Schools & Program
Visits - Jan, 2000 Issue #65
Parent Weekend at Cedar Ridge
Rob Nielson, Owner/ Director
Visit Report by Jodi Tuttle,
September 22 – 25, 1999
“Please watch your step for baby guineas, they were just hatched last night,”
was a student warning to parents who had arrived for Parent Weekend at Cedar Ridge. WYSIWYG (pronounced wissiwig) is the word that
most exemplifies Cedar Ridge Adolescent Treatment Program; otherwise known as “What You See Is What You Get.” Not only is it important
to watch your step for the guineas, it became important to watch your step for other deposits left by free ranging guineas, chickens,
and exotic ducks. On this farm, animals are definitely a part of everyday life.
Other programs might not have been so excited to bring parents, many of them
executives and large company owners who hail from the suburbs of Chicago, San Francisco, etc, onto campus to experience life as their
children do on the farm. The farm at Cedar Ridge is not the most upscale environment I have ever encountered. Rob Nielson, Owner/Director/Therapist,
however, follows the WYSIWYG philosophy of “everyone being what they are,” and wanted the parents to participate in some of the same
experiences that their kids experience while at Cedar Ridge. Interestingly, every parent I met was a happy camper and actively participating
in each activity held on the farm.
Therapy on this farm might take place anywhere on the farm possibly near
the llamas, goats, cows, and fowl; not necessarily in a therapist’s office. Rob, a farmer at heart, made his dream come true recently
by purchasing an enclosed tractor that can be used for therapy while plowing the ground or haying. There were, however, too many parents
to put them all on the tractor for the weekend, so, the parents and students participated in other activities.
The experiential activities included getting acquainted activities, trust
work, and low ropes events. It was “challenge by choice,” no one had to experience anything he/she felt uncomfortable doing. This
is typical of the philosophy of the program. Cedar Ridge is dedicated to the concept of using the least restrictive means necessary
to induce change. It was founded on the belief that every human being possesses the internal resources to grow and self-actualize.
Parents enjoyed the opportunity to challenge themselves, but were relieved to discover they could break through their comfort zones
in small increments, not all at once.
After the experiential activities took parents and students out of their
comfort zones, Rob began working with them using what he calls a “fears chart.” This chart assists individuals in recognizing and
addressing deep, underlying fears and emotions that precipitate negative behaviors. It helps students and parents replace old responses
and patterns with better coping skills. The “fears chart,” along with Cedar Ridge’s unique therapy and karate for the students, brings
out new life for everyone. By the end of the weekend, everyone had grown to become a new family, not only within their individual
families, they had also acquired newly found friends and had expanded their families to include the entire Cedar Ridge Family. This
“Family Model” program truly succeeded this weekend in bringing everyone together as a family. I felt such a part of the farm that
I did not want to hook onto my sheep camp wagon and head back to Southern Utah. This place became another home for me and will always
remain a beautiful spot in my heart.
This parent weekend visit precipitated in me a curiosity making me want to
know how other programs work with parents. Thus, I am doing some research into what other programs do to include parents in the process
of helping students. I would enjoy hearing from other programs about how they work with parents in helping to rebuild student’s lives.
Copyright © 2000, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced
without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)