Friday, February 10, 2017

Do we all have a purpose in life?

By Stephen C. Schultz


The sky was grey with wispy clouds having just released their moisture. The sun was just starting to peek over the distant horizon and break through the grey fluff. To see these surroundings would have you believe it was a beautiful winters morning.

The steam from my breathing wafted upward and created little ice crystals on my eyelashes. The sidewalk was covered in ice that had formed little pot holes from where people had walked before the snow could be shoveled. I was on my way to class at the local university. As I approached the corner, I heard a clicking sound accompanied by an almost imperceptible whirring. I glanced across the street and saw Trent, a 14 year old young man making his way down the street. I was able to wave and catch his eye.



I shouted out; “Hi Trent! Good to see you this morning!”

There was no response. He simply kept making his way down the street with a very determined, focused effort. Some might consider that behavior on Trent's part to be rude. Others might consider it normal behavior for a 14 year old boy. For me, I was thrilled to see him and excited to simply have the opportunity to shout across the street.

You see, Trent was riding in a motorized wheel chair, bouncing across snow and ice and little pot holes. His arms and legs were constricted in a contorted manner up toward his body and his head swayed from side to side and front to back in an uncontrolled chaotic rhythm. Somehow, he was able to reach out with his left arm and grasp a small round knob on the left armrest of his wheelchair. This small knob was the control stick for moving his chair forward as well as steering it.

Trent was born with Cerebral Palsy. The year was 1985. My interactions with Trent actually started a couple of months earlier in the year. I was taking Anatomy & Physiology in school and had an opportunity to work at the local hospital in the Physical Therapy Department. Trent's parents brought him in one day for us to do some range of motion exercises with him and help him with some stretching.



I recall my first time speaking with Trent was when I reached down and lifted him from his wheelchair and gently placed him on the padded table. While he could make eye contact, he could not speak in more than a guttural grunt or grown. His arms and legs were atrophied and his muscles constricted to a tight, wiry fetal position.

I stood to the side near his head as the physical therapist started doing some range of motion exercises with his arms and legs. It was painful for him and it was obvious he didn’t like the stretching. I helped with some of the exercises and spoke words of encouragement to  him;

“Your doing great Trent! Keep it up buddy! That’s the way...now you’re getting there!”

Over the next couple of months, Trent would come in three times a week. I really grew to like this kid and gained a lot of respect for his determination, resilience and courage. We were able to use aqua-therapy where I would get into a large Jacuzzi pool with Trent. I would pick him up and hold him on my hip and walk into the pool. It was warm water and would loosen up the muscles in his arms and legs. It was a fun time. We would play Karate Kid in the pool. I would toss the floating thermometer out into the middle of the pool. Then I would say;



“OK Trent, you're the Karate Kid! You need to karate kick that thermometer!”

I would then slide across the pool with him in my arms and he would splash and kick at the thermometer. He would laugh in a hauntingly type of moan, but his eyes said it all. Trent was a very smart kid, he was in there normal as can be. It’s just that his body didn't work right.  We had fun together...we grew close...it was a healing and maturing experience for me as well as for him. Trent went on to get his Eagle Scout award and continued to engage and live life to the best of his ability.

It’s interesting how life moves on. Was there a purpose to our interaction and relationship? I don’t know what ever became of Trent. I don’t know if he is still battling this earthly fight or has left behind the constraints of his mortal body. One thing I do know...is that he was able to impact the life of a young college student for many years to come.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Maturity and the value of perspective

By Stephen C. Schultz


The 1970’s were a time of demonstrations, hippies, communal living, acid trips, pot smoking and the constant questioning of the current “establishment”. Often, the establishment was the metaphorical embodiment of anything considered to be “authority” of any kind. So, whether it was the local government, police officers, church leaders, God, professors and universities, business owners or even parents, there always seemed to be scrutiny of some kind and a cause to try and make things better for the disgruntled segment of the population.


It is little wonder that the children of the 70’s, having been exposed to many of these conversations, rallies and demonstrations came up with a “tongue in cheek” theme song for elementary school. I recall kids walking down the breezeway at recess singing this song to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic:


Mine eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school.
We have tortured every teacher, we have broken every rule.
We’re gonna flog the principal tomorrow after school.
Us kids are marching on.
Glory, glory hallelujah. Teacher hit me with a ruler.
Shot em in the butt, with a rotten coconut.
Us kids are marching on!


