Tuesday, June 28, 2016

An Open Letter to Parents Researching RedCliff Ascent

By Stephen C. Schultz



"We will be known forever by the tracks we leave."



Having been raised in Oregon, I spent the majority of my childhood and teenage year’s steelhead fishing the coastal waters, climbing the Middle Sister in the Cascade Mountain Range, drifting the McKenzie River and hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. 

I have mentioned to friends, family and colleagues on many occasions;  

“From a therapeutic standpoint, there is no better place to have a student’s issues manifested quickly than in a wilderness setting.”

The question then becomes, “Why do therapeutic issues rise to the surface in an Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare program like RedCliff Ascent?”



Throughout the years of teenage development, most teens spend a lot of time with friends. These friends thinks the same, dress the same, act the same, listen to the same music and get into the same types of trouble. The teens also develop patterns of communication and manipulation while simultaneously avoiding the tasks of adolescent development. They are engaged in an effort to gain and maintain as much influence as possible with their parents…many times interacting with them more as a peer than as their parent.  

When a son or daughter has patterns of behavior that become emotionally or physically dangerous, parents step in and seek treatment. However, for treatment to be most effective, these unhealthy patterns must be disrupted. I cannot over emphasize the importance of disrupting the harmful thought, behavior and relationship patterns of these teens. These are the very patterns that caused parents to reach out for an intervention in the first place.

When a student finds them-self at RedCliff, they will try to maintain some sense of control over their surroundings. They are in an unfamiliar setting and are fully focused on maintaining control. However, the only skills they have are the same skills of manipulation and avoidance that got them to RedCliff in the first place. For example, when a student writes a “Pull Me” letter, the student has thought very carefully about what to say to their parents. If they know that mom is always concerned about cleanliness, they will be sure and mention how they sleep on the ground at RedCliff. If dad likes his meals prepared a certain way, the rice and lentils will certainly be mentioned, even though the diet has been prepared and reviewed by a dietitian and the students are required to have a 3000 calorie per day diet. If mom hates bugs, or mice or snakes, they will all be used in the letter. If the student has a pattern of avoidance at home, that same pattern may manifest itself in the wilderness. Students may refuse to hike. They may refuse to eat or drink. They may leave camp unaccompanied or collude with others to “Run Away”. The point being, they will continue to use the same coping skills they used at home…because it’s all they know.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Summer - A Great Time For A Family Intervention

By Stephen C. Schultz


The smoke was swirling skyward and the unmistakable smell of burning cedar drifted in my direction. There was the happy fireside chatter that happens when groups of teens gather around the fire. This particular time of year was the beginning of summer. Families around the world recognized that summer was a great time for a family intervention.

You see, these teens had a history of mild mental health concerns or behavioral problems that were beyond their parents ability to help in the home. Many struggled with depression or anxiety. Some were flunking school or falling into the trap of substance abuse.



The first time I entered a group of teens attending RedCliff Ascent, I was surprised just how happy they were. I expected a bunch of mad, angry teenagers who were trying desperately to leave. Not so with this group. They consisted of a boy from Russia, one from Singapore, another from France and the rest from across the USA.

I was amazed at what I saw. Below is a brief video that shows exactly the types of students you will find enrolled in a wilderness treatment program and explanations of why it works so well! Take a look at this very cool video called;

The Basics







Wednesday, May 4, 2016

When work is an adventure!

By Stephen C. Schultz


The sky was overcast and there was a crisp chill in the air. The roof tops of the neighboring houses all had the unmistakable white fluffy stuff so affectionately called snow. This would normally not be of any consequence at the foot of the 10,000 foot mountains. However, flowers were springing up, grass was turning green and we had already gotten used to warmer temperatures. Weather in these parts of the country can be a roller coaster at best.



So, I stepped out of my car and into the wind. I made my way to the door of my office. I walked past the reception desk and Andrea caught my eye and motioned me over. She said there was someone on the phone line that wanted more information about our Wilderness Therapy Program. She asked if I would be willing to speak with this person.

