The group therapy difference at Shelterwood

Shelterwood students have access to a wide variety of therapies, and group therapy is integral to our clinical approach. In group therapy, the stage is set for transformation. “Students are learning from their peers, challenging unhealthy behavior, growing in community and supporting others,” says Kenny DeBlock, Substance Abuse Program Supervisor. “These groups can be such a powerful experience for our students.”

Students learn the value of accountability and equality through group therapy, plus practice positive peer relationships. “Students grow in accountability because they learn that not only do their actions matter, we are going to talk about them,” Kenny explains. “This is an opportunity for everyone to be seen as an equal and to have equal space to be challenged and to grow.”

untitled 29 1024x683 The group therapy difference at Shelterwood

Group therapy at Shelterwood takes place in two different formats: educational groups and processing groups. Educational groups are designed to help students gain information and build skills in a larger group setting. Centered on a specific topic, students learn strategies and methods to cope with challenges and move forward through their issues.

For example, a recent educational group led students in creating their own genogram, a visual display of a family tree. As they created their genograms, students visualized hereditary pattern. “Students got to share their genograms with the group,” Kenny says. “Students learn empathy and humanizing when they see that their peers may face the same struggles.” This format also allows the therapist to direct the conversation in a healthy way; for example, if several students show divorce in their genograms, the therapist can help them practice talking about common experiences in an assertive way.

Processing groups, in contrast, offer students an experiential application of what they are working on in therapy. Students learn verbal processing, how to express experiences to peers, sharing courageously, how to give and receive constructive feedback, healthy communication boundaries and more.

“As students process a certain topic with the group — for example, guilt and shame — the students recognize that other people have dealt with these issues too, and so they don’t feel as alone or isolated,” Kenny explains. “One especially cathartic aspect is that students can talk about their challenges and then experience real relational feedback from a variety of other students and other staff, so it’s not just sharing with one therapist or one parent. It’s a different experience than many of our kids have had.”

Distinctive to Shelterwood’s approach is the integration of staff mentors in group therapy settings. “The mentor staff have an opportunity to participate with students in group therapy,” Kenny says. Unlike conventional therapy relationships, students receive meaningful feedback from adults in the next stage of life. “You can find group therapy in many places, but this is something you will not find anywhere else.”

For many Shelterwood students, group therapy is a setting for real transformation. One student recently experienced a paradigm shift in how he viewed bullying, Kenny explains. At home, this student would bully his peers to try to win the favor of others.

“This student felt it was accepted, and even cool, to pick on other people,” Kenny says. “His peers at Shelterwood really challenged him on that behavior, and pointed out that while he thought bullying earned acceptance, he was in fact losing acceptance.”

“Ultimately, group therapy is important because we, as humans, live in community,” Kenny explains. “In group therapy, students recognize that because they are part of a greater community, their personal issues impact everyone. Groups foster a relational and positive peer environment. Students learn that they are part of something bigger than themselves.”

Recreation Symposium

Shelterwood staff train fellow professionals at a local symposium

%name Recreation SymposiumThe 2015 Midwest Symposium on Therapeutic Recreation and Adapted Physical Activity, a regional conference, was held in St. Louis, Missouri this April. Shelterwood Academy’s Recreation Therapist, Karalee White, and Brain Balance’s Amanda Gunter presented to a large group on the benefits of the two treatment approaches and how they work in tandem on the campus of Shelterwood.

The field of therapeutic recreation is broad, as it is designed to serve all ages of clients and needs and as a result, recreation therapists typically need a hefty toolbox of interventions. Unfortunately, the study of left and right brain functioning has been reserved for patients with brain injuries, or severe cognitive impairments and processing disorders. This has meant that many recreation specialists working with teens at therapeutic boarding schools have overlooked the growing field of neurobiology, and the new discoveries regarding the plasticity of the brain that are being made.

In the session, Amanda introduced recent trends and discoveries in neurological research with stages of brain %name Recreation Symposiumdevelopment, and how our system responds to stress with fight, flight or freeze reflexes. She presented on the Brain Balance concepts of functional disconnection between the right and left brain, where one hemisphere is showing deficits in sensory, cognitive or psycho-motor processing. She then provided a breakdown of the characteristic strengths and weaknesses for each hemisphere.