The dark gray clouds billowed upward as a steady rain fell to earth. The year was 1975 and I was thoroughly enjoying (not learning much...but enjoying) the sixth grade at Westmoreland Elementary School located on the west side of Eugene, Oregon. The west side of Eugene is where the University of Oregon married student housing was at the time. So, I was raised in a fairly diverse population of kids. I would walk to school or ride my bike. We lived a few blocks south of the school on the hill.




I was an unassuming kid. I had a few friends and played on the basketball and baseball teams organized through Eugene Sports Program (ESP). As a sixth grader, I had the opportunity to assist Mr. Holt, the P.E. Teacher, with classes of younger students in the Gymnasium during their P.E. class time. My friend, Andy Smith, and I were just the kind of helpers Mr. Holt liked to have.  We were both athletic for our age and had no problem helping the younger kids learn and practice the skills of broom hockey, rope climbing, crab walk relays, dodge ball as well as the many activities associated with a big round multi colored parachute.


Each day started with me and Andy sitting at our desks in the back of the room. Our teacher, Mrs Sexton, was in her final year of teaching. It was obvious to all of the students that she was having problems with her memory, often forgetting a student's name or missing a lesson plan. She spent most of the day at her desk and students would file up to talk with her when they needed help with something. There was time spent squeezing Elmers Glue into the middle of the ruler, then setting it inside your desk to dry. You could then pull the curved, dried glue out, cut it into short sections and glue them on your fingernails. We would make paper footballs and spend time pushing the little triangular piece of paper across our desks, trying to get just a corner to hang off the edge. A true game of skill and precision! We even made little pin darts that you could shoot out of a hollow Bic Pen. We would shoot the little darts into the ceiling and I got in trouble for that childhood act of destruction of school property. (Not sure those pins did any real destruction to the asbestos ceiling tiles in our classroom!)




This was the perfect setup for two restless young boys with a lot of energy and short attention spans.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Relationship Between Shame, Teen Treatment, Dual Diagnosis and PSB

By Stephen C. Schultz


I recently had a conversation with an allied health professional concerning a student who was already placed in a residential treatment program. The family was from the Boston area and were huge Red Sox fans. They are a close family and never planned on being in this very personal and lonely place concerning their son. This particular student has a history of being in previous treatment programs and sexually acting out at some of those programs. Each time he would be separated from the rest of the group, additional staff were brought in and the parents were asked to find another placement within 24-48 hours. This particular student has a low/average IQ and has been diagnosed with being on the spectrum. I got the call because this student, who is underage and is in another program, sexually acted out with a 20 year old.



We had a good conversation and I’m sure the family is in good hands with their consultant. My purpose in sharing this message isn’t to “armchair quarterback” this clinically complicated situation. It is simply to re-frame how we tend to think about Problematic Sexual Behavior (PSB) and how we can better discuss these issues with families when their teens are burdened with a problem.

On more occasions than I can count, referring professionals will share with me clinically significant behaviors from a client. These behaviors and thoughts meet clinical criteria for admission to Oxbow Academy for the 90 day evaluation. It is often stated during the follow-up conversation;

“However, the sexual issues are not the ‘primary’ concern or diagnosis. The parents would like to try a different program first.”

I think it’s important for us to understand that the terms “Primary and Secondary Diagnosis” were set up and established as a way for insurance and third party payers to prioritize what they would pay for. Again, it is language that has been adopted from the medical model. In an effort to meet the needs of third party payers, mental health treatment plans soon followed suit. This had very little to do with Mental Health science or research. We all know, in the world of mental health, the therapeutic process doesn’t happen in a linear manner.

For example, think about the client diagnosed with Depression and Chronic Substance abuse. Simply treating the depression does not take care of the addiction issues. And, switching it around does not guarantee the depression will subside either. Hence, we describe these situations as the client having a co-occurring or a dual diagnosis. It’s the same situation for a student diagnosed with ASD, NLD, ODD, Anxiety or Depression who is also engaged in compulsive sexual behavior. Comorbidity is what we are dealing with and all of the symptomatology must be dealt with simultaneously.

The issues surrounding comorbidity need a very clinically sophisticated and integrated treatment regimen. Unless a program has a system in place to clinically assess all sexualized behavior and thought processes by the student, it is like having a biopsy on a cancerous lump in your arm and not exploring to see how wide spread the cancer is. That is why these sexual issues re-surface time and time again with these students when they are in a more generalized treatment setting.



