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RedCliff Ascent - Frequently Asked Media Questions

This is an interview of Stephen C. Schultz that appeared in the UK Publication; Actionetwork

1. What kind of feedback did you have from foreign families after Brat Camp was shown? Have you been inundated with requests by parents to use your service?

Answer: The response was quite positive. We admitted students from England, Israel, Germany, Austria, Scotland, Ireland, and Australia to name a few. For six months after the program aired, we averaged about 5% of our total population was foreign. From January of this year to now, 15% of the student assessment tests on our Website are from foreign families. To this day, we are averaging 1-2 foreign students per month and this with out active marketing efforts outside the US. At this time it’s simply word of mouth referrals.

RedCliff Ascent Wilderness Treatment

2.What are the most common reasons for admittance amongst foreign and US students?

Answer: Depression, ADHD, Underachievement in school, drugs & alcohol and all the mal-adaptive behaviors that accompany these “diagnosis”. Most often it isn’t just one of the above, it is usually a combination. However, many of these reasons for enrolment in the program are generally not the primary issues. For example, drug & alcohol issues, flunking out of school, disrespect for others and often-depressive episodes with teens are generally symptoms of other issues surrounding self-perception, esteem and coping skills. As our Clinical Director, Doc Dan says, these kids are on “developmental vacation”. 

3. On your Website it says: "Today's teens are more protected and sheltered from the consequences of their behavior than ever before." Why do you think this is?

Answer: There isn’t any one major reason…there are thousands of small details in society that all combine to create the world we live in today. The one concept that I think rises to the top is the concept of Delayed Gratification. Today’s, teens are accustomed to “Instant Gratification”. They can drink or do drugs and feel good right now. They don’t need to date a girl and get to know her because they can “Hook Up” right now. Why work years to save for a car when they can deal drugs and have one this week.  “I want what I want, and I want it right now” seems to be the mantra for many in today’s society, not just teens.

When we say they are “sheltered” this simply means they are not being held accountable for the situation they find themselves in. Parents overlook inappropriate behavior or over indulge their teen. Some parents are simply absent from the teen’s life. Adults as well as teens tend to look outward instead of inward for the reasons they find themselves in certain situations. For example, our staff don’t “nag” the students about how they should tie their survival pack together. They teach them the most efficient way to do it, and then leave the students alone. If the student doesn’t pay attention or simply chooses to do it a different way, that’s fine. When the pack falls apart while they are hiking, that is a natural consequence, and the students learn from it. In society, if a student gets in trouble at school, parents blame the school or other students. If the student gets bad grades, we blame the teacher. If they break the law, we hire the best defense attorney we can.

4. In some ways it must be quite a brave decision for parents to contact you. Do some feel that by using Redcliff they have failed as parents in some way? Do you offer them counseling/parental tips?

Answer: Yes, it is a very courageous thing to do, to pick up the phone or search on the Internet.  There are many parents that feel they have failed, but I need to be clear about this. There are millions of families in this world with innumerable problems and issues they are dealing with. There is no absolute “cause & effect” when it comes to parenting. There are tendencies and patterns that are more common in certain family situations, but how do you account for the son or daughter, raised by a drug addicted parent, that succeeds in school and becomes a productive, well adjusted member of society? How do you account for the parents of children where one “goes off the rails” and the others are fine? Some parents we might encourage to change a whole lot, others we might suggest they don’t change anything. Therapeutically, RedCliff Ascent is very individualized as to how we approach each student and family.

There is therapy with the student’s therapist on a weekly basis and there is also an online family education program, complete with booklets and CD’s. We enroll the parents in this parenting program complimentary of RedCliff.

5. If a parent with a low income came to you would you be able to offer a discount?

Answer: Quite frankly, we are overwhelmed with requests for reduced fees or charity enrollments. We simply can’t accommodate them. There is a significant amount of charity care we provide on the back end of treatment where families are unable to bare the financial burden, for one reason or another, after their student has been enrolled. We will review these kinds of situations on a case-by-case basis. Even with Brat Camp, our commitment was to see those students through to graduation, even though the production company’s budget fell short.