Karalee provided the group with examples of specific interventions that she uses at Shelterwood to enhance the functions of the right and left hemispheres of the brain. As she discussed the unique quality of motor movement, smells, colors and sounds required for improved functioning of each hemisphere, the room began to buzz with excitement as therapists started to whisper to each other with renewed excitement and intervention ideas.

The participants were invited to practice their understanding of the concepts by breaking into groups to design recreation and leisure programming that implemented hemispheric strategies to strengthen the weaker hemisphere and improve overall functioning. They were asked to assess a case and create a program based on hemispheric weakness, chronological age, brain age and problem area or diagnosis.  After a short time, each group presented their treatment designs with innovative detail and flourish, adding to the overall understanding of the group.

Responses to the session were numerous and some of the comments were:

  • “This is what Therapeutic Recreation needs to tie our wagon to.”
  • “Your session has been the talk of the conference.”
  • “These are tools I can use immediately!”
  • “I can’t wait to take this back and put this into practice.”
  • “I wish the session was longer, because I have so many questions.”
  • “This is something that we can do and do well.”
  • “The potential for this is exciting.”

Karalee and Amanda were encouraged by the response and have already been booked to speak again at the next symposium.

Karalee White, CTRS

Amanda Gunter

Don’t Back Off

Mistakes that therapists often make when working with struggling teens by Doré E. Frances, PhD

Mistake 4: Telling Parents to Back Off

Teenagers almost always come into therapy as well a residential treatment, complaining their parents are too strict and controlling. As a result, therapists who specialize in individual work with teens often get a misguided impression of what goes on at home and frequently advise the parents of teens to be more lenient – to relax their control. In fact, parents who yell and cajole are usually trying to avoid imposing a consequence on their teen. In that respect, they are actually protective and lenient. 

Screen Shot 2015 06 02 at 1.12.12 PM 300x259 Dont Back OffAmong the most harmful “back off” positions that therapists sometimes take with families is that young people have an inherent right to privacy outside the therapy room. Many parents I see report that their therapist actually criticized them for nosy and intrusive actions. It is crucial to remember that proclamations of privacy by troubled teens are simply ways of concealing things from their parents and maintaining the power position. It is only a teenager who is responsible and doing well who has earned the right to privacy and trust.

Therapists who make parents feel guilty about reasonable investigation into their child’s activities send the message that the teen is in charge. The privacy issue extends to many areas. When parents discuss drugs or sex with their teen, they are likely to hear, “It’s my body and it’s my choice.” Through this logic, there isn’t much that parents can do to help a troubled child. Therapists must address with parents their right to change their teen’s behavior around sex, drugs, smoking and dangerous friends.

All of these issues have to be faced and an understanding reached.

The more information parents have, the calmer and more in control of themselves and their parenting they will be. Parents who have little information about their child’s life are likely to be angry, reactive and inconsistent. The final and critical area in which advising parents to back off is an error is when teenagers are diagnosed with psychiatric disorders. Too many clinicians seem to believe that the best course when a young person is acting aggressively because of a psychiatric problem is for parents to be patient.

The underlying message from such therapists often is, “You as parents don’t really understand about this problem and need to leave it to us experts.”

As parents do less, the problems get worse. Craziness pays off if the child is not expected to respond reasonably. In my work with parents, I always stress they have a right to expect reasonable behavior of their son or daughter and “repressed anger” doesn’t give children the right to be verbally or physically abusive or self-harming.

This affirmation helps parents get beyond the too common idea that if they put pressure on a son or daughter who has a psychiatric disorder, he or she will only get worse, . . . and it will be their fault.

Structure is a healthy form of pressure. As parents feel more like successful family leaders, the negative emotional pressure abates.

 

Almost all therapists who have worked with teenagers have found themselves stuck in a clinical impasse with an explosive teen and his or her family. Yet it’s never too late to make a paradigm shift and help a family.  

