Teen girls are in crisis. Research found nearly 40% of girls studied in Chicago high schools are experiencing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder as well as anxiety and depression from exposure to violence.
But the University of Chicago’s Education Lab said there’s a school-based program that’s helping: Youth Guidance’s “Working on Womanhood” — or WOW. The program led to a 22% decrease in PTSD symptom severity and a 38% decrease in “at-risk” levels of PTSD. The study also found that participation in the WOW program decreased anxiety by about 10% and reduced depression by around 14%.
So how does WOW help? WOW is a two-year school-based group counseling program. Leaders use trauma-informed therapy, along with narrative and cognitive therapy. About 2,000 high school girls in Chicago are enrolled in the program. It has expanded to other cities, including Dallas and Boston.
In 2017, the University of Chicago Education Lab started researching the program and its benefits to gain evidence-based information on ways to reduce trauma responses in girls and young women.
Ngozi Harris, the director of program and staff development at WOW, and Monica Bhatt, senior research director at the University of Chicago Education Lab, joined “Chicago Tonight: Black Voices” for a conversation about WOW and the Education Lab’s report.