Residential Student Assistance Program (RSAP)

About This Program

Target Population: Adolescents (12-18 year olds) with multiple problems who have been placed voluntarily or involuntarily in a residential child care facility (e.g., foster care facility, treatment center for adolescents with mental health problems, juvenile correctional facility, residential school, etc.)

For children/adolescents ages: 12 – 18

Program Overview

RSAP is designed to prevent and reduce substance use among adolescents in residential child care facilities due to committing delinquent acts, being neglected or abused, experiencing chronic school problems, and/or having mental health and other behavioral health problems. Most of these adolescents have a history of early substance use and/or have a parent with a substance abuse disorder (SUD).

Highly trained substance abuse prevention specialists implement a multicomponent program consisting of screening, individual and group counseling for substance using youth and/or having a parent with a SUD, awareness activities, an eight-session curriculum for all residents, referral for treatment when needed, and environmental strategies to change facility culture and norms.

Program Goals

The goals of Residential Student Assistance Program (RSAP) are:

  • Prevent the initiation of substance use among youth who do not use drugs or alcohol
  • Reduce substance use among youth currently using substances

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Residential Student Assistance Program (RSAP).

Essential Components

The essential components of Residential Student Assistance Program (RSAP) include:

  • A full-time or part-time highly trained substance abuse prevention specialist called the Student Assistance Counselor (SAC) implements or coordinates all aspects of the program. This person may be an employee of the residential facility or of a community-based agency with expertise in substance abuse prevention or treatment.
  • A master's level professional with experience in substance abuse prevention, treatment, mental health, and counseling adolescents provides at least biweekly clinical and programmatic supervision for the SAC to monitor and insure fidelity and provides consultation to residential facility administration and staff.
  • RSAP utilizes a combination of interventions which have been designed to address the unique needs of the adolescent residential facility population. There are five program components described below:
    • Screening of Residents - Each new resident entering the facility is screened for personal and/or family problems resulting from substance use as well as other risk factors for substance use.
    • The Prevention Education Series - A six-to-eight session Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug prevention interactive curriculum conducted by the SAC with small groups of residents as they enter the facility. The series consists of four topics and can be conducted once a week or on multiple days per week.
    • Individual and Group Counseling - SACs conduct time-limited individual sessions and/or group counseling to residents following participation in the Prevention Education Series. There are seven different counseling groups for residents to participate in.
    • Referral - Residents who require treatment for a substance use disorder or other services are referred to appropriate agencies or practitioners.
    • Facility Wide Awareness Activities – SACs work with residents and staff to conduct activities to raise awareness and change the norms. Contests, bulletin boards, guest speakers, and/or other activities are conducted each month. This is accomplished by:
      • The formation of a Staff Task Force consisting of representatives of all facility departments to provide feedback on substance use related issues and suggestions for preventing and reducing substance use. This includes policy change and residential staff training.
      • The formation of a Resident Task Force consisting of youth who participate provide feedback and suggestions for the program and are a source for peer referrals.
      • Staff training to raise awareness of substance use issues and provide skills to intervene with the residents who are using, intervene with relatives who come for appointments or visits and are using substances, and respond to residents upset by a relative's substance use.
      • Staff receive in-service training on substance use & related issues to increase their awareness, understanding and skill in interacting with the adolescents in the facility and the parents and caregivers of the adolescents.

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Residential Student Assistance Program (RSAP) directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Substance use and the following risk factors for substance use and abuse: positive attitudes toward substance use, parental and/or sibling use of substances, low perceived risk of using substances, transitions and mobility, substance using friends, peer approval of substance use, easy access to substances.
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: Parents of residents can meet with the Student Assistance Counselor (SAC) up to three (3) times and are consulted by phone for guidance and/or referrals for their teen or themselves in the community. The SAC also communicates with the key individuals who interact with the adolescents. This can include but is not limited to the adolescent's family members, psychiatrist, social worker, teachers, child care staff, probation officer, child welfare case worker, after care worker, etc. The purpose of the communication is to discuss the adolescent's progress, identify needs, coordinate services for the adolescent, and plan for follow-up and after care in the community following discharge from the facility.

Recommended Intensity:

15-minute initial screening, 45-minute individual or group counseling session during a class period, and 45-minute prevention education series class during a class period A resident may be seen up to two times a week for any combination of the activities listed above. For example, the adolescent may have a screening and start the prevention education series in the same week or have an individual and group counseling session in the same week.

