My Soltreks Experience
Ed from Louisiana (Last name on file)
February 26, 2003
After our daughter hit, what I considered “the bottom”, my real nightmare began. Her depression had turned to anger and rebellion, traits that I have since found to be quite common in teenagers suffering with depression. It was recommended by her local counselor that she attend an “outward bound” summer program. In the months prior to the start of the program, our home had become a continuous battle of wills and I counted the days until her departure as “days from hell” until we arrived in Minnesota. But let me digress.
Prior to “the bottom,” our daughter was an outgoing, active, athlete. She was vice-president of her class, a water girl on the football team and in my opinion, a typical teenage kid. Her boyfriend problems and a defeat in a school election began a downward personal spiral. Although, we recognized her pain on the surface, we were not nearly aware of the depth of her pain. The prior year deaths of her niece and her grandmother, coupled with marital turmoil from her childhood culminated in the teenage rebellion brought on by unresolved psychological pain. She was a “pleaser”, making sure everyone was happy. That is, everyone but her. I can say that as a matter of fact now, back then I thought she was just rebelling and my wife and I were not handling the family turmoil very well at all. So what is a parent to do? Here is what we did.
For almost a month, I came into work each day and got on the Internet to find “summer programs for troubled teens”, and I often spent most of the night doing the same. There are many websites and just as many philosophies on the best way to help teenagers. After phone interviews with the marketing directors of the various programs, I received referral lists and began to call parents on the list. Because many calls were during the day, I quite often spoke to the children that had attended the different programs and developed a feel for the realities and methodologies of the various organizations. I actually applied and was accepted to three different programs. And let me say here, that I believe that all of these programs have good intentions and will work for certain kids. I also believe that those running the programs are sincere in their efforts to help teens get back on track.
The Soltreks program was unique in several ways.
First, the heartfelt sincerity of both Doug and Lorri comes through from the first time you talk to them. They are not marketing directors, this is their calling in life and they live it every day and take a personal interest in each child they meet. Though the program is structured with a reward system, this is not a “boot camp” environment.
Secondly, they have worked for the larger corporate programs and realized that with smaller groups, the chance of a child “falling through the cracks,” would decrease significantly. They also do not have the corporate overhead associated with some programs, and are not associated directly with a particular boarding school. Many of their children returned to the homes and schools they had attended prior to the trek.
Finally, the parents that I interviewed had “war stories” most similar to mine. What you will find in your investigation is that “troubled teen” covers a vast multitude of behaviors. Since my daughter’s problems had come on relatively quickly, I was in hopes that they could also be corrected without prolonged boarding school enrollment. However, I was prepared to place her in a boarding school environment if her behavior did not show major improvement and if the counselors would have recommended that kind of structure.
After many phone discussions, we arrived in Minnesota and met with Lorri and Doug, the staff, and the other parents in the group. Though we felt that we had chosen the right place for our daughter, you are never quite sure. The time she spent in the wilderness, (and this girl had never been on a camp out prior to this) coupled with the active parent/Soltreks participation in the program was the perfect combination for our child. Let me state up front, IT WAS NOT EASY! The letter writing, clearing up dirty family laundry, and being told off by a 17 year old by mail is not fun, BUT THE PROCESS WORKS! The letters to us literally went from, “I’m in hell and I hate you for sending me…”, to “this is exactly where I need to be, I love you and thank you.”
The night that the girls returned from the wilderness, they had a slumber party at our condo. Hearing the tales of the trek as told by the girls was fascinating. What came through, and this was an all girl group, was how much they learned about themselves in the wilderness, how hard it was at first, but how rewarding it became, and how much they respected Lorri and Doug. Lorri’s ability to listen, get to the heart of the problem, and get past the facades is truly her gift. Doug’s ever friendly, non-confrontational temperament is just what angry teens need. When else in life will a teenager spend time in nature with no phones, TV’s, computers, fast food, stereos, and most importantly, peers? When can you have more than “an hour of counseling” in a structured environment with qualified counselors for six weeks? You know the answer. It just cannot happen at home.
Did Soltreks solve all of our family problems? No.
Did she return with a halo on her head as “the perfect child?” Again no.
Did she return home and graduate with her class. Yes!
Did she learn how to cope with her daily problems, and move on to attend college? Yes!
Did our entire family learn and grow from the experience? Again, Yes!
Will it work for your child? I don’t know, but it is certainly worth a call to Soltreks.
It is my pleasure to recommend Soltreks to any parent who has a teen that needs help.