Vertical Thinking - A New Therapeutic Insight For Teens

By Stephen C. Schultz


"Vertical Thinking is a type of approach to problems that usually involves one being selective, analytical, and sequential...vertical thinking consists of using more of a conscious approach via rational assessment in order to take in information or make decisions."

For those who may not be aware, I simply want to make a brief introduction to Oxbow Academy. The administration team has been working with teens who demonstrate Problematic Sexual Behaviors since 2001. The very specialized and clinically sophisticated services of Oxbow Academy were launched in 2007. Oxbow offers treatment for sex specific issues as well as a blending of best practices and philosophy form RedCliff Ascent, Discovery Academy & Discovery Ranch.



Oxbow Academy is on the cutting edge of research and treatment specifically geared towards adolescents. Uniquely designed to work with students struggling with Problematic Sexual Behavior, Oxbow recognized years ago these problematic trends.   

Gregg Lott, LCSW is one of the senior therapists at Oxbow. In this short video he takes the students on a hike and discusses some of the Thinking Patterns these boys have developed over the years. Take a look and see what you think. This little hike probably had a more positive impact on these boys than sitting on a couch in Gregg's office "Talking" for an hour!



More times than not, students with these particular sexual issues are admitted to a Boarding School or Residential Treatment Center (RTC) with no knowledge of any underlying sexual issues. It’s only after they are enrolled that the sexual issues (usually it’s inappropriately touching a fellow student, preoccupation with sexual talk, accessing porn sites on school computers or exposing himself etc.) present themselves. At this point, it is usually an awkward position for the school because the presenting problems would have been disqualifying criteria had these issues been known up front. It is important to note that these issues don’t simply resolve themselves. We have found that the identifying incident is usually the proverbial “tip of the ice berg”.



We currently have a boy enrolled at Oxbow who was attending a Boarding School that had a three strikes policy. He had been sexually acting out with other boys throughout his stay. Since his enrollment at Oxbow, he has disclosed close to ten other incidents that the previous school was not aware of. Even though these incidents were reportedly consensual, they were highly inappropriate in nature and demonstrated poor judgment, thinking errors and blatant defiance of school policies and standards. Unfortunately, the school, parents, students and referring professionals all find themselves involved in a nasty lawsuit brought about by one of the parents.  

We know from experience that addressing sexual issues is a sensitive matter for all involved, especially the parents. The parents we are working with have concerns about their son being labeled a predator, sex offender or any other “labels” associated with inappropriate sexual behavior. They only wish for their sons to live a happy normal life.

That is why we use a holistic, non-punitive approach at Oxbow so each student has a well rounded therapeutic and educational experience with us. Obviously, accountability for actions is an important aspect of treatment, and we can assist families in navigating any mandatory reporting or legal issues that come up.

Within the first 90 days, each student receives a full Psycho-sexual Evaluation to ascertain the following:
            Cognitive functioning
Level of emotional functioning
Coping strategies  
History of possible abuse
Sexual reactivity
Extent of acting out behaviors
Risk of future problematic sexual behaviors

My hope is that Oxbow Academy can be a resource for parents, educators, the legal field and allied health professionals. In these very specialized cases, it is imperative for a full assessment and evaluation to be completed to determine further risk for acting out. It is also imperative that as treating professionals, we are able to identify any others who may need compassionate understanding and care for a damaged relationship.




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