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Back on Track 

About the program
Appropriate candidates
Early discharge
Classroom location
Outreach services
Contact us

About the program


  • Back on Track is a care and treatment program, with educational and therapeutic components, that works hand-in-hand in re-integrating adolescents back into community schools and community living.
  • The therapeutic component of the program helps the adolescent look at his or her emotional issues as contributing to difficulty with school attendance and will address psycho-pharmacological needs if necessary.The main approach of treatment is milieu-based. The adolescent is expected to participate in the daily programming which includes participation in life skills group, cognitive behaviour therapy group and outings into the community. If necessary, adolescents will also be expected to participate in individual therapy.
  • The expectation is that those around the adolescent will be working together to help the adolescent both at the program and at home. As well, parents or guardians are expected to attend Parent Group held every second week. (See "Groups" below for description) and if necessary, family therapy sessions. Good communication between home and school is vital and parents are expected to be in regular contact with the program.
  • The program is also aimed at providing the adolescent with the academic coping skills required to re-integrate successfully into the community school. It allows the adolescent to work towards one or two credits, in Math and English, and if motivated, another credit in Learning Strategies.

The Academic Component:

  • Back on Track is a care and treatment program offered to all eligible Ottawa area adolescents by the M.F. McHugh Educational Centre.
  • It has administrative support from the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) in association with CHEO.
  • Back on Track is NOT an alternative school program. It is a combined therapeutic and academic program. Adolescents can only work on one or two credits (mathematics and/or English) as well as a Learning Strategies credit.
  • The teachers can be employees of the Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) and are seconded to the OCSB, or are employed directly by the OCSB.
  • The clinical staff are employees of CHEO.The program will follow the Ottawa Catholic School Board academic calendar including P.D. days, report card dates, parent-teacher interviews as well as holidays.
  • Adolescents attend the program from 9 AM to 2:15 PM. This time period includes both academic and therapeutic time.
  • Adolescents are expected to do homework, assignments and examinations in their chosen subject.
  • The duration of enrolment in the Back on Track Program is one school semester but this is assessed on an individual basis.
  • Each adolescent will have at least one academic planning session. Participants in this session will include parent(s) and/or guardians and the adolescent with teacher(s) and  the Child and Youth Counsellor. It may also include other members of the therapeutic team. Adolescents enrolled in a school in the OCDSB or the OCSB ,as well as some surrounding boards, will have their transportation via taxi arranged through their school board.

Therapeutic Component


It is expected that all adolescents attend and participate in daily social skills groups run by the Child and Youth Counsellor. During these groups the adolescents will work on social skills acquisition, assertiveness training, problem solving, communication skills and other health issues.

  • All adolescents will also be expected to participate in the weekly cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) group which runs for three months, after an initial period in which the adolescents are given time to settle into the program. This group will be run by our Child and Youth Counsellor and Social Worker. Missing CBT group sessions may result in not being able to re-join that current group.
  • Parent Group sessions run bi-weekly for one hour and are facilitated by our Child and Youth Counsellor and Social Worker. These are meant to help parents and/or guardians understand the day-to-day function of the Back on Track Program. It will also provide families with a forum to express their concerns about their adolescents and future school placement planning. The Parent Group will provide parents with information on parenting skills and community resources. Part of the requirements for an adolescent’s stay in our Back on Track is participation in Parent Group held every second week.

Therapy Sessions

  • Adolescents will be assessed by the Child and Youth Counsellor and Social Worker as to whether they may need individual therapy by the consulting psychiatrist.
  • Medication prescription and/or individual therapy will revert to the family physician and/or pre-Back on Track mental health counsellors upon discharge.
  • Family sessions will be provided when the team deems it appropriate. If it is deemed appropriate, parents are expected to participate.
  • If an adolescent is unable to attend school, he or she is expected to call Back on Track, either the teacher at 613-230-9301, or the Child and Youth Counsellor at 613-230-7554 prior to 9 AM.

Community Outings:

  • Outings will be scheduled about once a week and are co-ordinated by our Child and Youth Counsellor.


  • Back on Track staff may decide a referral to our Day Treatment Support Team - consisting of a psychologist, a speech and language therapist, and an occupational therapist - would be beneficial for an adolescent. Sometimes, referral to another CHEO clinic/clinician or an external therapist/program is necessary. If so, this will be discussed with the adolescent and may require the participation of parents. The age and wishes of the adolescent may affect parental involvement.

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Appropriate Candidates for Back on Track

  • The adolescent must have had a significant history of absence from school due to primary internalizing disorder such as anxiety and/or depression. A typical candidate for Back on Track would be an adolescent who has shown some anxiety and/or depression from an early age and is likely to have a family history of anxiety and/or depression.
  • The adolescent needs to be able to benefit from the Program and wants to be able to get back into a community school. (Please note: ours is not an alternative school.)
  • The adolescent must be 13 to 17 years of age and be enrolled in grade 8 to grade 12.
  • The adolescent does not present with externalizing behaviors such as aggression.
  • The adolescents have parents and/or guardians who want to participate as part of the treatment team.

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Referral Route

  • The adolescent and/or parents or guardians can ask the appropriate school personnel to make a referral to the Coordinated Referral Committee. The Co-ordinated Referral Committee will review the referral to determine the most appropriate program. If the Coordinated Referral Committee does refer an adolescent to Back on Track, the Back on Track team will screen the adolescent and, if deemed an appropriate candidate for the program, will be admitted to the program.
  • Guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists, vice-principals and principals can start the process.

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Considerations for Early Discharge from the Program

Adolescents can and will be discharged from the program if circumstances warrant discharge as outlined below:

  • If the client is exhibiting signs of self-harm and discussing it with other adolescents in the program.
  • Upon entry into the program, adolescents participate in determining weekly attendance expectations. If an adolescent fails to comply with attendance expectations, suspension from the program will be considered after three weeks of non-compliance with the attendance contract. A meeting with the Child and Youth Counsellor and/or the therapist will then occur to review the adolescent’s motivation to attend the program. Another attendance contact will be drawn up. If the second contract is broken, the adolescent may be discharged from the program.
  • If there is failure to comply with other aspects of the program.
  • If other mental health issues become apparent which are better treated by another team or mental health practitioner.

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Classroom Location

The classroom is located on the 5th floor, south wing, room S506, of Immaculata High School, 140 Main Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5P4

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Early Dismissal

In the event that school has to be closed early, parents and/or guardians will be informed and the adolescent’s transportation home will be the responsibility of the parents and/or guardians.

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Outreach Services

  • When discharge occurs in accordance with the team’s recommendations, Back on Track's outreach teacher, Kathryn Golob, will provide limited follow up in the community for up to three months which will be reviewed on a case to case basis.

An important period in our support for the students in the Back on Track program comes at the point of discharge and reintegration into the community school. This is often a time of increased stress for the student, parents and the receiving school. The Day Treatment Service of CHEO and the M.F. McHugh Education Centre have collaborated in designing a program to provide Outreach Services to support the reintegration of students who are leaving the Back on Track program and returning to their community school. An Outreach Teacher affiliated with the Back on Track Program will be assigned to support the transitioning students.

Support includes meeting with students and/or educational staff at their community school on a weekly basis to discuss any difficulties that the returning students may face academically and to help the student and staff resolve problems around these areas. Additional support for students and school staff may include telephone and email contact, or attending school meetings as requested.

Click here to read the article "Helping young people get Back on Track

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Contact Us

For general inquiries about the program, please contact 613-737-7600 ext. 3408

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