Elements Of Change
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.
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.
- Students are involved in service projects within the outdoor environment
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
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
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 after 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