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….


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.


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/she struggles to master living in the wilderness. During this phase the therapist, student, and family work together to develop an individualized treatment plan.


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/she becomes proficient at living outdoors and less dependent on others for external motivation


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.


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.