three students walking in new york city during a Therapeutic Gap Year Program

The Therapeutic Gap Year Program: A New Path Forward For College Students

Est. reading time: 4 mins
Posted Under: Insights

Clinically Reviewed by: Amanda Fialk, PhD, LCSW, LICSW


For students considering a pause from college, or a break between high school and college, a therapeutic gap year offers an important opportunity to grow, learn and develop socially, emotionally, and academically. It’s a chance to mature and gain essential skills that are not taught in schools, like social and emotional literacy or independent and executive functioning.

It also offers space for recovery for students with mental health, eating, or substance use concerns and room to explore personal interests and passions beyond the classroom.  With over 10 years of experience helping young adults launch independent lives, our teams at The Dorm are in a unique position to prepare students for life on campus and beyond.

This is how our Therapeutic Gap Year Program is designed to make a difference.

I am eternally grateful for the support and emotional safety I experienced at The Dorm. My life has really, truly been changed. – Dorm Client Testimonial

The Dorm’s Therapeutic Gap Year Program: What We Offer

A Comprehensive Gap Year Program Tailored to Each Student

Upon admission, all of our gap year students complete a comprehensive assessment which allows our team to develop a schedule and curriculum that meets their individual goals.

  • All of our schedules include a robust array of daytime, evening, and weekend activities that will keep students active and engaged
  • Our schedules comprise between 3 and 30 hours of activity and support per week.  See an example group schedule here
  • Introductory assessments include a biological, psychological, social, academic, nutritional, and fitness evaluation. If required, a psychiatrist is available to conduct psychiatric assessments
photos of the dorm community in nyc and dc illustrating a therapeutic gap year program

Emotional Literacy, Independent Functioning & Life Skill Development

Schools and colleges prepare students for tests and assignments but seldom teach the essential skills that help a young person function as a confident, independent adult.  Our Therapeutic Gap Year Program is the perfect space to practice and hone these skills for school and life. These include:

  • Helping students identify and cope with feelings more effectively through emotional regulation, distress tolerance, impulse control, conflict resolution, interpersonal effectiveness, clear communication, and mindfulness 
  • Independent living skills such as meal prep and cooking, laundry, managing a budget, apartment or dorm room upkeep, planning schedules or commitments, and managing/keeping daily routines

Do you or a loved one need help with mental health?

The Dorm is here.

Academic & Vocational Preparedness

Many students struggle with the newfound independence and demands of collegiate life. All of our gap year students work with an expert academic advisement team, tutors, coaches and our licensed clinicians to develop the skills they need for autonomous academic success. This includes:

  • Building essential academic functioning skills such as self-regulation, organization, working memory skills, time management and self-advocacy
  • Attending The Dorm U: a simulated college experience that allows students to explore all aspects of collegiate coursework without the high-stakes pressure
  • Skill-building workshops with opportunities to identify, set and work towards goals as well as develop skills like studying and note-taking, resume and cover letter writing, interview prep and how to research and apply to jobs and internships
  • Structured support around navigating common academic challenges including perfectionism, procrastination and social anxiety

Mental Health, Eating Disorder, and Substance Use Recovery Support

For students managing a mental health, eating, or substance use concern, our licensed clinicians and coaches will create a treatment plan that includes evidence-based treatments and recovery supports. This can include:

  • Individual therapy and clinical coaching sessions (with expertise in DBT,  EMDR, and trauma-based treatment)
  • Nutritional counseling sessions
  • 1:1 personalized meal support 
  • Group therapy (processing, systems, and psychoeducational)
  • Recovery meetings 
  • Mindfulness training for managing and coping with triggers

more photos of the dorm community in action illustrating a therapeutic gap year program

Help Navigating & Balancing Social Relationships and Dynamics

Some of the greatest challenges at college involve social dynamics and day-to-day interactions. We help students:

  • Improve their communication skills with friends, family, classmates, and roommates
  • Improve and set internal and external boundaries
  • Develop social skills through practice and exposure
  • Learn conflict management skills

An Experience of Community and Social Connectedness

No therapeutic gap year is complete without community and social connection. All of our schedules are focused on activities that foster peer-to-peer friendships and create safe and supportive spaces for sharing, socialization, and fun. This includes:

  • Daily breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with other students and team members
  • Dedicated social groups and activities including trivia and game nights 
  • Weekend activities focused on social and cultural experiences

Holistic Nutrition, Health & Wellness Coaching 

At The Dorm, we believe in an integrative and holistic approach to well-being. We offer all of our students opportunities to learn about nutrition, explore movement, be active, and learn mindfulness techniques that can help improve their mood, enhance focus, and increase concentration.

  • We offer yoga, meditation, reiki, Zumba, and Dorm fitness sessions
  • Cooking groups, nutritional education, and meal planning classes help students understand how food choices impact their physical and mental health while developing their intuitive eating acuity

Independent Living Opportunities

For students who are interested in living independently in an urban setting, we help them find a studio or 1-bedroom apartment and offer onsite support and structure as they practice independent living.

  • We help students find apartments in buildings that are doorman-supported and close to our facility
  • Our support extends to helping students with any disability accommodation needs they may have

Flexible, Rolling Admissions

While our gap year programs are designed to last a year, our teams are adaptable and our schedules can be adjusted to accommodate students’ evolving needs and timelines.

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