Why Would Families Separate When They Are Trying to Come Together?

Something each family who sends a teen to RedCliff Ascent has in common is that they all want to unite as a family. Why, then, would parents send their teens across the country or even across the world?

While teens who come to RedCliff Ascent have homes with loving families, their homes are also deeply intertwined with the child’s unhealthy behavior patterns. Wilderness therapy treatment is usually not advised until outpatient and community resources have been exhausted.

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.

With their teens cared for in a safe environment, parents also have new opportunities. Parents, as well as teens, receive therapeutic guidance. This professional guidance helps teens and their families to come together while they are physically distant.

After Wilderness Family Therapy Dad and Kid Hug

Entering a novel environment helps teens to re-engage in healthy psycho-social development.

What Can Parents Expect from the Admissions Process?

Before your teen ever arrives at RedCliff Ascent, a treatment team begins gathering information about the young person. The most valuable part of any treatment team is the teens' parents or guardians.

The treatment team learns about your particular family dynamics and challenges. The information-gathering process includes a family profile, health questionnaires, as well as legal documents.

The more accurate information, the better equipped the whole team is to design and implement an appropriate treatment plan.

Each treatment plan is specific to the individual teen's needs.

How Do Parents and Teens Communicate During the Treatment Process?

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

What Are Parent Narratives?

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 perspective 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.

What Are the Benefits of Writing Letters?

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.

Weekly Therapy Phone Calls

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.

How Can Parents and Guardians Keep Informed About Their Teens?

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.