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Posted: Jan 6, 2008, 10:13

New Perspectives


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Therapeutic Outdoor Programs
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Drew Hornbeck, BA, Executive Director

Two experienced outdoorsmen, with a passion for the wilderness and the lessons it can teach, coupled with a commitment to make such experiences available to more teens in the Midwest, have started a new program that takes advantage of the Chequamegon National Forest in northern Wisconsin. The program focuses on teens ages 12 to 18. Students may be struggling with issues such as: Relationships, Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, Low self-esteem or, Legal Problems, lack of motivation, Trauma/Abuse Histories, Decision making, ADHD/ADD, Anger management, Bi-Polar Disorder, Impulse control, Anxiety, Communication, Depression, Trusting others, and/or School attendance.

Drew Hornbeck spent several years as field staff in programs out west, including serving as director of a wilderness residential program prior to his work as the lead experiential therapist at Rogers Memorial's Child Adolescent Center. Steve Sawyer, MSW, APSW, CSAC, the Clinical Director, recently left a similar leadership position in a Milwaukee out-patient clinic to devote more of his time to New Vision. In addition to his clinical expertise, Steve is an expert in survival skills and wild edibles, and has worked in other adventure-based programs. Drew and Steve work closely with new staff members as they join the New Vision team.

New Vision was launched last summer with several 5-day treks. Starting in March, New Vision will offer eight or more 21-day sessions with the option for a participant to return after some time back home for a 5-day refresher. The 5-day trips are also open to teens that have completed wilderness programs elsewhere but are in need of a "tune-up."

The program believes in empowering youth - not in breaking kids down. Using a strength-based approach, staff works to build self-esteem by using nature's vulnerability to build self-confidence. Group therapy activities including issues like family dynamics, Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA) issues and stress management are built into the schedule twice each day. Individual therapy sessions are scheduled at least once each day and include work trauma resolution, somatic interventions and AODA relapse prevention planning. Staff members teach HeartMath techniques in the field and administer pre- and post-experience assessments.

Clinical services are licensed through the Wisconsin Department of Family and Human Services. In addition to the necessary insurance coverage, the program is authorized to operate in the National Forest through the US Forestry Service. The per diem rate is highly competitive.

[Research Associate Judith E. Bessette, EdD, gathered information for this article from the New Vision website and conversations with key staff.]


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