Why is RedCliff Ascent so successful with families?

“What is essential is not that the therapist learns something about the patient and then teaches it to him, but that the therapist teaches the patient how to learn about himself.”

~ Psychoanalyst Fritz Perls ~

Over the years, I have been asked numerous times by clinicians as well as educational consultants,  "Why does RedCliff Ascent seem to do such a good job with families, since it is the teen that is out in the wilderness? Why do parents seem to be so happy with the process?" The simple answer is the culture and philosophy of the organization. However, when you look deeper at the "process" of providing treatment, it becomes obvious that RedCliff is a clinically sophisticated Wilderness Treatment Program.

RedCliff Ascent offers a consistent, unvarying expectation of each student with a consistent structure to facilitate their development. The program structure does not vary from staff to staff or from therapist to therapist. This provides a seamless transition from assessment to treatment as students confront the challenges of the program and the issues of life.

A consistent behavioral standard provides a way to measure the student’s developmental progress. Although the structure does not change, therapy itself is individualized to meet each student’s needs. Interventions can be custom designed to address a particular student’s specific patterns of resistance.

We have found students in the early stages of RedCliff therapy are still very focused on maintaining a disruptive family dynamic, even though they are geographically separated from the rest of the family. Their maladaptive behaviors will often be amplified as they struggle to maintain a perceived control over what is happening at home. It’s especially critical that parents stand firm during this aspect of developmental delay.



To help them identify and understand this process, parents participate in a five hour workshop on DVD. “The Parent Seminar” is designed to give parents specific tools for successful parent/child relationships both during the RedCliff experience and at its completion. It teaches parents how to assess their child’s level of commitment to the family relationship, as well as how to judge the effectiveness of the RedCliff experience.  Many parents continue to view and study the materials after their child has returned home.


In addition, parents are required to complete our exclusive Parent Narratives.  For many students, the Narratives are their first real look at their own histories. It is their opportunity to learn of their parents’ triumphs and failures. The Narratives are also designed to coincide with student autobiographies. Each is shared at a specific point in the student’s individual therapy. These exercises often become the focal point around which parent and child begin to build a sense of unity.

These exclusive Narratives are also a useful tool in measuring the parent’s commitment to their child’s therapy and the program in general. When parents are unwilling to complete their assignments therapists are alerted to potential problems in the family dynamic. That dynamic may be a factor in determining what the next step should be in the student’s transition plan.



Why do I Care?
Parent centered learning such as the “Parent Seminar” and Parent Narratives, done jointly with student learning, helps the parents understand their child’s level in this Developmental Delay. Parents learn how to assess the student’s commitment to the family relationship and how to measure the program’s effectiveness.

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