Andrea transferred the call to my cell phone and I introduced myself. The lady calling mentioned she was from Arizona and had watched some of the video’s about RedCliff Acsent on YouTube. This type of therapeutic intervention intrigued her and she decided to call. She had a number of questions that she was asking me. There were questions about length of stay, how much it costs and what the therapy was like. There were some questions about family involvement and the food the kids eat. We talked about weekend camping and how powerful that can be and the differences between RedCliff Ascent and an adventure weekend experience.



As I was thinking about this conversation, there is a specific aspect I thought I would share. Part of our conversation grew out of the question;

“What kind of training does your staff have?”

I shared with her some answers that can be found on the employment website for RedCliff Ascent called Wilderness Work.  If you have an interest in working with teens and helping families improve their relationships, then this career may be of interest to you. Check it out!


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Do We Actively Seek Teachable Moments?

By Stephen C. Schultz


I had an experience at Oxbow Academy a few weeks ago. It’s an experience that is transferable to just about any work environment. I hope you find this helpful as you interact with colleagues in your place of employment.

Thomas Holmes, our photographer and I were at Oxbow taking pictures of the administration team. This included the Executive Director, Residential Director, Academic Director and teachers. It also included the Clinical Director and therapists. All of these shots were for use on the website. We decided to take the pictures in the new horse arena so we can have a standard backdrop, regardless of outside weather. In the future, we will be glad to have a standard backdrop.


I was standing next to the tack room with a group of teachers. I was making small talk and noticed a few of them standing there watching Tony and Brita working with a student and a horse. There was no conversation happening with the teachers, they were 100% focused on the therapy session. Because of distance and the activity, you could tell there was interaction and conversation going on with Tony, Brita and the student, but you couldn’t hear much of what was being said. Yet, the teachers were still enthralled with the process.



I took a step closer to the teachers and asked if they knew much about equine therapy. They all shook their head no. I started sharing some of the basics about equine therapy and why we use it. They would turn their head to me, and then turn back to Tony and Brita. I asked if they had met Tony and his wife Brita. They said they had seen them around. I motioned to them to follow me and we walked to the edge of the panels. I caught Tony’s eye and he came over. We made introductions and I asked Tony to explain a little about the process of equine therapy.



Tony did what Tony does…he connected immediately with the teachers. He discussed what they were doing with this student, (who the teachers knew and cared for) and how equine therapy helps to build competence, mastery and resilience. Then, just like that we were called to get pictures taken and the experience was over.

I was thinking about this on the drive back to my office. I know one thing from that brief interaction…those teachers gained a deeper understanding of Oxbow Academy. They probably have a bit more pride in their association with the program and will probably interact with that particular student in a more informed way in the future.

So, in your particular workplace, do you have different departments that may not fully understand what you do? Are there aspects of other departments you don’t fully understand? Would it be helpful and contribute to an improved culture if you better understood the “Big Picture”? How can you make that happen?

In the world of therapy, we often hear the term “Teachable Moments”. Even the teachers themselves can have teachable moments!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Mental Toughness - How important is it?

Guest Blog
By Amanda Schultz


Wiping the sweat from my eyes, I took a deep breath as the referee handed me the game ball. This was my moment: the biggest match in the history of my 15-year-old volleyball career was tied up at 26, and I had the chance to win it all for my team with this last serve. All eyes were on me. The gym was so quiet. It felt as though I was underwater. My heart was pounding so loud I was convinced everyone else could hear it too. “Don’t miss this, Amanda,” I told myself. “Just get it over the net and in the court.” As the referee blew his whistle, I lingered for one final second, trying to calm my nerves. I tossed the ball into the air, applauding myself on the solid connection, the fabulous follow-through, the flat contact, and watched the ball sail... straight into the net. I was living the moment athletes have nightmares about. I had single-handedly lost the game for my team.


This experience came to mind as I started playing volleyball at Dixie State University. Practices are intense and a lot is expected from every player. However, when it is my turn to perform and the game is on the line, I am no longer afraid. The pressure is not as great because I have been in the same situation hundreds of times, and I know I can do it.  

As I pondered this idea, I wanted to know more about what goes through an athlete’s head when the game comes down the wire. I decided to pose the following research question: How does an athlete’s mental game affect their physical performance?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Image vs Identity - What's The Difference?

