A letter from our CEO:

Welcome, and thanks for looking into our program. I am consistently humbled by you, our parents, for your ability to love your son enough to recognize that he needs more than he’s been able to get at home. I am further humbled by our boys for how much they are able to accomplish in such a short program. I believe our success is not the result of some type of magic we employ out here; it is rather a result of the environment we co-create for them, with your help and involvement. Your son’s struggles do not indicate a deficiency on his part, but are rather symptomatic of the fact that he needs more than he can get at home.

At Elements we know we can’t change your son. What we can do is provide a safe and healthy environment where he can see that change is in his best interest and choose that path for himself. This is a critical time for him in which his lifelong health depends upon nothing short of a paradigm shift, in which he realizes that therapy is not something being done to him but rather an opportunity for him, to help him get what he truly wants out of life.

Of course we love the outdoors, but we choose to work out here because it happens to be the healthiest place we can find for our boys to drop their defenses, discover their true strength through their daily successes, and learn to incorporate the skills they are learning into each moment of their day. It is this step-by-step process that helps them develop new skills to cope with life’s stressors, and start to change their patterned reactivity to stimuli. Research shows that these changes start at the synaptic level of their brains, blazing new neuropathways toward a healthier life, from the inside out. From there, our job is to take every little success in the backcountry and help our boys translate that to their life and relationships outside of treatment.

The wilderness is a setting that is rich with life metaphors that can be used to great effect with attentive and well-trained staff, and a skilled therapist. Living in the wilderness with a small group also provides countless opportunities for our boys to learn how to work together and make each situation better, rather than worse.

On the power of discomfort: We will keep your son safe. That is our primary responsibility. We will not, however, rescue him from the discomfort he creates in his life. It is through that discomfort (interpersonal, emotional, or physical) that he will find the motivation to improve his lot. We have seen thousands of boys who have spent their life avoiding discomfort (aided, in fact, by the world we live in), much to their own cost. Once our boys find that motivation to jump in and make their lives better, it becomes infectious. I have never seen boys so proud of their achievements than I have seen in our field. It is a paradox worth noting: it is only once we let go and help them take responsibility for their own failures that they get to step in and give themselves the credit they deserve for their success.

So in short, our job is to keep our boys safe, create a safe and healthy environment for our boys to drop their defenses and have honest dialogue about their lives, and provide them with the tools they will need to take those next steps to health. The list below offers insight into the day-to-day experience in our program, but please don’t hesitate to reach out to us to see how this applies to your son.

All my best,

Andrew Powell, MBA
CEO and Co-Owner
801.361.7782

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Safety

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Elements Of Change

Elements Of Change

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Student Phases

Student Phases

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Adventure Programing

Adventure Programing

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Expedition Model

Expedition Model

Safety

Our primary responsibility is to ensure the physical, emotional, and psychological safety of our students at all times. Higher order change can only occur when a person is not concerned for their immediate safety. This is why Elements is not a boot camp, and does not employ any form of deprivation as a means to force compliance. Of all the research we have investigated and performed, the idea of “breaking students down to build them up” has been disproven time and again. This is also why our staff are trained exhaustively and have several redundant forms of communication so that they can always access all the same emergency services that one could find in civilization.

Our field mentors are background-screened and extensively vetted for appropriateness of fit. They are consistently evaluated and they consistently and formally evaluate each other in order to continuously develop themselves as professionals working in Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare.  They come from varied backgrounds, but one thing is common among all staff who work with our kids: a heart for our boys and the work we do, and a desire to grow in their professional lives as well as their personal lives.

Elements Of Change

Community-Nature-Wellness-Therapy

The wilderness is a setting that is rich with life metaphors that can be used to great effect by a skilled therapist. Living in the wilderness with a small group for a period of time also provides opportunities to develop concrete skills such as cooking, camp set up and orienteering, as well as the social skills necessary for cooperative, intimate camp life. These factors create natural opportunities to build self confidence in a short period of time. The intensity of wilderness life provides constant opportunities to experiment with new and healthier ways of coping with social and emotional stressors.

Our program relies on four key elements to leverage the wilderness setting and promote awareness and growth. Those elements are: Community, Nature, Wellbeing, and Therapy.

