“I saw her gain respect for herself, and she found who she was in Christ.”

Before Shelterwood, “it was complete chaos,” Tracie Manriquez says. Yet today, three years since her daughter Kate’s graduation from Shelterwood, the family is transformed. Rafael Manriquez, Kate’s father, points to a simple but profound change: “Before Shelterwood, Kate referred to me as ‘Rafael,’” he says. “Now, she calls me Dad.”

Rafael and Tracie were consumed with worry about Kate’s increasingly reckless behavior. “Our marriage was on the rocks, relationships were ruined, Kate was making bad decisions because she was insecure and did not respect herself,” Tracie says. “Every day was just a battlefield — every day, we were fighting, arguing and worried about what Kate would do. Nothing worked, and she was just getting worse.”

She had fallen in with the wrong crowd and Kate hit her lowest point when she and several other students were arrested. “That was really the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Tracie recalls. “She was dealing with some serious stuff.”

Tracie and Rafael had been looking at programs in California, where they lived, but Kate’s grandmother found Shelterwood. Although it was far from home, Tracie and Rafael knew it was the best option for Kate. “It was perfect. We liked the role Shelterwood had in being both Biblically-based and therapeutic. We applied, they accepted her and within a week of her arrest, she was on her way to Shelterwood,” Tracie says. She and Rafael hired a transport agency because they knew they personally would not have been able to get Kate on an airplane.

Tracie reflects on the day Kate arrived at Shelterwood. “That day was sad. I felt guilt and failure, but I also felt relief. It was the hardest day of my life.”

Slowly but surely, God used Shelterwood to change Kate’s heart. “Kate felt like the other Shelterwood students had a worse family life than what she had. That opened her eyes to realize, wow, she was not alone and she needed to take back control of her life,” Rafael says.

“Her Shelterwood counselor really saw in her that she had a heart for God and needed some direction,” Tracie says. “I saw her gain respect for herself, and she found who she was in Christ. For the first time she felt beautiful. She dove into Bible study and really took hold of that and ran with it.”

Integral to Kate’s healing was the combination of multiple forms of therapy. Kate enjoyed serving on the kitchen staff. “She really embraced that and she felt that she had worth and had something to give back,” Tracie says. She also learned a lot from the ropes course. “The ropes course helped her learn how to depend on others. To be outside and to do something different than she had ever done helped her build confidence.”

Rafael also points to the excellent education Kate received while at Shelterwood. “The education was great,” he says. Kate graduated six months earlier while she was there and she even received help with her college applications while she was at Shelterwood.”

Three years later, the entire family has been transformed. “Our whole family is in a much better place,” Tracie says. “It was hard to trust Kate before, because what she was doing was hurting the family. Today, Kate takes responsibility for her actions, while before it was always the blame game. We have a very strong relationship because of her time at Shelterwood. Several times, she has said, I just want to make you proud. That means so much to us from where we were before.”

Today, Kate enjoys her full-time work as an assistant property manager — and as her relationship with Rafael and Tracie continues to strengthen, Katie is embracing her Shelterwood testimony. “Kate is getting ready to speak at our church about her time at Shelterwood. She hopes to help other girls. She knows she was led through this experience and she wants to help other girls who are struggling with what she has faced.” Read about Kate’s journey from her perspective.

If your teen’s story sounds like Kate’s, Shelterwood can help. Take the first step towards transformation for your whole family. Reach out today: 866.585.8939.

The Power of Play

Marbles, Lincoln Logs, building blocks, board games, even Play Doh: all of these common toys become clinical tools in play therapy. Personalized treatment within our residential setting is a critical part of the Shelterwood plan, and we match teens with the best possible methods of intervention, making our therapeutic program intensely personal and purposeful. Shelterwood therapist LaTisha Robinson dives in to explain the power of play therapy and why it is one of the many therapies we use.

Play therapy as a clinical practice: Our defenses are naturally lowered when we play, says LaTisha. The shift from traditional talk therapy to play therapy can offer a fresh perspective. “Sometimes, we use play therapy as a modality when we feel like we have lost momentum therapeutically. This allows students to open up in a way that is different from the traditional talk therapy,” she explains. “Many teenagers anticipate the traditional talk therapy, and they are prepared for that. When we pull out blocks, Play-Doh or a board game, it shifts their mindset. It helps to open their eyes to new ideas.”

