Parent Involvement at RedCliff Ascent

Parents play an active role in the treatment process. They are directly involved in developing treatment plans and presented with new therapeutic opportunities.

At RedCliff Ascent, young people attend both individual therapy sessions and group therapy. They also experience weekly family therapy sessions. This professional guidance helps teens and their families to come together while they are physically distant.

Leaving behind everything familiar breaks teens from all of their patterns of behavior. In an entirely new environment, it becomes difficult to fall back on unhealthy behaviors. They are inspired and provoked by novel stimuli. More often than not, entering a novel environment helps teens to re-engage in healthy psycho-social development.

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    Wilderness Setting Promotes Change in Family Dynamics

    Wilderness Therapy does not focus solely on developing disciples like many boot camp programs. It also does not focus on playing games and other activities like adventure therapy programs.

    Instead, young people spend most of their time in a wilderness environment. Their wilderness experience focuses on learning and mastering a variety of skills essential for survival in the wild which they can later adapt and apply to everyday life. This focus on mastery is life-changing for many teens. They develop the skills they need to meet their own physical and emotional needs.

    Staff members help teens to develop life and survival skills. Teens practice these skills until they become second nature. As teens develop these skills, they gain confidence and self-respect.

    Teens gain a sense of self-efficacy. The confidence and sense of personal responsibility that teens earn through hard work stay with them long after returning home.

    Parents cannot fail to notice the change in family dynamics. When teens learn new coping skills and self-efficacy, then the entire family benefits.

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    Family Therapy at RedCliff Ascent is Different

    Family therapy at RedCliff Ascent is different from other wilderness treatment programs. Young adults, adolescents, and their family members take part in a unique treatment called Wilderness Narrative Family Therapy.

    While young people participate in experiential education activities in Utah's high desert, they meet with family members via narrative writing assignments and letters at least once a week. These therapy sessions focus on repairing family systems. Teens, parents, and others examine family dynamics. They look at what is and is not working in their family system.

    Often families have stories about why some family members are struggling. Sometimes, these are victim stories that focus on placing blame. Wilderness Family Narrative Therapy focuses on not finding victims or heroes. Instead of looking at any one person as being the problem, situations are reframed so that problems are the problem. Rather than being in adversarial positions, family members become team members. They use teamwork to solve problems together.

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    Teen Walking Over A Rope Bridge at redcliff ascent wilderness therapy program

    Communication During Treatment

    Like the treatment plans, the ways that parents and teens communicate during treatment is unique. However, there are some common patterns.

    During the treatment process, teens typically create an autobiography. This exercise allows them to reflect on the issues that have led to their need for treatment.

    Students share this writing with their therapist and with their treatment group. Students find the confidence to be open and genuine about their lives as they share their writings. They find healing as they authentically share their life experience with others.

    Parents also have the opportunity to participate in this process. They can draft narratives that correlate with their teen's autobiography. These are called parent narratives.

    These narratives provide parents and teens with the chance to share their perspectives on their child's life. This form of therapy, called Wilderness Family Narrative Therapy, brings the parents' voice into therapy sessions. Therapists read the parents' narratives together with the students' narratives in the therapy sessions.

    Like every other aspect of treatment, treatment professionals base communication strategies on teens and their families' needs.

    Many young people and their families correspond through letters. Writing letters gives parents and teens time to contemplate the thoughts they genuinely want to share. Often, families communicate more kindly and respectfully in writing letters than when talking to each other—at least in the beginning.

    With time and practice, families learn to use thoughtfulness and compassion when writing letters when they speak to each other.

    In addition to writing letters using the postal service, parents are encouraged to write letters to their teen by emailing their teen's clinician.
    Likewise, teens' letters are scanned and emailed to their parents.

    During the first difficult weeks, your teen's therapist may suggest how to maximize your letters' impact strategically. You will learn how to provide appropriate encouragement and support for your teen while still directing the relationship.

    By examining the letters you exchange with your teen, your teen's therapist will also help you identify behavioral patterns in your family dynamic.

    Within three days of admission, your teen’s treating therapist will contact you to arrange a weekly communication schedule.

    Regular, consistent communication via telephone and email will be especially important. It is important to make sure you and your teen get the greatest benefit from the therapy experience.

    Likewise, we will hold your formal family therapy session once a week at a time that works best for you. These sessions are designed to help you evaluate your child’s therapeutic progress, address any questions or concerns, and educate you on how to break relationship patterns that are detrimental to your child and your family. These weekly phone calls keep you informed of your student’s progress. They will also help you prepare for the next step in your student’s therapeutic journey.

    Although family therapy is held once weekly, parents are welcome to phone or email their child’s therapist as often as necessary.

    RedCliff Ascent has a password-protected Parent Portal that allows parents and guardians to stay informed about their teens' progress. Because parents and guardians are valuable members of the treatment teen, keeping them informed is a priority.

    What Happens After Treatment?

    Wilderness therapy is a transformative experience for teens and their families. Parents and guardians can witness some of these changes during the graduation ceremony.

    During this ceremony, families and teens reunite and celebrate the growth they have experienced.

    However, the graduation ceremony does not mean that treatment is at an end. Some teens return home and receive treatment in their community. Other teens move on to less restrictive programs.

    Regardless of what happens, teens who have completed wilderness therapy are primed to make more significant therapeutic progress in less time than those who took part in other forms of treatment.

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    Does My Teen Need Treatment?

    Every teen’s strengths and challenges are different. Complete the no-obligation assessment below to help us understand your family’s needs.

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    We’re here to help - take the first step and contact us to see if wilderness therapy could be the path to healing for your family.