attend classes together, share living spaces and daily living activities, participate in therapy and give constant feedback to each other.

As the peer culture is based in mutual respect, support and care, the strong influence that adolescents and young adults have on each other will provide a healthy milieu where:

  1. Students will exercise empathy, care and compassion for the best interest of the community above self –centered and egocentric behaviors.
  2. Students are encouraged to seek help and support from each other.
  3. Students will learn and practice skills to be able to work together effectively and develop pro-social values.
  4. Students develop academic, vocational, social and personal potential effectively when their social needs are met and those needs are address periodically.
  5. Students create and maintain a constructive environment to become productive, contributing members of society.
  6. A relaxed, happy, supportive and safe campus makes it possible for students to feel comfortable, embrace change, open up and develop self - acceptance.
  7. Every student is expected to become a positive role model, willing to help and support his peers to recognize negative influences, irrational beliefs, unhelpful thoughts and inappropriate behaviors
  8. Students develop self-discipline, problem solving and decision making skills and healthy coping strategies.
  9. Students understand and enforce healthy living standards through good communication and assertiveness.
  10. Students are the primary source of support to replace inappropriate living standards.
A True Transitional Environment: Personal Success Skills

Through interdependence with other peers, staff members, the community and the culture each student is ensured to learn personal success skills, enabling older adolescents and young adults to achieve independence and self-sufficiency regarding their independence:  nutrition skills training, basic money management, time their household organization, wellness and physical fitness, job finding skills management, household organization, wellness and physical fitness, job finding skills - resumes, interviews,  and travel planning.

Milieu therapy with a peer-based philosophy and a cross cultural learning component will provide a unique platform for personal growth and emotional development. The integration of educational and therapeutic services through experiential education in a multicultural environment is an ideal combination for a transitional environment and to develop real success skills, supervised and instructed by trained professionals.

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