Community

When a small group of staff and students live together in the wilderness, they automatically experience a greatly heightened level of interdependence.   Every student must depend on every other student and staff member for camp life to go smoothly. Eating, orienteering, staying safe, staying dry, getting along and maintaining a level of comfort are all group concerns requiring everyone’s participation and cooperation.

As a result of this constant interdependence, the group becomes an emotionally safe environment where students are able to become more honest and accountable for feelings and behavior patterns. Students tend to replicate the relationship patterns from home within the group, creating opportunities to explore and re-engineer those patterns. While living together, students learn about their respective behaviors and relationship patterns. Through enhanced awareness, students practice and refine new and healthier skills for interacting and cooperating with others. Specifically:

  • Students work together to meet the daily challenges of living in the outdoors
  • Students are taught to use assertive communication to give and receive valuable feedback to/from peers and adults
  • Senior students support, encourage, and mentor newer students
  • Students are also encouraged to use assertive communication skills to identify and share feelings with staff and peers
  • Our single-gender focus allows for freer discussion of age appropriate developmental and identity issues and concerns
  • Within the community, each student has a field mentor who understands and facilitates his individualized treatment plan
  • Students learn to trust and cooperate with authority figures through collective goal setting and group participation

Nature

The simplicity and austerity of nature intrinsically provides opportunities for students to understand the impact their behaviors have on themselves and others. There’s no television, computer or bedroom to disappear into when things become difficult. Rather, nature rewards effort, perseverance, and patience and discourages impulsive problem solving. Students naturally gain confidence and self esteem as they master various outdoor living skills. Nature provides a setting free of distractions where students can easily gain insight and clarity into themselves and others. Living in nature often inspires students to define and connect with the spiritual aspects of their recovery.

While living in the outdoors, students:

  • Learn and practice outdoor living skills, such as, building shelters, preparing food, and making fires – skills that have a direct impact on their comfort and well-being
  • Must use collaborative problem solving techniques to maneuver through environmental challenges
  • Live free from the distractions of drugs, media, toxic relationships, and other societal stressors
  • Have opportunities to participate in daily personal reflective time, journaling, and/or meditation

*Elements is not a survival-based program

Wellness

Physical wellbeing is an integral part of a student’s success and recovery. Many emotional and psychological disorders have a correlative relationship to imbalances of physical wellbeing. Prior to arriving at Elements Wilderness Program, most students have neglected their physical health which contributes significantly to their emotional and behavioral unrest. At Elements, we’re passionate about restoring a student’s physical wellbeing, knowing that it paves the way for sustainable emotional healing.

  • Students regularly exercise, hiking 2-5 miles several days per week
  • Staff facilitate regular therapeutic experiential activities and physical play time
  • Elements provides a healthy, well balanced and varied diet
  • Students return to healthy sleep patterns based on nature’s clock

*Elements does not operate from deprivation model

Therapy

Traditional therapeutic principles and techniques are also a vital part of the Elements program.  A therapist is the head of each student’s treatment team and guides students, field mentors, and parents in developing and implementing an individualized treatment plan.  The therapist helps students and parents understand and engage the wilderness treatment process. Parents are appraised of their son’s behaviors and progress in treatment.  The therapist also collaborates with parents and other professionals in aftercare planning.

Important parts of the therapy element include:

  • The assigned therapist accurately assesses each student’s needs with the support of the field mentors
  • The therapist develops an individualized treatment plan collaboratively with the student and parents
  • Each student participates in a weekly individual therapy session
  • Each student participates in a weekly group therapy session facilitated by the therapist, as well as daily group counseling facilitated by mentor staff
  • The family’s therapist conducts a weekly conference call to update parents on their son’s progress and to provide support and direction for parental participation
  • Students are encouraged to practice new skills with their family members through weekly letter writing
  • When students have reached a sufficient  level of insight and accountability, they can participate in family therapy sessions via telephone from the field
  • We can provide formal psychological and educational evaluations as needed to aid in the accurate assessment, diagnosis, and treatment planning of each student
  • The therapist works closely with families, referral sources, and educational consultants in continued care planning

*Elements is a Utah state licensed outdoor therapeutic program and the clinical staff are appropriately licensed by the state of Utah in their respective fields

