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New Perspectives - Apr, 1992 Issue 

Circle S Recovery Ranch
Leavenworth, Washington
Larry Stednitz's Visit
Western Youth Network

A Two-Month Substance Abuse Treatment Alternative

I arrived at Circle S Ranch early Friday morning. When visiting and evaluating treatment programs, I find attending staff meetings to be a quick way to understand the attitudes, basic structure, and comprehensiveness of a program. The Circle S has a staff meeting daily to discuss the events of the evening, communicate vital information, and to plan the day. The first information I received was that staff was highly invested in their charges. The staff was experienced, caring, and were obviously dedicated to their work. Not only were they focused on the program for the day, but were organizing trips for residents to see psychologists for assessment, attend individual therapy sessions, and to complete their physical examinations. This meeting was an informal but effective clearing house to attend to comprehensive assessment, individual and group treatment planning, and overall clinical management of programs.

As the staff meeting was winding down and the direction of the day set, the boys gathered for their "Big Book Study" after cleanup and breakfast. There was high anxiety today because the boys were anticipating the ROPES course work that was to immediately follow. I was able to participate in and observe the ROPES course for the better part of the morning with the staff and the boys. This experiential approach was extremely effective as virtually all significant issues that the boys brought to program came up within a very short two or three hours. Support, team work, patience, personal trust issues, impulse behavioral problems, and countless other issues were unfolding before our very eyes. I personally learned on the log walk that I tried to do too much on my own!

These activities as well as the traditional Twelve-Step Minnesota Model elements are key to the Circle S treatment of substance abuse among young men ages 14-24. These elements require a high degree of cooperation among multidisciplinary staff members, traditional confrontational interventions and techniques, and focus on the Twelve-Step Alcohol Anonymous Program. The more traditional approaches involve process meetings, attendance at alcohol/narcotics anonymous meetings, therapeutic work tasks, recreation, meditation, and alcohol and drug education. These techniques are interwoven and enhanced by the ROPES course work as well as wilderness trips. All residents attend a 16-day wilderness program approximately thirty days into treatment.

A careful integration of all these components make Circle S an ideal short term substance abuse intervention for adolescents who are chemically dependent. It is my belief that all professionals working with adolescents and young adults need to be aware of these effective alternatives to traditional treatment of adolescents who suffer from alcohol and drug abuse. The Circle S Ranch, situated on 310 acres outside of Leavenworth, Washington, is a model for this approach.

Copyright 1992, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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