Recommended Duration:

Number of contacts varies depending on the adolescent's length of stay in the facility and the adolescent's need. Most adolescents are seen for a minimum of seven times and a maximum of 25 times.

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Group or Residential Care
  • Justice Setting (Juvenile Detention, Jail, Prison, Courtroom, etc.)
  • School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)


This program does not include a homework component.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

The Student Assistance Counselor must have an office that provides privacy when adolescents are being seen. Ideally, the office should be able to accommodate six adolescents for groups or there should be another room where groups can meet. A screen is needed for showing trigger DVDs, videos, and movies.

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

The Student Assistance Counselor ideally should have a Master's degree in social work, psychology, counseling, or a related discipline. However, a Bachelor's in social work or related discipline, and required course work for a certification for substance abuse prevention or treatment are acceptable. Knowledge of child and adolescent development, cultural competency, and experience working with adolescents are required. Supervisors should have a Master's degree and a state license or certification in social work, mental health, counseling, psychology, or a related discipline and experience in substance abuse prevention and/or treatment.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Program Manual(s)

Manual details:

  • Student Assistance Services Corp. Residential Student Assistance Program: Implementation manual. Author.

Please contact the training contact listed below for more information.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contacts:
Training Type/Location:

On-Site or regionally

Number of days/hours:

Three days, seven hours a day

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are no pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Residential Student Assistance Program (RSAP).

Formal Support for Implementation

There is no formal support available for implementation of Residential Student Assistance Program (RSAP).

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Residential Student Assistance Program (RSAP) as listed below:

There is a comprehensive and detailed fidelity instrument for all aspects of program implementation. In addition, there are fidelity measures consisting of implementation checklists to be completed by the Student Assistance Counselor and monitored by the supervisor and/or funding organization. There are implementation checklists for the seven counseling groups, for the four topics of the prevention education series, and for supervision.

All Fidelity measures are included in the evaluation section of the Residential Student Assistance Program Implementation Manual which can be purchased from Student Assistance Services.

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Residential Student Assistance Program (RSAP) as listed below:

The Residential Student Assistance Program Implementation Manual provides a detailed description of the program, the theoretical basis for the program and its strategies, work sheets, implementation checklists, and detailed descriptions of process and outcome evaluations and related forms and instruments. The manual can be purchased from Student Assistance Services Corp.

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement Residential Student Assistance Program (RSAP).

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

Morehouse, E., & Tobler, N. S. (2000). Preventing and reducing substance use among Institutionalized adolescents. Adolescence, 35(137), 1-28.

Type of Study: Pretest-posttest with comparison group
Number of Participants: 387


  • Age — 13-19 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 59% Black or African American, 26% Hispanic or Latino, 9% White, and 6% Race/ethnicity Unspecified
  • Gender — 83% Male
  • Status — Participants were youth in residential care facilities designed for treatment of severe psychiatric problems, juvenile offenders, and abused, neglected, orphaned or troubled adolescents.

Location/Institution: Residential facilities in New York State, including facilities for children in foster care, juvenile offenders, and youth with severe psychiatric problems

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This study examines the effectiveness of Residential Student Assistance Project (RSAP) to prevent and decrease alcohol and other drug use in residential care facilities serving high-risk, multiproblem, inner-city primarily African-American and Latino youth. Measures utilized include the Monitoring the Futures questionnaire, the Community Oriented Programs Environment Scale (COPES). Participants were placed into either the RSAP group or a nonequivalent comparison group. Results indicated that at posttest, youth receiving the intervention showed consistent and often large decreases in the use of marijuana and tobacco in five of the six institutions. Results also indicated that the RSAP intervention reduced the number of use as well as the number of drugs use. The majority of youth were using two drugs (tobacco not included) at pretest, but at posttest they were using only one. Further, the success measures showed that the RSAP intervention was effective both as a prevention program for nonusers and as an early intervention program for the users. Limitations include nonrandomization of participants, high attrition rate, and lack of follow-up.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Morehouse, E. (1998). Lessons learned: Collecting child and adolescent outcomes data. Behavioral Healthcare Tomorrow, 7(5), 45-46, 54.

Morehouse, E. (2011). Programs for adolescent children of substance-abusing parents in school and residential settings. In S. Straussner & C. Fewell (Eds.), Children of substance-abusing parents (pp. 207-222). New York: Springer Publishing Company.

Contact Information

Ellen Morehouse
Agency/Affiliation: Student Assistance Services Corp.
Phone: (914) 332-1300
Fax: (914) 366-8826

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: October 2021

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: October 2018

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: April 2010