Student Phases

At Elements, we recognize that no one can force true change on a person from the outside, whether by coercion or enticement. We acknowledge that change in behavior alone is not the goal, as behavior can be manipulated and is often not truly internalized.  What we do believe is that our students need consistency and predictability in order to feel safe and understand their environment. Our phase system can help students track their own progress and gain insight into their own personal growth. It provides our boys with a structure that helps make the process of personal growth feel more concrete and clear. Each phase is as follows:

Acclimation

When students arrive at Elements they are given time to adjust to their unfamiliar surroundings. This phase is designed to promote trust and prepare students to participate at a minimal level in the community. During this phase, the student spends time away from the social distractions of the group and has time to begin to let go of the confusion from home and connect with the pace of living in the wilderness.

Students are assigned a peer mentor and a staff mentor who support the new student in their physical and emotional acclimation. The new student is given reading and writing assignments that promote reflection on the past and help the student understand and anticipate the process of change.

Exploration

The purpose of the exploration phase is to promote initial self-awareness and foster therapeutic skills that will be a foundation for ongoing success. During this phase students receive an intervention letter from their parents. The community becomes a setting to improve consciousness and a setting to practice basic communication and relationship skills.

The student learns to rely on the group for emotional and physical support. The student gains self-confidence as he struggles to master living in the wilderness. During this phase the therapist, student, and family work together to develop an individualized treatment plan.

Discovery

The discovery phase helps students move from simple awareness and cooperation towards deeper accountability and initiative. Students use their new skills to understand the impact their actions have had on themselves and family members.

Assignments are designed to promote a deeper understanding of some of the underlying motives for past behavior and help students move towards finding healthier ways of coping. The student continues to gain confidence as he becomes proficient at living outdoors and less dependent on others for external motivation

Mastery

When students reach the mastery phase they have progressed from superficial motivation to more active and invested participation. The student takes a step beyond simple accountability and is now working in partnership with his peers, staff, therapist and family to complete treatment goals. At this phase students have devised a method for change and are actively modifying their habits and engaging their environment.

They have gained confidence and self-esteem from mastering the art of living outdoors. Students have also begun the process of re-evaluating their self-image and begin to have a healthier understanding of their individuality. During this phase students begin to take on a leadership role in the group and actively mentor new students.

Mentor

Those students who reach mentor status are able to use their skills and motivation for the betterment of the group. These students have had success implementing strategies for personal change and have met the majority of program challenges. They actively lead the community in day-to-day activities and teach and mentor all of the students in the group. Not all students reach this phase as it requires a deeper sense of self-reflection, honesty, and persistence.

Adventure Programing

Elements’ incorporates Adventure Programming to complement our strong therapeutic foundation. We believe AP provides a unique experience for students during their wilderness experience. The challenge of activities including rock climbing, rappelling, canyoneering, and low ropes courses can provide a host of powerful teaching opportunities. Positive outcomes include increases in self-confidence, self-efficacy, problem solving skills, effective communication, self-awareness, trust, and developing healthy coping strategies.

In keeping to our commitment to provide the highest quality programming, Elements is aligned with American Mountain Guide Association’s (AMGA’s) standards and training to facilitate our adventure-based experiences. AMGA is established as an international industry leader in training and certification for climbing and mountaineering.

AP offers our students an alternative view to challenges in life, and how to negotiate them with a sense of empowerment. We believe adventure-based challenges will accelerate the therapeutic process while building confidence to make healthier overall decisions.

Expedition Model

Our boys have long sought distraction as a way to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. That is why we believe that a comprehensive program set in an environment free of outside distractions provides the best space for our boys to come to real understanding about their role in their life. We have found that to be best achieved in a constant expedition model, rather than in a “base camp” model, where students spend a bulk of their time in transition between the field experience and the base experience.

The intrinsic benefit of the one unbroken journey that our expedition model provides is that all our observation and assessment happens in real time, in the group, rather than in an artificial “outpatient-style” setting that was designed for our own comfort. Our therapists, our staff, our adventure programming director, and our back up and support are centered around each group, not the other way around.

Our boys own their journey, and the sense of accomplishment they get from being out there is unparalleled.