First, a therapist must become comfortable with the idea of dealing with power tactics rather than communication skills. Doing so also requires getting used to having teenage clients who don’t like the therapist. The more aggressive a teenager is, the more certain it is that they’ll try punishing the therapist.

When my teen clients call me names I usually say, “You can’t hurt my feelings because I am not your mother. So I’ll keep doing what needs to be done.”

Second, therapists must be ready for greater problems initially. Most therapists prefer their treatment to calm things down and leave people feeling better. This strong therapy may escalate the problems initially, and this is scary for both therapist and family. The therapist must reassure the family that this escalation is expected and will be momentary. Therapists are mostly kindly helpers, so it’s counter intuitive for a therapist who works toward nice outcomes to step toward the fire and heat things up.

However, once a therapist has helped parents take charge and has seen the remarkable positive transformationScreen Shot 2015 06 02 at 1.08.52 PM 300x195 Dont Back Off in a formerly tormented teenager, it becomes easier to work this way. Parents start out saying, “It looks like my daughter’s possessed.” At the end of six or eight sessions, the same parent says, “My son’s back. He isn’t always sweet, but the boy I love is back.”


Professional therapists are there to help individuals and families deal with their problems in a meaningful and productive way.

Using problem-solving therapy techniques, treatments for teens average six to ten sessions, and then if things have not changed an out of home placement may need to be discussed.

When appropriate, professional therapists have no difficulty in working closely with other referring professionals to be certain that everyone involved is working toward the same goal.

This collaborative partnership helps to resolve complex problems for teens and their families more quickly.

Check out this important video on Fear

Mistakes Therapists Make

Four common errors that therapists make with teenagers, that Doré E. Frances has come across in her practice.

Mistake 3: Improving Family “Communication”

Screen Shot 2015 06 02 at 12.50.45 PM 300x202 Mistakes Therapists MakeThe most pervasive idea in both individual and family therapy is that young people run a muck because the family doesn’t “communicate” well. Too many therapists, in my opinion, focus on discussing what each member of the family feels without acknowledging any difference in status between children and parents.

They seem to believe that children may comment on parents’ sex life or spending habits as freely as parents would address the same subject with their child. When a young person is out of control and drunk on power, this attention to open communication is like throwing gasoline on an open flame.

I once told a 14-year-old client who was insulting his parents in a coaching session to stop speaking that way. He jumped up, pointed at me and shouted, “You’re my advocate. You have to let me say whatever I want as long as it’s what I really feel!”

I realized that this is what he had been taught by his former therapist at home before he entered a wilderness therapeutic outdoor program..

Therapists commonly teach parents and children to speak in “I” messages, and when no power struggle is going on, this practice is perfectly reasonable. However, when adolescents are angry and explosive, there is typically a power struggle going on, and this level of communication inflames it by raising an out of control teenager’s status to that of an equal partner with their parents. In power struggles, teenagers challenge parents about the content of an issue, and parents respond in the same vein.

John then screamed at his mother, “This is just bullshit! You always pull this kind of controlling shit on me. Everyone else’s parents are letting them go to the party. We’re not doing anything wrong mom.”

She responded to the content, defending herself by saying, “this isn’t bullshit.” She insisted that she and her Screen Shot 2015 06 02 at 12.50.09 PM 257x300 Mistakes Therapists Makehusband didn’t always control John and that she didn’t care what other parents allow. Some therapists might encourage this kind of interaction, thinking the teen and parents are communicating, when, in fact, the teenager is defining the issue and browbeating his parents. The communication approach I prefer simply acknowledges the process of the interaction and keeps parents from lapsing into a defensive position.

So with John’s mother, she might have said, “You know what, young man? As long as you’re talking to me that way, you aren’t going anywhere.” 

Often, I actually coach parents to be more mysterious and indirect by keeping their knowledge and plans to themselves. For instance, as a parent learns more about their teen’s friends, we encourage them to accumulate that knowledge until it can be used as part of a cohesive plan of action.

For instance, when parents learn about an illicit party this coming Friday night, instead of confronting the teen, it may be better to organize several parents to show up there together to break it up.

