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Effective Techniques for School Refusal Behavior: Real Help for Children & Adolescents Who Can't or Won't Go to School

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George Haarman, PsyD, LMFT
5 Hours 50 Minutes
Audio and Video
Dec 14, 2018
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Digital Recording
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“I don’t want to go to school!” Who hasn’t heard that phrase before? While we may chuckle remembering the lengths we might have taken to avoid school, there are many children and adolescents whose struggles with school are much deeper and demand more urgent attention. They are exhibiting school refusal behavior, and their actions signal that something is very wrong.

School refusal behavior is often associated with co-morbid disorders such as anxiety or depression and has far-reaching and long-term consequences. School refusersmay have serious problems with nightmares, temper outbursts, poor academic performance, stunted social skill development, and even physical ailments.

In this unique slant on an often-misunderstood phenomenon, Dr. George Haarman will show you how to simultaneously address two competing demands when treating school refusal— immediately meeting attendance expectations set by the schools while also digging deeperto uncover and treat underlying problems.

You will be able to more quickly differentiate school refusal from common phobic reactions by recognizing and addressing the presence of anxiety, depressive, and other disorders that may be co-morbid or causing school refusal. Armed with a better understanding of the particular motivation and reinforcement systems related to the school refusal behavior, you can then offer strategic, individualized intervention plans that have a much greater chance of success.



This online program is worth 5.75 hours CPD.



George Haarman, PsyD, LMFT's Profile

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George B. Haarman, PsyD, LMFT, is a licensed clinical psychologist and a licensed marriage and family therapist with over 40 years of experience working in a variety of settings, including private practice, youth detention centers, juvenile group homes, child protective services, and juvenile probation. Dr. Haarman completed basic and advanced supervisor training required by the Kentucky Board of Psychology Examiners and maintains approval by the board to act as a supervisor. In his private practice, Dr. Haarman has provided clinical supervision to clinical and counseling practicum students as well as consultation about clinical supervision to psychologists for over 25 years. He is a national speaker on clinical supervision, depression, school refusal, ADHD, emotional disorders in children and adults and the DSM-5®. He is the author of three books: Clinical Supervision: Legal, Ethical, and Risk Management Issues, School Refusal: Children Who Can’t or Won’t Go to School, and Mastering DSM-5®. Dr. Haarman received his doctorate in clinical psychology from Spalding University in 1989. He has been an instructor at Jefferson Community College, Bellarmine University, and Spalding University.


Speaker Disclosures:
Financial: Dr. George Haarman maintains a private practice and is an adjunct professor Spalding University, Jefferson Community College, and Bellarmine University. He receives a speaking honorarium and recording royalties from PESI, Inc. He has no relevant financial relationships with ineligible organizations.
Non-financial: Dr. George Haarman is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Kentucky Psychological Association.


  1. Recognize the behavioral and clinical features of school refusers to better inform clinical decision making.
  2. Analyze the functional purpose of school refusal behavior to determine appropriate treatment strategies.
  3. Identify co-morbid psychological disorders associated with school refusal to improve treatment outcomes.
  4. Evaluate individual, family, behavioral, and pharmacological approaches to the treatment of school refusers.
  5. Design strategic school refusal plans that target the underlying motivation and reinforcement systems.
  6. Explain to parents and school personnel how to incorporate numerous tips designed to remedy school refusal behavior.


Truants or Refusers

The importance of Assessing WHY They Aren’t in School

  • The dynamic difference between school refusers and truants
  • Common characteristics of school refusers
  • Completing a functional analysis of school refusers
    • Categorical-dimensional approach
    • Reinforcement contingencies
  • Co-morbid DSM-5® disorders
    • Anxiety disorders
    • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
    • PostTraumatic Stress Disorder
    • Depressive disorders
    • Phobias
    • Conduct disorders
    • Learning disorders
  • Factors to consider when assessing for school refusal
  • Standardized assessment measures to employ
  • Critical questions to ask refusers and their parents

Strategic Interventions that Get Refusers Back in School, and Keep Them There

  • Factors that increase the likelihood of success
  • Individual intervention/therapy 
    • Systematic Desensitization
    • Exposure therapy
    • Modeling
    • Cognitive therapy
    • Educational/supportive therapy
  • Family intervention/therapy 
    • Parent training
    • Structured family therapy
    • Systemic family therapy
    • Dialectical Behavior Therapy-School Refusal
  • Pharmacological intervention
    • Tricyclics
    • SSRI’s
    • Beta Blockers
    • Benzodiazepines
  • Interventions for refusers seeking to:
    • Avoid negative effect
    • Escape from aversive social and evaluative aspects of school
    • Get attention
    • Receive tangible reinforcers
  • Craft an individualized intervention plan
    • “School Makes Me Want to Throw Up”
    • “Everybody There Hates Me”
    • “Can’t I Stay at Home and Have You Teach Me?”
    • “The School of Hard Knocks”

Getting School Personnel and Parents Involved

  • Forced school attendance
  • Using school escorts
  • 35 concrete tips for parents
  • Suggestions for teachers and school counselors

Target Audience

  • Counselors
  • Social Workers
  • Psychologists
  • Teachers
  • School Guidance Counselors
  • Marriage and Family Therapists
  • School Administrators
  • Educational Paraprofessionals
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Occupational Therapy Assistants
  • Speech Language Pathologists
  • Case Managers
  • Nurses
  • Other Helping Professionals Who Work with Children


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