I have been asked, “Doesn’t the student experience ‘shame’ when they participate in the polygraph process?” My answer is NO! In fact, it’s quite the opposite. They work closely with their therapist and family through the disclosure process. Its difficult family work, but the students learn that their parents are there for them…no matter what gets disclosed. Often there are some pretty raw emotions and a lot to work through, but this is where true healing begins. When they pass the polygraph, it is a liberating, emotionally freeing and cathartic event. It is actually the opposite of a shameful experience.

Dr. Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston has taught that there is a difference between shame and guilt. Guilt is actually a good emotion to feel. It helps us recognize how some of our behavior may not be congruent with our personal values and encourages us to change and improve. 

Shame on the other hand is destructive. Shame is more about how we think and how we attribute our self worth. Shame is destructive and tries to convince us that we have limited worth. Shame encourages us to continue destructive behavior.

Parents also need to make sure they ask about any research the program is doing. Not simply outcome surveys, but actual data gathering and interpretation. The program should have visible and verifiable processes in place to not only gather data, to interpret data, but also to inform the treatment process in real time.

So, the next question is, “How do we help parents understand this?” I have seen family after family say they wish someone would have mentioned Oxbow earlier in the treatment process. These families have been faced with embarrassing situations, perceived treatment failure and the depletion of financial resources.

The link below consists of an experience I had while speaking to students at a more generalized RTC. Please don’t hesitate to pass this along to others that may find it useful.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Navigating the Highway of Healthy Communication

By Stephen C. Schultz


“I was on the road in my car last week. It was a long stretch of highway where it is easy for your speed to creep up. I looked in the review mirror and saw blue and red flashing lights. I watched as the right hand of the officer extended to lift a microphone to his mouth. He was obviously running my plates. I glanced at my driver’s side mirror and observed as his door opened and he stepped around the edge of the door and closed it with a single, fluid motion. In a cautious and calculated manner, with his right hand resting about hip high on his revolver and his left hand carrying some paper, he was at my door in ten easy strides.”



Ok…now that you have read that first paragraph, what are you feeling? Did reading that stir any emotions? Could you relate to my experience? How many of you are smiling? You’ve been there…right? You know the feeling. Often there is dread. Sometimes there is fear. Most times there is frustration because you were just going with the flow of traffic. When you first see the lights, there is that sudden twinge in your stomach. Would you like to know what I was feeling?

I was happy! I was thrilled! I was relieved! My car happened to be broken down and I was sitting on the side of the road.

Now…that probably isn’t the response you were expecting. But, this article isn’t really about how we feel when interacting with police officers. This article is really about communication and why there is often such heightened emotion when communicating with others.

Everything I stated in the first paragraph was factual. It was the truth. However, there were some details that weren’t mentioned that could have changed your perspective. The other interesting thing about communication is that when we are the receiver of information we subconsciously relate what we are hearing or reading to our own experience. If there is missing information or it just doesn’t quite sound right, we fill in the “Gaps” so the story flows and makes sense to us. Did any of you fill in some “Gaps” with the police story?

The other thing that is interesting about this situation is that you not only filled in some gaps, but you felt emotion from it. Many of you actually felt emotions associated with reading this article.

So, the bottom line is that…you felt emotion that created a physical response…over an article you read…where you filled in the gaps of missing information…with your own experiences from the past.
  
Is it any wonder we encounter communication problems within our communities, work and families? Think about the intricacies of being a parent. The interactions with teaches, other parents, employers and co-workers. Think about the day to day communications that take place. It’s amazing any of us have friends or family! (Said with a wink and a smile.)

The question then becomes; “What can we do about it?”

There really isn’t much we can do about what others say or how they communicate. The focus needs to be on us and how we receive information. If something doesn’t make sense, ask a question. If you read something that doesn’t sit right with you, think it through from all angles. If someone says or does something that makes you angry, pause for a moment and see if you are “filling in gaps” of information. You may want to read this other article I wrote where I discuss the emotions we feel and where they come from. It’s entitled TheRoller Coaster of Life.




In a study by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, he was able to conclude that when we communicate with each other, only 7% of the communication is verbal. This means that we are taking cues and interpreting different aspects of our interaction in ways other than simply the words we use. He found that 55% of our communication with others is actually us interpreting the other person’s body language. This includes their stance, if they are fidgeting or moving around, if they touch you, turn their back on you or make eye contact. The other area of significance is the other person’s voice. He found that 38% of  the communication is the tone of voice and inflection someone uses. So, the reality of communication is that 7% is what we say…93% is how we say it.