Difficult teenagers often work very hard so that parents don’t learn anything about their lives outside the home, while parents usually talk constantly, sharing all their plans and giving away whatever strategies they may be developing. Teenagers usually will resist their parents’ taking control of information by threatening further misbehavior or escalating the confrontation on the spot in an attempt to make parents capitulate.

By paying attention to process and not giving in to the temptation to explain and justify, parents can maintain their calm and gain greater authority.

Check out this interesting video on The Principle of Confusion

Errors that Therapists make

Taking back authority in the counseling office and in the home

Most therapists I know agree that teenagers can be among the most difficult clients they see in their practice.

iStock 000007761349Small 200x300 Errors that Therapists makeThey often refuse to attend sessions, refuse to speak when they do attend, swear at parents and therapist, and storm out of the room when they hear things they don’t like. Difficult teenagers often argue head-to-head with adults and professionals using arguments such as, “I’m not going to give them any respect if they don’t give me respect,” and “It’s my life.” At times such teenagers have thrown objects across the office. One particularly aggressive thirteen-year-old girl threw her high heel sandal directly at her therapist while hollering, “I’m glad I’m not one of your kids!”

Some teens are so direct that they come out and say, “There’s nothing you (the therapist) or them (their parents) can do about me.”

Any therapist treating domestic violence takes one look at a husband who is dominating and abusing his wife and recognizes that he exercises power over her. Yet, when a teenager threatens, dominates by shouting and imposing guilt and controls their parents by threatening to run away, most therapists fail to realize that abuse may be going on. Adolescent and preadolescent behavior begins at younger ages as our culture educates them more rapidly. Parents are walking the fine line between being authorities / parents and friends with their children. However, this tightrope is precarious and requires a lot more knowledge and patience than, “spare the rod and spoil the child.” As psychologist David Elkind pointed out decades ago, children are growing up more quickly and losing their childhoods too early in our fast-moving society.

As teenagers become adult-like at earlier ages, they see themselves as “equal” to the adults. Our society isn’t teaching them the distinction between being of equal value versus having equal authority as adults.

Teens are extremely vulnerable to believing that they can handle everything and don’t need adults.

They are struggling to take control of their lives as parents struggle to give them that control only as they’re ready to handle it. There’s a natural power struggle. So, how does an excellent therapist treat a struggle between a teenager and their parents?

Do they ignore the power issues and treat everyone as equals, or understand the need for order in a child’s life through support and leadership? Therapies that advocate support without leadership fail, giving teenagers too much control, in my opinion.

There are four common errors that therapists make with teenagers, that Doré E. Frances, has come across in her practice. They are surprisingly simple to grasp, and they always make matters worse:

Mistake 1: Courting the Teenage Client

Mistake 2: Falling Prey to Therapeutic Tunnel Vision

Mistake 3: Improving Family “Communication”

Mistake 4: Telling Parents to Back Off

We will discuss the first mistake that is often made by inexperienced counselors or weak therapeutic boarding schools. Courting the teenage client can often begin with the initial phone call from a parent.

The first words out of a parent’s mouth often are something like, “The counselor at the school said we need to bring Tammy in for family therapy, but Tammy says we’re the crazy ones and she won’t come in. She said she wouldn’t talk even if she did come in.” In the residential setting, a parent might be concerned that while their teen needs help, he or she would never allow it to happen and would possibly runaway or act out before they could get them to the facility.

This is the number one power tactic teenagers use to keep therapy from happening.

Weak therapists accept this story, suggesting that in order for someone to change they must be willing right from the beginning. They quickly empower the threat of the teen by saying, “oh well I guess there’s nothing to be done when their child won’t cooperate”. When this is the message to your family the therapist might as well say, “Sorry folks, you better get used to your daughter running your family.”

The best therapists, I have come across, when confronting this situation, tell parents on the phone that they treat kids who “won’t cooperate” all the time, and that they, the parents, must decide whether therapy is to happen.

Even in therapeutic boarding schools, teens try to avoid counseling. We recommend that our counselors tell the teen that the session is scheduled and they are expected to be there, and if they are not, the grown-ups will meet anyway. We also coach the parents, who are our clients, to point out to their teen that the adults will be talking about them and making decisions about their life. Most kids come to the first session after hearing this.

