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Schools & Program Visits - Dec, 1999 Issue #64  

 Wilderness Program
Scott Canter, Admission Director
(818) 906-9611 or (818) 906-7611 

Visit Report by Jodi Tuttle
June 24, 1999
(435) 656-1251 
jodit@redrock.net

Utahís DinosaurLand provides the setting for Second Nature Wilderness Program, which takes full advantage of the pristine Uinta Mountains with miles of open space, lakes and red rock gorges where outlaws and dinosaurs once roamed. Even though Butch Cassidy and the prehistoric carnivores are absent, there are plenty of campfire stories about caches never recovered by fleeing bandits, and the possibility of spying a fossil along the trail. 

Second Nature Wilderness Program works with students, ages 13 Ė 18, who have a range of emotional and behavioral issues including: Depression, Learning Differences, Oppositional Defiance, Attention Deficit Disorder, Attachment and Substance Abuse Disorders. Typical students have declined in their academic performance, isolated themselves, chosen the wrong friends, have entitlement issues, have failed to respond to limits and rules and generally have low self-esteem or are underachievers. This program is not for students who have major mental health disorders or who demonstrate a willingness to hurt themselves or others. 

Second Nature offers flexible lengths of stay and individual treatment planning to ensure that each studentís goals are accomplished. Treatment focuses on two main areas, the environment the student experiences, and the internal process the student uses. The programís personnel create a family-like microcosm with appropriate structure, boundaries, feedback, relationships, and challenges, helping students to examine past experiences and behaviors, relationships and coping strategies. Second Nature personnel facilitate the process using group therapy, therapeutic assignments, experiential therapy, volunteer work projects and individual therapy focusing on the studentís presenting problems and treatment areas. 

During our Consultant Tour we visited students in the field, and were given the opportunity to participate in group discussions, sitting in a circle with the youngsters. The breeze rustling through the pines of the forest enlivened the majestic setting for us to relax and enjoy both the atmosphere and the students. They shared their accomplishments with us, describing the struggles that had taken place at Second Nature. ďI have learned a lot about myself and have been able to lose 20 pounds since I have been here,Ē was a comment by one overweight young lady. She was ending her stay and looking forward to entering a therapeutic boarding school to continue work on her emotional growth and physical fitness. 

Accountability and leadership are important pieces of the program at Second Nature. Students learn to accept responsibility and begin to work on personal issues to help develop self-esteem and initiate positive change. The goal is to shift a studentís focus from external, to internal, locus of control. Students develop interpersonal skills and are expected to assume leadership roles with other students while they continue their own work. They give feedback to others, act as mentors to new students, and use newly acquired behaviors to firmly establish effective new habits. 

Developing an aftercare plan for the studentís transition to the next step is major focus in the program, based on the realization that although students can make considerable improvement while in the program, maintaining those gains requires careful attention. They request that families work with them and their educational consultants, if they have one, to have aftercare plans in place 2 weeks prior to discharge. Aftercare plans include: planning for the next step; having a relapse plan in place if appropriate; as well as completing any family therapy work; academic work; the leadership phase and the volunteer work project. 

I left Second Nature feeling that students were in good hands with the highly experienced owners and personnel. The Executive Director, Cheryl Kehl, LCSW, has had years of experience in this field, as do the three therapists, one of whom also has a PhD., while the other two are PhD candidates. The field support personnel also have tremendous experience in the field, in addition to their education, which includes bachelors and masters degrees in Recreation Management, Psychology, and other related fields, as well as advanced first aid, medical training, and behavior management. I certainly would feel comfortable having my child in this healthy environment. 

Copyright © 1999, 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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