Is this information that can help us at work? What about with our family? Are our children experiencing healthy communication through technology; for example, social media and texting? Without healthy communication, groups of employees, city communities,  private and non-profit organizations will all continue to fill in the gaps with personal "narratives". In the long run, filling in the gaps with our own narratives isn't healthy for anyone. Therefore, be aware of your communication, listen to others beyond their words and have a healthy balance of in-person interactions! What are your thoughts? Please share a comment. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Rescue Program – Saving Calves & Kids


Guest Blogger
Clinton Dorny
Executive Director
Discovery Ranch for Boys


Having worked in the helping profession for over 15 years now, I am constantly amazed at the value of Experiential Therapy and the use of animals in the healing process. The students who come to us at The Ranch, struggle in life due to early childhood trauma of some sort. They often fight the good fight against anxiety, depression and other mental health or developmental concerns.



The use of animals in the therapeutic process has been a part of what we do at Discovery Ranch
since its inception. I have always tried to share the value, respect and care we place on the animals in our care. They are just as much a part of the “treatment team” as our clinicians.

For this reason, I’d like to share some details about the integration of animals into the therapeutic process. It has come to my attention that there is a misperception or misunderstanding about what we do with our calf program. 

Please allow me to educate you on what the normal process is for the bulls at dairies and how we save and adopt them.


When bulls are born at dairies they are normally discarded, in other words…bopped on the head and killed at birth.  Dairies see them as a waste product and don’t want to waste their mother’s milk feeding them.  However, they keep and raise the females to garner a return on their milk production.
Dairy cows need to have a calf every year in order to keep their milk supply going.  So, dairies are constantly in the process of increasing their herd.  We purchase the day old bull calves from the dairies and raise them until they are 5-6 months old. Our students are the ones responsible for raising them. They feed them each day, clean their hutches and care for them medically. The calves are then sold to local farmers and ranchers. We’ve had some students, along with their families, adopt their calf and place it in an animal sanctuary.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

RedCliff Ascent Research - for those who want the best


By Stephen C. Schultz


As I started to think about writing this blog post, I was caught up in some memories of being at outpost. For those who aren't aware, outpost is a section of private land in Southwestern Utah that is owned by RedCliff Ascent. RedCliff is an Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare treatment provider, or better known as a Wilderness program.

Outpost is where the families go for graduation. It is a place where there is fresh water, shelter and emergency supplies. There is also a very cool replica of an ancient Native American Kiva. You can learn more about outpost here in this article entitled;

An Open Letter to Parents Researching RedCliff Ascent




I decided that an intriguing story or experience I had while in the back country hiking with a team of students wasn't what a parent would want to read when it came to research. By the time you truly want to know if a wilderness program works, the last thing you want is a bunch of fluff.

RedCliff has been doing research for well over 15 years. So, please click on the link to the Wilderness Advisor. It is a publication that describes and reports some of the research that has been done over the years at RedCliff Ascent. When you want the best, make sure you ask about research. RedCliff is truly a research informed treatment program.


Click here for access to The Wilderness Advisor


Friday, November 25, 2016

Are the Holidays a good time for a family intervention?

By Stephen C. Schultz


As we enter this Holiday Season, I hope the Holidays bring meaningful time spent with family and the joy associated with renewed relationships.

It is sad, but true…every year RedCliff Ascent has an increase in inquiries around the Holidays. Teens that tend to be struggling anyway seem to escalate their behavior around the Holidays for some reason. If you are a parent and find yourself in this situation, please know that you are not alone.



Adolescents who are struggling with depression, anxiety, peer relationships or trauma typically tend to view the world in a very narrow and rigid manner. This really is not a judgment as much as it is simply stating a fact. It is difficult for them to move beyond the very ego-centric orientation that they have adopted around their environment and their relationships. Some would say this is “normal” adolescence complicated with emotional concerns.

Some adolescents, those struggling in school or those who tend to act out with anger, maintain a very guarded view of their relationship with their parents.  It is not uncommon for an out-of-control teen to view his or her parents more as contemporaries rather than acknowledge the parents have achieved a higher level of experience and wisdom throughout their lives.  Some adolescents blatantly demand that they be the ones in control of the family dynamic and not their parents.  They conceitedly see themselves as peers to their parents.