When they don’t attend, the therapist agrees with the parents in the first session to change something major at home, and when their adolescent gets angry about the change, to simply say, “Oh, we decided that at the therapy session.”

Teenagers almost always come to the second family session. As long as parents are reactive, and feel helpless and hopeless, the young person wields the power, dominates, controls, and simultaneously suffers. Another way that many therapists court teenage clients and make matters worse, in my opinion, is by according them the same treatment status as adult clients. The prevailing belief–not supported by law–that teenagers are entitled to a confidential relationship with their therapists leaves a teenager who is drunk on power thumbing their nose at the parents. A lot of therapists operate under the same standard of privacy with their teenage clients that they have with adult clients, which they feel requires them to withhold critical information from parents. Many angry parents come to our program with this complaint, stating that their teen’s therapist was withholding important facts, such as the teen’s sexual activity, smoking, drugs or criminal behavior, from them. Confidentiality in families is held within the family and not by individual members. Therefore, the therapist has latitude to share whatever needs to be shared.

The best therapists make it clear that they are closely involved with parents and they will use their judgment as to what they share with them.

After all, what’s the point of a teenager telling a therapist they are using drugs when the therapist can’t help the teen discuss it with the parents and find a solution? Creative therapists invite teens to withhold information from them until they decide they can be trusted. I find that teens then share sensitive information with their therapist even though they don’t give them a guarantee of confidentiality.

By Doré E. Frances, PhD

Education Consultant

Compassion Fatigue

iStock 000013332733Medium 300x200 Compassion FatigueRecently, I spent a few days at the NATSAP conference on behalf of Shelterwood. I was fortunate enough to hear John Townsend speak on boundaries. He shared about the cost of not keeping healthy boundaries for parents and care workers (compassion fatigue). Here are a few of the thoughts that I felt were particularly helpful.

Teens Need Boundaries

Adolescence is an important stage for kids to push against parents in an effort to build autonomy. Without boundaries, teens are more likely to become depressed, anxious, angry and detached. Of course, it is not easy to put boundaries in place and maintain them. Boundaries can feel like battle lines as teens love to say, ‘no,’ but often struggle hearing the word ‘no’ themselves. Yet we all know, as successful adults, that hearing the word no is a part of life. It is critical to be able to deal with our emotions when someone says no to us.

Boundaries will feel harsh if they are not built with love and empathy. But make no mistake; there still needs to be a line. Without boundaries, teens can become aggressive, believing that the world is their ‘property.’ Other teens that have experienced boundary violations may become depressed and allow others to trample on their boundaries sexually, emotionally, or physically because they have come to believe that they have no ‘property.’

If not creating boundaries leaves our kids or clients struggling into adulthood, then why is it so hard for us to maintain clear boundaries? Why might we so quickly give in to the demands of our teens, friends, co-workers or spouses?

  1. Afraid of losing the relationship

Relationships are critical to each of our lives and they are often what keep us going. It is easy for us as parents or counselors to build entitlement within our kids or clients because we are safe for them and we feel special when they seek us out. So we might give them extra time, money, or praise when what would actually be better for them is to hear the word ‘no.’ They need to hear no even when giving them a longer counseling session might seem useful, or when giving them their full allowance even though chores are undone in order for them to buy that special pair of pants that will generate a hug and a smile. Teens become entitled so quickly when boundaries are not kept. It is so easy to drift from compassion into co-dependency. When we are afraid of losing a relationship with a distant teen, friend, or spouse, he or she quickly has leverage on us and this is a dangerous power for anyone to have, especially teens. In order to combat the need for your teen’s approval, try to create a ‘life team,’ a group of adults that can support and encourage you outside of the home. Don’t rely on your kids to nurture you, lest you give them too much power.

