Skip to main content

RedCliff Ascent: The Leader in Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare

By Stephen C. Schultz

RedCliff Ascent is an Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH) program for adolescents who are essentially stuck in the adolescent stages of development. They lack the coping mechanisms, competencies and discipline necessary to manage their lives at an age appropriate level.

In other treatment settings, these students may be labeled by their diagnoses, which often includes ADHD, ODD, Depression, Anxiety, ASD, etc.  The RedCliff treatment protocol recognizes that the student and the illness are two distinctly separate components. A student’s life should not be defined by a diagnosis. Each is specifically addressed independently in the therapeutic process.

We help the student and family understand how a specific cluster of symptoms associated with their diagnosis has impacted the student’s developmental progression.  RedCliff’s therapeutic model disrupts these unhealthy patterns of behavior and reintegrates the student into a more healthy developmental process.

Our treatment model has been evolving for well over two decades. With over 15 years of field research and clinical leadership, Redcliff is considered one of the premier wilderness programs in the United States. 

Why Do I Care?
Unlike any other program, we recognize that regardless of the student’s diagnosis there is an underlying developmental stall. RedCliff’s treatment modality addresses both issues. The model was developed and refined through research informed treatment practices.

RedCliff has two therapeutic goals. They are to disrupt current behavioral patterns, or the developmental stall of the student, and reintegrate the student into the appropriate level of adolescent development for their age. In order for therapy to be most effective, the first goal must be accomplished before the second can be initiated.  

A teen who has stalled out does not struggle with a lack of entertainment in his life. What he lacks is the ability to master the mundane responsibilities that come with school, work, and family relationships. 

At RedCliff, the goal is to help students find meaning in those daily activities, rather than search for an outside “thrill.”  A typical day will include hiking, practicing wilderness survival skills such bow/drill fire making, orienteering, botanical identification, journaling, and low-impact camping. Each of these activities also has an expectation of competence and mastery. This provides the therapists a rich diagnostic environment for therapeutic sessions.

Enrollment at RedCliff ascent is open-ended.  The therapeutic goal is not to force students to comply. Rather, it is to give students an opportunity to gain insight, develop internal motivation and to achieve position of excellence, mastery and competence.

Because the program is achievement based, length of stay will vary from student to student. Our goal is to help students advance to their next developmental level as soon as it is therapeutically wise to do so.

Why Do I Care?
Our unconventional approach is based on the quest for therapeutic excellence, not what is convenient. What is best for the student, not what is happening in the marketplace, is at the heart of every intervention and therapeutic protocol. 

As psychoanalyst Fritz Perls explained, “What is essential is not that the therapist learn something about the patient and then teach it to him, but that the therapist teach the patient how to learn about himself.”

RedCliff 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.

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 treatment.

To help them identify and understand this process, parents have access to information and updates on the parent portal. This online private portal is designed to give parents specific tools for successful parent/child relationships both during the RedCliff experience and at its completion. Through interactions with the therapists, parents learn how to assess their child’s level of commitment to the family relationship, as well as how to judge the effectiveness of the wilderness experience.

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 as discussed in the parent portal and the Parent Narratives, done jointly with student learning, help parents understand their child’s level of progress and commitment in the therapeutic process. Parents learn how to assess the student’s commitment to the family relationship and how to measure their son or daughters willingness to re-enter the adolescent stages of “healthy” development.


Popular posts from this blog

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

Life transitions are inevitable! I'm no exception

By Stephen C. Schultz This is just a quick email to share with you that after 20 years with the Ascent Companies, I am making a transition. I want you to know that the last 20 years have been more than I could have ever wished for. What a great opportunity I have had to not only work with, serve with and be friends with all who are a part of the RCA , DRG , DRB , Oxbow , Discovery Day PHP , Connections and Oasis programs. I owe such a debt of gratitude to the four original owners, Dane Kay, Steve Peterson, Scott Peterson and Jim Salsbury for seeing my potential and taking a risk on me back in 2002. Steve Nadauld, Brent Hall, Andrea Burgess, Clint Dorny, Shawn Brooks, Steve DeMille and the program teams have been like family and an absolute joy to be around.  I feel honored to have played a small role in the success you as educational consultants, private clinicians and us as treatment providers (working together) have had over the years on literally thousands of families.  #GRATITUDE