How Shelterwood approaches play therapy: “Every therapist has their own modality,” LaTisha explains. “Although teens have a chronological age, play therapy really taps into their brain age component. Sometimes, play therapy can help shift the conversation into a lighter mood. Teens become fully engaged in the process of it. The possibilities are truly endless.”

Processing and play therapy: Another advantage to play therapy is the underlying messages teens will share. “We get the unwritten messages,” LaTisha says. “We can pick up on things that teens would not otherwise vocalize. Through actions in playing, their defenses are being lowered and it opens up so many different pathways. With play, you are interacting on a completely different level.” Teens are able to build skills in processing and self-awareness as well.

Play therapy in action: LaTisha recalls a student who thrived as a result of his participation in play therapy. “This student was really struggling with trust. He was putting up walls, he was defensive and would frequently break rules. So we started playing with a football, just throwing it back and forth. He was not saying much at first, and had never told me anything related to his personal life. During one session, he finally opened up and started telling me stories about football games, how he had been hurt in the past, how people had let him down and much more,” she says. Whenever the student had something to share, he would grab the football. He grew to see people as trustworthy and dependable.

Going beyond child’s play: “Play therapy has so much value and so much weight when you tap into that inner child who is longing to be heard and acknowledged,” LaTisha says. “Play therapy is a proven cognitive behavior way to work through trauma, grief, loss, anxiety, depression, and can have real power in gaining ground with teens.”

Meet Shelly Moss

Shelly Moss, Director of Admissions at Shelterwood Residential Treatment Agency, loves giving families hope. Get to know Shelly.

Texas AM Parents weekend 038 1024x922 Meet Shelly Moss

What Shelly loves most about Shelterwood: “I love that children come to us broken, and at Shelterwood, they realize their true worth,” Shelly says. “Families are healed and transformed here.”

Forever an Aggie: Shelly earned her bachelor’s degree in business from Texas A&M University, then went on to earn her J.D. at the Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. While in Birmingham, she lived next door to another A&M alum. Rodney invited her to Aggie Muster, a special Texas A&M tradition — “and the rest is history!” Shelly smiles. She and Rodney have been married for 25 years.

Family: Rodney and Shelly have four children, and all are proud Aggies. Their son was even the Mascot Corporal, responsible for the A&M mascot Reveille, and Miss Reveille ma’am would visit the Moss home over Ian’s school breaks. Rodney and Shelly have three dogs of their own as well: Blues, Buster and Tilly.

Her Shelterwood connection: It was because of her family that Shelly initially found Shelterwood. “Our daughter had struggled from the time she was in junior high, and we’d tried everything on our own to get her the help she needed,” Shelly recalls. When her Montessori high school closed down, and she had few local options left, Shelly and Rodney began researching therapeutic boarding schools through their connection to Kanakuk Kamps. “Knowing Joe White’s connection to Shelterwood gave me lots of peace.” Her daughter’s experience was transformational. Today, Shelly’s daughter is studying education at A&M, and Shelly is the Shelterwood Director of Admissions.

Her favorite part about being the Director of Admissions: “I love giving families hope,” Shelly says. “At Shelterwood, we can get to the bottom of the strongholds that are causing pain and help families reach a place of peace.”

A love for families: In part because of Shelly’s heart for families, the Aggie couple were recently awarded the 2017 Texas A&M Parents of the Year award. Rodney and Shelly’s platform is one of faith and family. “Difficult times can become learning experiences when families love each other and trust each other. We believe that through open communication, caring for your spouse and family and doing things God’s way through love and encouragement, you can get through any crisis.”

The most unique thing happening at Shelterwood: “I believe the Brain Balance program that families choose to participate in is a real game-changer,” Shelly says. “The students who need the program gain a whole new level of self-awareness, and Brain Balance helps them educationally and therapeutically. It makes a real different during their time at Shelterwood.”

Best part of her job at Shelterwood: “Shelterwood offers teens the tools they need to make healthy choices for the rest of their lives,” she says. “I love being a part of a team that offers hope to families that are struggling.”

Communication strategies for parents and teens

Recently, Shelterwood Program Director Rujon Morrison and Brain Balance Program Director Amanda Gunter joined forces to share communication strategies with parents. Their presentation “New Connections: Empowering Communication” walks through many facets of how parents and teens connect with each other.