  1. Conflict Avoidance

Each of us learned how to deal with conflict when we were nine years old. Take a moment to think back to those young years in your childhood home. Maybe you learned how to explode with anger, change the subject, or laugh. Each of these techniques does not really deal with the conflict. The inability to manage conflict leaves you weak in the face of opposition and trying to defend yourself when you actually do say ‘no’ in order to create a boundary around a behavior. Townsend encourages people to role-play in an effort to change the neurology in the brain. It is critical that we as parents and care givers learn to confront conflict and become able to embrace the emotions that come along with saying ‘no’ in order to win the long- term battle of autonomy.

  1. Fear of Failure

We create a fragile teen when we don’t think they can handle boundaries. They become more insecure when we fail to provide the security of rules and follow through. Teens need to learn how to adapt to the difficulties of the world and that failure is part of life. As parents and counselors, we often perceive struggling teens as weak and incapable of dealing with failure. We might unconsciously believe that their drug addiction, depression or anger is the result of difficulty in their lives, and that if we can just remove the difficulty, then they won’t need to self medicate by cutting their arms, getting high, or acting out sexually. When we see them as fragile, we tend to compensate for their weaknesses and enable them to maintain these behaviors. Trying to keep your teen happy and safe will wear you out and fail to teach them how to survive on their own. So often we tiptoe around our teens when they struggle with depression, anger, anxiety, and/or learning difficulties that we actually build greater insecurity in them and continue to perpetuate a dependence on us. While this might make us feel needed and important in the relationship, we are actually just enabling co-dependence.

If you struggle to create boundaries with your teen, ask yourself these four questions when they make a request for your help:

  1. Is this something that they can do for themselves?
  2. Do you have the resources to help?
  3. Will you feel cheerful or resentful after helping them?
  4. Is the outcome going to build autonomy or dependence?

How do I get my teen off the couch?

Getting your teen off your couch is often says more about your parenting skills than it does about the teen.  We all need a little Parent Training because we tend to lack the courage to follow through on our directives.  If it is time to take back your home this short Parent Training might be for you.

1. No problem for you.

    • When we rescue the teenagers in our lives from difficulties THAT THEY COULD manage, we teach them two valuable lessons.  One, they can get others to do their work.  This produces entitlement and in working in mental health for a decade, I can say nobody who is entitled is happy.  No one.
    • Teenagers won’t do work that somebody else is willing to do for them.  You were that way when you were a teenager.  I was too.  And I was good at it!
    • Parents should believe enough in the teenagers who are in their lives to empower them through serving in a consultant role.

2. Offer choices.

    • As you are listening, encouraging, consider offering some choices if the teenager is stuck.
    • Remember your presentation of possible choices is YOUR job.  Choosing and enacting them is theirs.
    • Caregivers need to remember that a teenager can only score a goal if the teenager possesses the ball.

3. Consequences only.

    • Consequences are the teacher.  Enjoyable consequences and not so enjoyable consequences.
    • Many folks who support teenagers, including me, are incessantly tempted to REMIND students of what they learned.  I can then become construed fairly as condescending and the teenager then works to prove to me that they didn’t learn anything.
    • Remember, none of us like other peoples’ ideas as much as we like our own!  So we can smile, listen, love, consult, hug, then leave.

4. Don’t warn or remind.

  • With regard to warnings and reminders, I have learned two things from the teenagers God places in my life.  One, they teach others to not own what the adult intends the teenager to own.
  • If I remind a teenager 5 times to get off the Wii, then I’ve just taught that teenager that he doesn’t have to listen to me until the 5th time.
  • The real world doesn’t usually offer reminders.

5. Don’t justify or defend.

  • When we justify our authority, it’s because WE don’t feel you have enough of it; that’s about us not them.

 

Parent Training reminds caregivers that a teenager can only score a goal if the teenager possesses the ball. Call to find out more parenting tips

Taking Advice from a Family Counselor

The family counseling profession has burst on to the scene in the last 30 years and is firmly entrenched in the fabric of today’s society. From Dr. Phil to Dr. Lara, from Internet sites to Facebook sites, from L.P.C.’s to M.D.’s, from workbooks to library books, family counseling is playing a huge part in helping a hurting world.

The focus on helping inward issues is to be applauded, particularly in a society that is slow to take true responsibility for problems. While we don’t need to shy away from asking for help, we do need to be careful whom we seek as our source of help.

