| From Strugglingteens.com|
By Laura Morton
When parents enroll their child into a wilderness therapy program or an emotional growth/therapeutic school or program, it is important that the child not bring in tools of his or her self-destructive behavior. Items such as weapons, cutting implements, gang colors, posters representing fear and anger, and/or anything associated with their negative behaviors must be screened out. Consequently, the studentís luggage and personal items will be screened.
This is a necessary chore based on several factors: getting an accurate inventory of the studentís items, marking the studentís items with the name for easy identification and, lastly, to ensure safety, contraband, weapons and valuables are not to be brought on to the property. This is usually done in the studentís presence to keep things open, honest, and above-board.
Whether the child is enrolling into a therapeutic boarding school, emotional growth boarding school, residential treatment center or outdoor therapeutic program, three main agreements exist:
The concept behind removing these items is to get the students out of their comfort zone and puts everyone on equal footingó no division of groups by images such as skaters, druggies, Goth, Emo or gangster; and there is no division by socio-economic images such as the ďbestĒ name brands of clothing, shoes or gear.
It is amazing what some students have tried to bring into the schools and the associations the student make with these items. These are usually not items left out in plain sight, but they can have very powerful but subtle associations, like ripped clothing (of course the latest trends), or posters depicting some of their favorite bands (picture in your mind Marilyn Manson, Eminem, 50 Cent or Metallica). In addition, contraband might include a bevy of CDís and magazines, cell phones, game boys, IPods, jewelry and assorted bling- bling, cigarettes, lighters and money. You name it, staff has seen it, and has learned the negative associations the students might have with items often overlooked or thought not important by a person who is not keyed into the thought processes of a self-destructive teen.
The real trick in clothing checks and move-ins is looking for the unexpected in unexpected places. Here are some examples:
Depending on the circumstances, and how the child arrives at the program, it is ALWAYS easier to have the staff weed items out of the studentís luggage than it is for parents to have to go to battle with their child over such items. It also allows the staff to set guidelines in place and lets the child know up front what is acceptable at the school/program and what is not. A child will do anything to hold on to old self-destructive and negative emotions. The first step in healing is for the staff to understand what is going on in the mind of the enrolling student and remove the crutches that foster the negativity.
As a former staff member, I know that it was sometimes difficult for parents to understand why some clothing items were ďunacceptableĒ or why their child was not allowed to keep certain items. It came down to the agreements of the program and getting the children ďback to basics,Ē which meant taking away the props they had used to personify a certain image because they feared their authentic selves were not acceptable or good enough and they would not fit in without them.
About the Author:
Laura Morton currently works for Woodbury Reports, Inc. Prior to working here, she worked in programs in this network over 20 years, both as a team leader and a counselor.
October 06, 2008
The same principle applies when we send Transport Teams to pick up a Student and take them to a therapeutic environment. If a Student is required to bring clothing and personal items to their new destination we request that Parents be responsible for packing and specifically request that no items be removed from the Student's room or bathroom as this will most likely alert the Student that something is awry in their world.
Holly D. Hunter, Owner
SafePassage Adolescent Services ģ
800.811.7911 - toll free
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