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New Perspectives - May, 2001 Issue #81 

 PAI Ranch Academy
Taos, New Mexico
Anthony Geraci
[New Perspective] 

The Pai Ranch Academy is a therapeutic learning center where young men, aged 18 to 25 years can transition to adulthood in an environment that promotes the development of life long skills. The ranch is part of the Pai Foundation, a private, not-for-profit organization with no religious affiliations, whose mission is to “create an environment in which individuals can develop their potential to make their transition to young adulthood.”

The Pai Ranch Academy addresses the development of mind, body and spirit in the program through three phases of work. It is neither a “boot camp” nor a behavior modification program. Rather, it is a program that is designed to provide an environment which fosters self-respect and accountability in the individual’s own life, as well respect and responsibility in his relationships with others. 

This practical, experiential approach is called Environmental Education, and was first articulated by David Hawkins, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado. This approach utilizes the individual’s daily experiences to stimulate and enhance the educational/learning process, thus enabling the acquisition of lifelong living skills and emotional development. Staff members are trained in this approach, which involves having the young men immerse themselves in the active pursuit of understanding and clarifying their needs, beliefs, emotions and expectations. “This journey of self-discovery and the subsequent development of an efficacious sense of self is effected in a year long, three phase, individually driven program.”

The development of mind, body and spirit is fostered through a variety of activities involving the wilderness, daily chores, education, employment, counseling and cultural events. In Phase One the individual lives in a structured community where he learns to be responsible for daily living, community and interpersonal relationships and emotional stability. Through this process he begins to assess his needs, creating his “Individual Development Plan.” Phase Two consists of semi-independent living organized around the principle of accountability and personal success through limited challenge from the world at large. The Third Phase focuses upon independent living in the greater Taos community, where the individual practices the skills attained in the first two phases. The Third Phase is organized by “honor, confidence and success.” In this phase the individual is responsible for participating in the peer mentorship program, aiding those individuals who are just beginning their journey at the Pai Ranch Academy. 

During each phase of the program the participants are supported by active group and individual counseling. It is conducted by “trained and supervised staff who are committed to helping the individual process and reflect upon their behaviors, their emotional state, their communication with others and the creation and maintenance of the Individual Development Plan.” When indicated, Individual Psychotherapy and substance abuse counseling are also available. 

Family support is considered to be essential to the success of the individual family member. At admission families are invited to participate in a two and a half day seminar, which “facilitates the treatment process.” The families are invited back for an individual family exit seminar when the individual is prepared to exit the academy. If deemed necessary, individual family members or families are invited to participate in an individual’s treatment process. 

Located 30 minutes north of Taos, New Mexico in the small community of San Cristobal, this 113-acre working ranch sits at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and is surrounded by the Kit Carson National Forest. “Northern New Mexico is a multi-cultural tapestry of interwoven communities, which has a long history of spiritual and self-exploration. The Pai Ranch Academy has specifically chosen this location to support the self discovery and growth of its participants.”

Pai Ranch operates year-round, with new admissions accepted three times a year, though exceptions under extenuating circumstances are sometimes allowed. “The Pai Ranch Academy is covered by most insurance companies with benefits for inpatient residential treatment for mental health, substance abuse and chemical dependency. Limited financial aide is available through the Pai Foundation scholarship program.”

This article copyright © 1999-2001, 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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