DSC8848 copy 300x200 Taking Advice from a Family CounselorMy son-in-law Mark was telling me the story about a well-meaning radio announcer that was helping her audience prepare for the pending hurricane to hit her listening area. “Fill the bathtub with water in case electricity goes out, then you’ll have a water source for drinking and cooking,” she announced. As the hurricane made landfall, that same announcer instructed any listeners still in the area to “take shelter in the middle rooms of your house. If it’s the bathroom, sit in the tub and put mattresses over your head for protection.” A panicked women immediately called in and asked, “Won’t I get all wet if I sit in the tub?” Advice comes in a variety of flavors and colors- some of it helps and some of it hinders.

Having a few letters after a name and a shingle in the front of an office does not guarantee good family counseling. And, I’m embarrassed to mention, calling oneself a “Christian Counselor” doesn’t guarantee good family counseling either. I heard a psychiatrist say once that he was looking for a true Christian colleague that would come practice in his clinic. He got a call from a friend he remembered from medical school years earlier. “Thanks for inquiring, but I had no idea you were a Christian Counselor,” the psychiatrist commented. “Oh, I can be any kind of Counselor you want me to be,” said the friend, “I just need a job.” Scary.

So, whether it be your teenager, your marriage, or yourself, seek out help from the many excellent Counselors that have dedicated their lives to being people helpers. But be wise. Here are three basic filters I would run through every potential Counselor before choosing: 1) Be sure the Counselor has professional training in being a people helper. Make sure the Counselor is licensed as a professional Counselor, which assures you that they have the degrees, training (thousands of hours) and competence to truly help. 2) Be sure the Counselor has a pure and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. Have them tell you their spiritual journey. Every Counselor bases their family counseling on something. Be sure yours is on Jesus. 3) Be sure the Counselor has a good reputation. Call around. Find out who has been to this Counselor. Make sure the Counselor fits you.

I am so thankful that God has gifted so many professionals with skills to help the hurting and heal the wounded. When you encounter difficulty personally or within your family, be willing to let someone “bear the load” with you. But be careful and prayerful as you find the right person.

Don’t get caught sitting in a bathtub full of water.

Horses guide therapy sessions

DSC 0001 copy 300x199 Horses guide therapy sessionsHorse therapy is a critical component in any top-notch therapeutic boarding school.

Horses have been used for many things over the years like robbing banks, delivering the mail, pulling plows, and even jumping in efforts to win Olympic medals, but did you know that now they are being used as teachers in therapeutic schools?

Horses actually teach class and guide therapy sessions at our school.  Believe it or not, horses are very expressive and are able to communicate verbally and non-verbally.

Surprisingly, relationships with people and horses are very similar, allowing teens to talk to the horse like they might communicate with another person.  But unlike people, horses cannot be controlled or manipulated and therefore provide real unbiased feedback to the teen.  But don’t worry; the teens rarely get kicked.

In fact, our horses are quite gentle when providing an immediate response.  Yet, they are able to highlight the short-comings in one’s communication style with the firmness that only a thousand pound beast might.

The instructors are watching this interaction to help the teen uncover patterns of communication. With time, the partnership that is built between the horse and a student is potent and enables a student to work out some very personal issues. And so the horse arena becomes a counseling arena as teens battle to gain their voice while revealing themselves for the first time.  It is a magical experience that awakens self-understanding even among the most oppositional of students.

Our primary goal is not technical riding or horsemanship tasks or even to foster a love for horses, but rather to provide an opportunity for teens to learn about themselves and how they communicate. Partnering students with horses has become a fantastic tool at Shelterwood through which teens can express themselves. Who knew that the best teacher your son or daughter might have is standing in the pasture eating grass?

Stay tuned to subsequent blogs where we discuss other special therapies including, our low ropes course, recreation therapy, sand tray, art, and music – all of which are being used by Shelterwood to help teens uncover the motivations that maintain feelings of depression, anger, and anxiety.

If you are interested in Horse Therapy give us a call to learn more.  (800) 584 5005