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Press Release

Mentor Research Institute
Portland OR

StepOne for Parents demonstrates that youth intervention program works

Contact:
Kevin Rea
541-390-9848
www.InCrisis.Org
www.MentorResearch.Org

August 12, 2006

"People who run ineffective wilderness therapy programs for youth should be on notice. Parents can now evaluate the effectiveness of a program in a reliable and valid manner." says Michael Conner, a Psychologist with Mentor Research Institute. "This will be of tremendous value to consumers and may help less effective programs get better."

Mentor Research Institute (Mentor) presented the results of its research project on the efficacy of wilderness therapy programs to the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) at a conference in Bend, Oregon August 11, 2006.

RESULTS

In a three year study, 63% of children, referred to three studied wilderness therapy programs, were admitted with severe mental health problems and 43% had complex diagnostic issues. 52% of the children were potentially suicidal. An estimated 58% were involved in alcohol or drugs. Nearly 80% were at risk of dropping out of school. Virtually all the children admitted had significant emotional and behavior problems.

The results of Mentor’s three-year study suggest that wilderness therapy programs can have a significant positive impact on adolescents. Nearly 95% of graduates had no significant problems within 30 days of graduation. At 6 months after completing the programs, 62% had no significant problems. This significant increase in problems is a finding people in the wilderness therapy industry refer to as the "post-wilderness crash". However, by one year after treatment, most graduates had turned their life around with 82% doing well.

Most important is the significant reduction in the complexity and severity of problems reported after wilderness therapy. The risk of suicidal behavior, violence, drug abuse and school drop-out were each significantly lower. While some of the treated children still have problems, their chances to live rewarding and successful lives were greatly improved.

UNEXPECTED FINDINGS

There was also a completely unexpected finding. Many of the graduates had significant improvement in their ability to pay attention. Students with severe attention deficits appeared normal 30 days after graduation. But this did not last and returned to previous levels by 6 months. More research is necessary to examine the speculation that spending time in nature has positive benefit on brain functioning.

THE PROBLEM

According to Conner, "Research that demonstrates effective or ineffective intervention is important when you consider that the cost of wilderness therapy can be $25,000 – $ 30,000 for seven weeks of treatment. People in the industry believe that "wilderness therapy" works. Research is important because we don't how well it works, why it works, how long it lasts and who can benefit the most. We believe that parent involvement in this research is essential. This is a very new mode of intervention with human problems. Initial research findings are not always right and they must be replicated. What really helps children in a wilderness therapy program is a complete mystery.”

OTHER RESEARCH

Aspen Education Group is expected to release the results their research project on the effectiveness of youth intervention and education programs. Mentor is looking forward to seeing the results of Aspen's research. We expect it will be interesting and impressive.

CONSUMER BASED RESEARCH

For nearly 10 years Mentor has been conducting research and developing tools that parents can use to evaluate the outcome of any behavioral health treatment or intervention. Mentor's approach is uniquely different from traditional research process. Using a computer program called "StepOne" parents can measure the benefit of an intervention like a wilderness program. StepOne is an Internet-based computer program that offers behavioral health screening, research and monitoring. The program is available 24-7 at no charge.

We no longer live in a world where we must rely on or wait years for research results on the efficacy of treatment and intervention. With tools created by Mentor, the cost and difficulty in evaluating the benefit of a program is no longer an obstacle. A traditional research approach to study treatment outcome can cost several hundred thousand dollars. Similar research using StepOne can cost a program less than $10,000.

Mentor’s results appear valid and consistent with industry experience. Further studies are under way to see if these results can be replicated.


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