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Rujon Morrison and Amanda Gunter discuss communication strategies for parents and teens.

During their conversation, Rujon and Amanda explore:

  • Various methods of communication, from loved-based vs. fear-based to healthy vs. unhealthy
  • How our unique temperaments influence the way we communicate — and the way we prefer to be communicated with
  • The components of emotional intelligence
  • Communication styles and attachment styles
  • How a teenager’s brain age and developmental stage impacts their communication
  • The relationship between IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence) — and how this impacts our ability to share our thoughts or share our emotions

Amanda and Rujon offer actionable ideas and tangible strategies to communicate while navigating the often turbulent teenage years, as well as how Shelterwood works with teens on communication and restoration. Listen below:

Students take steps towards sobriety in Shelterwood’s Substance Abuse Program

When a teen is facing substance abuse, it is easy to lose hope. At Shelterwood, our substance abuse treatment program combines educational, counseling and experiential elements to lay the foundation students need for a sober, healthy life.

Teens on the substance abuse treatment track at Shelterwood participate in 16 structured weeks of educational groups. During this time frame, students spend time in educational small groups, processing and counseling groups focused on relapse prevention, one-on-one sessions with their substance abuse counselor and more.

During the education portion of the program, students learn how addiction impacts their bodies, minds and hearts. “Someone who is facing addiction issues needs specific information about addiction — from understanding how addictions are formed to what causes a relapse to what steps to take to get sober,” explains Kenny DeBlock, Substance Abuse Program Supervisor. “Students gain the tools and skills they need for sobriety, so they’re headed in the right direction when they return home from Shelterwood.”

DSC8968 1024x683 Students take steps towards sobriety in Shelterwood’s Substance Abuse Program

Substance abuse counseling at Shelterwood is provided by credentialed, specialized therapists. “Shelterwood students work with their counselors to understand the unhealthy patterns in their lives and to learn how to do life differently,” Kenny adds.

A common misconception in other treatment programs is that resolving an underlying issue — like depression or family struggles, for example — can remedy addiction. “Given the intense counseling work done in other areas, it can be easy to allow the addiction work to fall to the side. However, research shows us that addiction needs to be addressed specifically,” Kenny explains. This is why Shelterwood students participate in their addiction counseling in conjunction with their other therapy work.

Students in the substance abuse treatment program at Shelterwood have the opportunity to practice what they are learning in an experiential, hands-on way. “Shelterwood as a whole is extremely relational in the therapy we do here, and relationships are at our core,” Kenny says. “Our program offers that critical experiential piece, so students are able to explore what it looks like to live free of substance abuse and experience the idea that a sober life is not only possible, but can be rewarding.”

With their mentors and their peers, students practice building healthy relationships that do not rely on drugs or drinking. Furthermore, teens experience having fun sober and relaxing sober. “We encourage our counselors to spend time with their teens having a fun evening, like going bowling or getting ice cream for example, as a teachable moment,” Kenny says. “Teens learn that they don’t need to take drugs or drink to enjoy time with their peers.”

Particularly during the teen years, there can be a fine line between experimenting with substances and substance abuse, Kenny explains. This is why addressing substance abuse early creates the best chance for success. “Research supports that the earlier we can intervene in a young person’s life, the higher the chance of remedying that addiction,” he says. “At Shelterwood, we focus on catching addiction early, doing the intense work and then helping the student find some healthy habits and healthy thinking to steer their life in a positive direction.”

Kenny also points to the changed peer culture at Shelterwood as framework for success. “Students often come to Shelterwood ambivalent about sobriety, not sure if that is the path they want for their life,” he says, “So that positive peer culture helps students quickly come to the conclusion that they want to be sober and they are able to be successful in that. Many students who were on the fence have seen the value in this.”

Integral in the Shelterwood substance abuse program is laying groundwork for sober living after Shelterwood. “Our addiction counselors help students build that plan, both behaviorally and emotionally, and then build a support network around them,” Kenny says, even going so far as helping students engage in a peer support group back home.

“Students leave the Shelterwood substance abuse program with everything they need educationally to begin a life of sobriety when they arrive home,” Kenny says. “They are ready with a strong foundation for a healthy life.”