By Stephen C. Schultz


Over the last 25 years, I have noticed a shift in the youth that my organization works with and some of the struggles these young people encounter. What I am seeing is not merely symptomatic of a rebellious teen or the burdens that accompany a mental illness.



It seems many students and families are headed down a track with very few options for changing course. What I am sensing is that our society in general is struggling in many ways. What I see happening with our youth is symptomatic of larger social ills. In this political season, what I perceive goes beyond “Republican and Democrat” or “Conservative and Liberal”. What I’m sensing touches on the very heart of “Identity”; the essence of who we are. It is the question of who we are as a society and who we are as individuals.

As I work with teens who find themselves involved in dishonest behavior, unhealthy relationships and “entitled” attitudes there is one common thread that runs through every family situation. Throughout the teens stages of childhood and adolescence, these kids have moved away from life’s tasks that contribute to the development of an “Identity” and they have slipped into the world of developing an “Image”. It is important to note that “Image” and “Identity” are two very different things.



As each of us moves into adulthood, it is through the accomplishment of life’s tasks that we gain competencies. These tasks include mastering school, work and family relationships. As this mastery happens, we develop a set of social skills that include determination, courage, honesty, trust, integrity, insight, loyalty and knowledge. It is through this developmental process and the practice of these particular skills that an “Identity” is developed.

“Image” has its foundation based in perception, not competency. Image is more about how one appears than who they are.

So, as I look at myself, my community and my nation, I wonder where that tipping point is. Are we a nation of self centered people only worried about the next “selfie” and our image? Or, are we grounded in a quiet confidence based on a solid identity?



As I work to develop a healthy sense of identity, I become less concerned about the image of others as well as myself.

What are your thoughts? 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Can You Follow Directions?

By Stephen C. Schultz


As the father of four, I have always been amazed at the time and effort that goes into teaching your children. If your experience is anything like mine, there have been instructions given, reminders mentioned and sometimes an elevated tone in my voice just to get my kids to do the simplest of requests.



I'm sure I wasn't much different when I was younger. I remember summertime as a kid. Sunny days were far and few between in Eugene, Oregon! My dad would have a list of chores for us kids to do written on a piece of paper and left on the dining room table. We were supposed to have the chores done before he got home from work. It seems that every day consisted of riding our bikes, playing "stunt man" on the stairs or building forts in the living room with the couches, blankets and pillows!

Rarely were the chores our top priority...until about an hour before he got home! Then, we would scurry around the house to clean up. We would race outside, grab rakes and shovels, stir up the dirt and pretend like we had been working as though we were sentenced to 20 years hard labor at the Schultz home!

Why is it so hard for us to follow directions? I wish I could say this was simply a childhood phase. However, if I'm honest with myself, it's still hard to do even as an adult. It's just that the requests no longer come from my parents, but come from my immediate family, work and community.

So, below is a fun activity to do with your family. As spring and summer approach, families get together for Holidays and reunions. This will be an insightful activity and it doesn't take long. It can be done with adults, teens and children.

Copy and paste the 21 sentences and make copies for all who will participate. Make sure everyone has a pen or pencil. Pass out the paper and place it face down in front of each participant. Let them know they can turn the paper over and start when you  say "Begin".


Can You Follow Direction?


1) Read everything carefully before doing everything.

2) Put your name in the upper right hand corner of this paper.

3) Draw four small circles in the upper left hand corner.

4) Put an "X" in each circle.

5) Draw a square around each circle.

6) Sign your name under the title of this paper.

7) After the title, write the words "yes, yes, yes".

8) Draw a line completely around sentence number 7.

9) Put an "X" in the lower left corner of this page.

10) Draw a triangle around the "X" you just put in the corner.

11) On the back of this paper, multiply 856 by 43.

12) Draw a rectangle around your name.

13) When you get this far, hold up your right hand.

14) If you have followed directions carefully to this point, stand up.

15) On the reverse side of the paper, add 10030 and 8543.

16) Put a circle around the answer.

17) Write the numbers 10 to 1 backwards on the right side of the paper.

18) Punch three holes in the top of the paper with your pen or pencil.

19) Underline all even numbers on the left side of the paper.

20) Wave both arms in the air.

21) Now that you have finished reading everything carefully, do only sentence 1 and 2 and then sit quietly until others have finished.