It is our mission to provide the most engaging and effective Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare treatment program for adolescents. Change happens when one feels safe, inspired, and confident to make one’s life their own. We believe it’s our responsibility to create this environment while empowering our clients through open and honest dialogue, and concrete resources.
To make the most of the small window of time we are afforded with each student and his family, we have built a curriculum designed to afford both high impact for the present and clear diagnostic information for the future. As you click through the following modalities below (or simply scroll through them in turn), please understand that each piece serves as a different way to approach the same end: helping our boys a) understand their role in their life and b) develop the skills to make real change happen.
Each element of this program is designed to cast a wide net in order to help each student engage in the way that best fits his individual needs and experience. For example, with therapist guidance to individualize the experience, some boys will only touch upon the 7 challenges whereas for others it will serve as a centerpiece to their experience.
Don’t hesitate to call us to talk specifically about your son and how these interventions might best fit his needs.
What is Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare?
Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH), also referred to as wilderness therapy or adventure therapy, is often an alternative treatment approach for adolescents with co-occurring mental health conditions. A key feature of OBH is “the prescriptive use of wilderness experiences by licensed mental health professionals to meet the therapeutic needs of clients”.1
The main components of OBH include:
- Extended backcountry travel and wilderness living experiences
- Active and direct use of clients’ participation and responsibility
- Continual group living and regular formal group therapy sessions to foster teamwork and social interactions
- Individual therapy sessions, supported by the inclusion of family therapy
- Adventure experiences utilized to enhance treatment by fostering the development of eustress (ie, the positive use of stress) as a beneficial element in the therapeutic experience
- The use of nature in reality as a metaphor within the therapeutic process and
- A strong ethic of care and support throughout the therapeutic experience.1
Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare has been shown to be a more successful mental health intervention than “treatment as usual”, such as outpatient services. One study comparing OBH with treatment as usual found treatment gains from one-year post treatment were three times larger in the OBH group.2
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT, is a powerful multi-modal treatment approach that Elements uses to address the extreme emotional intensity and dysregulation that many of our students struggle with. It’s this intense emotionality that often leads to angry, destructive or counterproductive behaviors. DBT emphasizes personal responsibility and helps our students examine how they deal with conflict and negative feelings. The goals of our DBT program include identifying maladaptive coping patterns and providing students with adaptive coping strategies to promote healthier behaviors and psychological well-being.
DBT combines the basic strategies of cognitive-behavioral therapy with mindfulness practices. DBT calls on students to accept current reality while maintaining a strong and conscious commitment to change. DBT has also been modified so that it can be used with other difficulties such as substance use, self-harm and anger management. DBT targets the issues that cause distress and teaches skills to deal with them without having to resort to self-defeating behaviors. It does so in a structured framework that helps us understand that, on the one hand, we are doing the best we can and, on the other hand, even though we can and need to learn better ways of dealing with challenges.
Specific DBT foci include:
- Mindfulness: Focusing the mind, directing attention and understanding how you feel.
- Emotional Regulation: Reducing emotional intensity that can lead to impulsivity and destructive behaviors.
- Distress Tolerance: Reducing impulsivity and managing personal crises.
- Interpersonal Effectiveness: Keeping relationships steady, getting what is needed and maintaining your self-respect.
- Gass, M. (Ed.). (2014). Manual of Accreditation Standards for Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Programs. AEE.
- DeMille, S., Tucker, A. R., Gass, M. A., Javorski, S., VanKanegan, C., Talbot, B., & Karoff, M. (2018). The effectiveness of outdoor behavioral healthcare with struggling adolescents: A comparison group study a contribution for the special issue: Social innovation in child and youth services. Children and Youth Services Review, 88, 241–248. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2018.03.015
- Bowen, Daniel & Neill, James. (2013). A Meta-Analysis of Adventure Therapy Outcomes and Moderators. The Open Psychology Journal. 6. 10.2174/1874350120130802001.
- Neill, J. T. (2003). Reviewing and benchmarking adventure therapy outcomes: Applications of meta-analysis. J Exp Educ 2003; 25(3): 316-21.