A wilderness therapy program is much more complicated than it seems on the surface. There are the logistics and expenses of clothing, gear, and food for the students.  Fuel and vehicles, fees for land use, salaries of staff, safety procedures like radios and sat phones and weeklong initial staff trainings all consume financial resources.

6. Is there a religious element to the program you offer? If so, do some students who are not religious or overtly spiritual have difficulty accepting this element?

Answer: There is not a specific religious element to the program. However, we do encourage students to continue in and embrace their faith while here. Before the students start the day, often they will stand in a circle and have a Moment of Silence. (MOS) This is a quiet time set aside for prayer or meditation, but it is left to the individual to use this time how they see fit.

And, there is certainly an aspect of spirituality by simply being in the wilderness.

6a. What do students consider the most difficult part of the program? What's the most enjoyable aspect for them?

Answer: While most people would guess the most difficult part of the program would be the hiking, heavy packs or bland food, the most difficult part is not physical. It’s emotional. The most difficult aspect is letting go and adapting to this new environment. This happens at different stages of the program for different students, but when it occurs, life in the wilderness becomes so much better.

Again, there is no single “most enjoyable” aspect for them. I’ve seen kids find joy in a biscuit made from flour and water cooked on the coals. They call them “scoobies”, and they get very creative in how they make them. I’ve seen students find joy in the stars at night, laughing with the staff or busting their first fire. I’ve seen students climb the “Vortex”, legs aching, exhausted from the climb with full packs, and find joy in the accomplishment. Giving each other a “High Five” because they did it. I’ve seen a student that you would be afraid to pass on the street, with a history of violence and crime, stop and help a newer student with his pack. Not because he was “doing the program”, but because there was a true willingness to help and a feeling of compassion he had never felt before.

7. Could you outline some of the benefits students who have lost touch with nature gain from spending time in the wilderness?

Answer: The wilderness is a great environment to learn. Students are able to focus on the “basics” of life without the constant clutter and stimulus of city noise, friends, music, cell phones etc. There is a natural order to things when you are in the wilderness. You develop resilience around navigating through life’s challenges. If it rains, you adjust. If there is a rock under your sleeping bag, you make a change, or learn from it so it doesn’t happen the next night. You learn to notice things. Bugs, field mice, birds, coyote’s, stars at night, weather patterns as well as others feelings, beliefs and attitudes are all magnified as you live together in these small groups.

However, simply changing your environment does not bring about change in personality, character or coping skills. Those changes take place through “emotional” hard work with experienced therapists. The number one cause of positive change, in any therapeutic situation, is the therapeutic alliance the client has with the therapist. The activities of daily living that take place in the wilderness, with the staff and students, provides an accelerated opportunity to develop and solidify that therapeutic alliance and trust. It is the hiking in the same weather, eating the same food, sleeping on the same ground that enables our staff to help the student through some very difficult emotional work more efficiently than a once or twice a week office visit.

8. If, after leaving the program a student feels that they're on the brink of relapsing into old ways, what can they do?

Answer: Students can always contact us through our Website. The “contact” us message area is seen every day.

However, before graduation, therapist, staff and family determine the most appropriate disposition or follow-up placement for each student. This is very individualized and may be different for each student depending on his or her particular needs.

9. What does the future hold for Redcliff Ascent?

Answer: RedCliff Ascent has had, and continues to have many opportunities for growth and expansion. We have explored opportunities for an age 12 and younger program as well as restructuring our young adult program that works with students 18 to 24 years of age.

There is a core, cultural belief that we have a “stewardship” responsibility for the students. However, this same stewardship extends to the staff we employ. For this reason, growth and expansion on our part is slow, but when it happens very deliberate in nature.

Learn more about RedCliff Ascent and it's sister programs here.


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