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Posted September 23, 2003 

VisionQuest's Madalyn Program
Kathi Miller, Admissions Director
Okeechobee, Florida

"VisionQuest's Madalyn Program at Warrington Ranch is a gender-specific treatment program for girls ages 12 - 17. "The program's goal is to provide the structure and support that helps young women to clarify the past, deal with the present, and prepare for the future." The activities scheduled throughout the day are "designed to nurture mind, body and spirit." They include: "structured daily living, gender-specific programming, individual and group counseling, educational emphasis with a strong academic program, extraordinary therapeutic experiences involving equestrian programs and outdoor adventure programming, and specialized services that include substance abuse services, professional counseling, and special education."

They serve girls who: have difficulty with structure and authority, don't recognize the needs of others, and participate in unhealthy risk-taking. Usually they have deteriorating academic performance, low self-esteem, poor communication skills, depression, and/or uncontrollable anger, aggression and defiance.

At Madalyn, all girls participate in individual, group and family counseling sessions. Individual sessions are with a Master's level clinician, the frequency determined by each girl's treatment plan. An important treatment focus is to help the girls develop strong skills for self-care and self-sufficiency. The girls participate in formalized life skills curricula through VisionQuest's Competency & Awareness Series and Specialized Treatment Groups. These groups are designed to: raise girls' awareness; teach basic skills and competencies; and provide a vehicle for in-depth group discussion of significant issues, including the mother-daughter relationship, achieving through adversity, conflict resolution and anger management. There are also specialized treatment groups which cover various topics such as drug and alcohol, grief and loss, survivors of abuse, children of substance abusers, and intimacy. All the activities emphasize the concepts of valuing the female perspective, honoring the female experience, celebrating the contributions of girls and women, and empowering them to reach their full human potential.

The Madalyn program has found that working with horses and other large animals can be "a powerful vehicle for learning about relationships, trust, the ability to care for and be supported by others, and having control without using force. For many girls, this is a very important modality for exploring and healing prior histories of abuse, abandonment or neglect; it also builds nurturing and leadership skills…At the Madalyn Program, skilled wranglers teach the youth about "horse whispering" and other techniques of natural animal training that emphasize respect and leadership rather than punishment and force."

Program participants also engage in "quests: challenging adventures that build character, ability and pride." These activities include hiking, bicycling, cross-country running, and ROPES course activities.

"For over 25 years, VisionQuest has been teaching troubled kids how to succeed in life" providing "innovative" treatment programs for at-risk youth, including: residential treatment, community-based probation and aftercare alternatives, behavioral health services, group homes, assessment centers and shelters, and alternative schools."

"Youth are typically referred by probation officers, caseworkers, judges, school officials, attorneys and/or parents. "Studies by prestigious institutions - such as the Rand Corporation and the University of Pennsylvania - have found VisionQuest's approach successful at reducing recidivism and putting at-risk youth on a more positive, productive path."

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