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New Perspectives - Feb, 1997 Issue #44

Trout Creek, Montana
Lorne Riddell & Penny James-Riddell

Visit report by Vicky Hartman, on May 26, 1996 staff at Catherine Freer Wilderness Therapy Expeditions, Albany, Oregon. 541-926-7252

Explorations provides a family style living situation in rural NW Montana for teen-age boys and girls. The type of child that would most likely succeed there are those who need a structured setting away from negative peer group and family pressures, but are able to function in a public school environment. Students with chemical issues who would not need a structured after care program would also do well here. Daily activities include household and outdoor chores, local public school, outdoor activities, and large amounts of interaction with adults and peers. Students live in a family setting with up to 10 other teens, the Riddells and their children. Numerous outlets for physical activities exist which include indoor and outdoor chores as well as team sports at the public school. There is an emphasis on honest communication and personal responsibility. Group living, household chores, regular group meetings as well as individual time with their parents provide opportunities for children to develop emotional and personal skills necessary to function outside this structured environment. 

Client progress is monitored on an individual basis, but they do not use an approach where a child works through various levels. There are frequent communications with parents and family weekends. Explorations also has a 26 day wilderness component leaving monthly, to determine feasibility for entrance into the Explorations residential program or for other placements. Penny and Lorne join the trips regularly to facilitate groups and to keep track of participant progress. This information is then communicated back to families as well as to educational consultants. There is a two day family meeting at the end. Explorations also offers “custom- designed” wilderness courses for teens, preadolescents and those “stuck” in the post high school “not getting it together” yuck. This experience may also include time with the family in attendance. While I didn’t get a chance to see Penny or Lorne in action (students were in school and Lorne was gone), my overall sense of the place was positive. Penny was warm, obviously into working with kids, and the physical environment was homey, definitely not an institutional feel. The areas where the students lived were neat, comfortable and personalized (band posters on the walls, etc.). Penny noted that this decor was something the students had earned. Penny described an intervention process where a boy was not doing well at school despite confrontation by staff. He was consequently pulled from the public school, was home schooled and put on work details until enough progress was made for him to return to school. 

Copyright © 1997, 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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