Integrating State of the Art Psychiatric Treatment With Outstanding Academics in a Dynamic School Environment

To learn more, or to refer a student, contact Jennifer Hayes, our Director of Enrollment, at 908-543-0220 Ext 200 or


Parents, Students and Educators
What They Say

“Though I didn’t know it at the time, CDS meant everything to me. Ultimately, I was the one who made the choice to turn my life around and go down a new path.”
Student, Fort Lee, NJ

“I want to personally thank you for all of your help with this very difficult family. Their son is in great need of treatment and I know both parents are comforted by the high level of care that he will receive at Cornerstone. For them I know that they see the 24/7 hot line as a godsend: Mom said that it’s the first time that she can really sleep at night.”

Case Manager, Essex County, NJ

“Cornerstone meant a lot to me. It taught me how to cope. It has truly made me the person I am today, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Student, Union, NJ

Working to overcome the core underlying emotional obstacles with multiple methods of interventions

Upon enrollment, an initial clinical evaluation of the student and a parent meeting are conducted to identify the underlying causes of the student’s school avoidance and any other emotional challenges. The student and their parent complete specialized questionnaires and prior efforts by school and mental health professionals are reviewed to fully develop a successful individualized treatment plan.

Pathways’ clinical staff are highly experienced licensed mental health professionals with an extensive background in treating children and adolescents and specialized expertise in treating school avoidance. The clinician working with the student in Pathways remains their therapist during their entire stay at Cornerstone, greatly increasing the student’s comfort when transitioning to the mainstream setting. When appropriate, students also regularly see Cornerstone’s board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrists, who are at the school daily, so that any urgently needed sessions are provided immediately.

The clinical regimen at Pathways is always tailored to each student’s individual needs and follows the core model of Cornerstone Day School. Programming typically includes twice-daily group therapy, one that is insight-oriented and one that is a DBT-informed psycho-educational group. There is also weekly individual and family therapy, and in the service of supporting the attendance and participation of Pathways students, clinicians and/or the Supervisor of Pathways spend time with each student every day that they are in the suite.

Treatment typically includes gradual exposure procedures, anxiety-reduction exercises, coping strategies and individualized incentive programs to reinforce school attendance and motivate a student to attend regularly. Such plans typically involve providing meaningful rewards/privileges for successful school attendance while discouraging absences.

Certified therapy dogs are a regular part of Pathways. These dogs help students relax and enjoy Pathways, increase motivation to attend school and enhance connectiveness with peers.

Home visits

For some Pathways students, home visits play a very important role in treatment, particularly early in enrollment. The general objective of each home visit is to motivate the student to attend school. Home visits can occur well before district transportation arrives, giving the student ample time to get ready for school, but can also take place after school hours as well. During pre-school home visits particularly, the staff assists parents to implement strategies that will help the student to go to school on that day.

Parent Support, Education and Coaching

Supporting parents in their efforts to overcome their child’s school avoidance and other emotional challenges is very much part of Pathways. In addition to home visits, a wide range of services are available for parents:

  • Weekly family therapy, along with morning and evening phone calls are used to both update parents about the student’s school day and review strategies to be used at home to support attendance and overcome any immediate obstacles.
  • Parents of school avoidant students are offered a specialized twice-monthly education and support group that helps educate parents about school avoidance and focuses on effective solutions. The group, called P.A.S.S. (Parents of Avoidant School Students) provides an opportunity for parents to learn more about school avoidance and successful intervention as well as gain mutual support from other parents who share their struggles.
  • Parents are invited to a weekend “Parent Retreat” shortly after their child begins enrollment, which includes parent education, support and a presentation from graduates so that parents hear first-hand from students how best to benefit from the overall Cornerstone Experience.

24/7 Availability

Support and guidance for students and parents are core to Pathways clinical services. Our 24-hour, 7-day-per-week call line is always available to our students and parents when there are any important questions or struggles outside of school hours. Parents find this availability particularly helpful in managing any difficult moments with their child, particularly on the weekends.