Skip to main content

There is hope for treatment resistant teens!

By Stephen C.  Schultz

I fondly recall a conversation I had in the car with an Educator as we were visiting treatment programs for troubled teenagers. RedCliff is one of the original founding members of the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council (OBH) and I mentioned some of the recent research that had been done. This Educator made a comment based on her perception of RedCliff.

She stated, “… RedCliff has the reputation for working with the clinically complicated cases…and you should embrace that reputation.” That comment started me thinking.

Why does RedCliff have that reputation? Is it a reputation RedCliff has fostered and promoted? Is it a good thing or bad thing being known for your ability to work with “Clinically Complicated” kids? What does that say about the clinical expertise of the therapists? If RedCliff really does excel with these families, why is that?

So, I traveled to RedCliff and started asking questions. I made a point to meet with the clinical team of RedCliff Ascent. It was apparent, through cards, letters and emails from families that RedCliff really does an excellent job with the students as well as the families. Families’ lives are changed…but why? As I started asking questions and attending some of the family seminars for the parents, it became clear that all of the old wilderness stereotypes don’t really apply to RedCliff. (For example; if you don’t build a shelter and it rains you get wet…Wilderness programs are about Natural Consequences… that type of stuff.) RedCliff Ascent was not about natural consequences or hard survival skills training. Yes, students did participate in some of those activities, but over the years, RedCliff has actually established a clinically sophisticated treatment model based on research and best practices that reinserts these teens back into the adolescent stages of development.

The students RedCliff accepts to the program are Developmentally Delayed in any number of ways. They are stuck at a certain point in the process of developing into healthy, well-adjusted, productive members of society. This can be a result of depression, anxiety, adoption issues or substance use. There are usually family and relationship issues as well. The student stuck in this situation lacks the coping mechanisms, competencies and discipline necessary to manage their life at an age appropriate level. The reasons for this are as varied as the diagnosis and family dynamics they come to the program with. However, all the therapy in the world won’t do a thing until the treatment program can “disrupt the pattern” of thinking, manipulation and family dynamics that enable the student to continue in this developmental rut. Once the patterns of destructive thinking, manipulation and attitudes are disrupted, it takes a skilled clinician and staff to assist the student in “interpreting” and internalizing healthy ways of dealing with life. This is done through helping the student identify the thoughts and actions that keep them emotionally stuck and assist them in acquiring the competencies necessary to continue their developmental process.

Many Wilderness Treatment programs pride themselves on “High Adventure” activities or they claim to have a “diagnostic” approach and their main goal is to “prepare” the student for further residential treatment. The idea is that these students will replace the negative behaviors with a more healthy “thrilling” experience or that the wilderness will be a “Wake up Call” to assist the student in realizing they do need help.

While these are all secondary benefits of RedCliff Ascent, it is not the main emphasis. A student engaged in treatment at RedCliff Ascent does not struggle with a lack of entertainment or thrill in her life. What she lacks is the ability to master the mundane responsibilities that come with school, work and family relationships. At RedCliff, the goal is to assist students in finding meaning in those daily activities, rather than search for an outside “thrill”. It is through the disruption of manipulative and dependent patterns; the skillful, sophisticated therapeutic efforts of clinicians; and personal accomplishment and insight by the students themselves that changes start to take place. Students who attend RedCliff Ascent begin taking those steps that put them back on the path to healthy adolescent development.


Popular posts from this blog

Fishing...It's really about relationships!

By Stephen C. Schultz Spring is in the air and that well known feeling of wanting to get out of the house and go fishing is surging through my body. I found myself in a sporting goods store the other day perusing the fishing lure isle. I was in the yard after mowing the lawn and realized I was walking around my small 12 foot fishing boat that is still covered from winter. I have had people ask me over the years, "What's so fun about fishing?". They usually follow that question up with, "It's so boring!". From my perspective, they couldn't be further from the truth. Fishing represents so much more than being entertained. It's time in the wilderness with fresh air and solitude. It's time to think and ponder on life's problems.  It time to express gratitude and count your blessings. There is also the satisfaction of reading the water, observing a hatch and placing a lure or fly in the perfect spot. It's the excitement of the fish

Perfectly Wicked - A new take on an old fairy tale!

Guest Blogger Amanda Schultz Age 15 There she was…hair as black as night, lips as red as blood, skin as white as snow. Standing by the window, washing dishes, whistling while she worked. Snow White. I shudder with disgust every time I hear her name. What kind of a name is that anyway? “Snow White”. Gahhh, it’s a name that practically begs to be made fun of. Yet, there she goes, frolicking around like she owns the Enchanted Forest. No. I’m the Queen. I’m in charge. My magic mirror was mistaken. I’m the Fairest of them all, not that sorry excuse for a princess. One bite from my poison apple and that air-head will be so ugly not even her mother could love her. And I will be the Fairest once again! I suppose that I should rewind a little bit. It wasn’t always a competition between Snow White and me. In fact, back in the day, we had a nice little system going on. I would rule the kingdom and practice my magic, while Snow did the dishes and tended the garden. She stayed out of my w

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 think the same, dress the same, act the same, listen to the same music and sometimes get into the same types of trouble. Some teens also develop patterns of communication and manipulation