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Residential Student Assistance Program

Ages 14-17

Rating: Level 2


The Residential Student Assistance Program (RSAP) is a substance abuse intervention program developed for high-risk adolescents (14 to 17 years old) living in residential facilities. The program is based on employee assistance programs that were used by industry to identify and aid employees whose work performance and lives had been adversely affected by substance abuse. It places highly trained professionals in residential facilities to provide residents with a full range of substance abuse intervention services. RSAP counselors work with adolescents individually and in small groups to help residents decrease their risk factors for substance abuse and increase their overall resiliency. The specific program components include

  • The Prevention Education Series. RSAP counselors conduct this eight-session substance use education program.
  • Assessment. Residents are seen individually to determine their level of substance use, family substance abuse, and need for additional services.
  • Individual and group counseling. RSAP counselors conduct a series of 8 to 12 group counseling sessions. Groups are differentiated by developmental differences, substance use patterns, and family history of substance abuse. Individual sessions are scheduled as needed.
  • Referral and consultation. RSAP counselors refer residents who require assistance to treatment, more intensive counseling, or 12-step groups.


The evaluation of RSAP employed a quasi-experimental design with two nonequivalent comparison groups. The total sample included 326 adolescents. The treatment group consisted of 125 residents who participated in RSAP. The remaining 211 participants made up the two comparison groups. The internal comparison group consisted of youths from the residential facility who chose not to participate in RSAP. The external comparison group was made up of youths from another residential facility that did not have RSAP. All participants were required to participate in a pretest and a posttest assessment. The posttest measure was assessed 30 days after exposure to the program. Assessment instruments included a shortened version of the Monitoring the Future Questionnaire, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Test, and the Global Assessment of Functioning. In addition, the Community-Oriented Program Environment Scales were used to measure the residents’ and staffs’ perceptions of the site environment.


Adolescents participating in RSAP showed dramatic reductions in their use of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco from pretest to posttest measures. For youths not reporting use at pretest, data regarding 30-day use at posttest revealed that 82 percent remained nonusers of alcohol, 83 percent remained nonusers of marijuana, and 78 percent remained nonusers of tobacco. For youths who reported using substances at the pretest, their posttest reports of use in the past 30 days showed that 72 percent reported no longer using alcohol, 59 percent reported no longer using marijuana, and 27 percent reported no longer using tobacco.

Risk Factors


  • Anti-social behavior and alienation/Delinquent beliefs/General delinquency involvement/Drug dealing
  • Early onset of aggression and/or violence
  • Early sexual involvement
  • Favorable attitudes toward drug use/Early onset of AOD use/Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Mental disorder/Mental health problem/Conduct disorder
  • Poor refusal skills
  • Victimization and exposure to violence


  • Child victimization and maltreatment
  • Family history of the problem behavior/Parent criminality
  • Parental use of physical punishment/Harsh and/or erratic discipline practices


  • Low academic achievement

Protective Factors


  • Perception of social support from adults and peers
  • Self-efficacy
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • SAMHSA: Model Programs


Morehouse, Ellen R., and Nancy S. Tobler. 2000. “Preventing and Reducing Substance Use Among Institutionalized Adolescents.” Adolescence 35(137):1–28.


Ellen R. Morehouse, ASW, CASAC
Student Assistance Services
660 White Plains Road
Tarrytown, NY 10591
Phone: (914) 332-1300
Fax: (914) 366-8826
Web site: