Summit Achievement stands alone among wilderness programs in integrating a teen’s parents into their child’s treatment process. We understand that when a teen is struggling, it impacts the whole family and even strains relationships and blocks communication between family members. For these reasons Summit not only believes in the importance of including parents in the treatment process, we require it. From the first day until the last, parents are part of the team involved in the teen’s treatment program.
Each family is assigned a masters level therapist who guides treatment planning and facilitates all parent-child interactions. When the family arrives at Summit Achievement, they meet the primary therapist who will be working with them throughout the teen’s stay in the program.
During the first week the therapist collaborates with the parents and student to design a comprehensive individualized treatment plan. Elements of this plan include:
- Documenting the problem areas to be addressed
- Identifying the goals targeted for achievement
- Listing of incremental objectives the student is expected to complete
- Identifying best methods for evaluating the student’s progress
Each week the treatment team meets to review the plan and make any needed adjustments. This ensures that the student continues to progress toward treatment goals and successful completion of the program.
Towards the middle of the student’s enrollment, the therapist makes recommendations regarding the type of environment and clinical support the student will need following discharge from the program. Though these recommendations typically include the type of program, degree of structure, and other services that the student may require, parents are encouraged to work with an educational consultant who can help them identify specific schools or programs to meet the student’s needs.
Family therapy is conducted during both face-to-face, in-person sessions and via telephone or video conference calls. At the time of enrollment, the primary therapist sits down with the parents to gain a better understanding of the teen’s background and current challenges. This is a time for parents to outline their concerns and goals for their child’s treatment and to begin a rapport with the therapist.
Weekly Family therapy sessions are initiated utilizing telephone or video conference calls the first week after enrollment. The purpose of these calls is to update parents on their teen’s progress and to engage parents and child in discussion around goals, progress, and other issues. During these sessions, parents and child are encouraged to:
- Ask questions of each other
- Voice concerns or fears
- Resolve any conflicts or disagreements that may have existed prior to enrollment
The primary therapist is always available to facilitate the session or mediate discussion of difficult topics.
More On Family Therapy
About mid-way through the student’s stay, parents are encouraged to return to Summit for an off-campus visit with their teen and a face-to-face family therapy session. The timing of this visit is determined by the primary therapist, based on the teen’s progress and the parents’ schedule. The off-campus visit is an important opportunity to compare progress in the program to progress within the family system. This is a critical diagnostic juncture as some teens will be able to demonstrate progress through new skills while others may regress into old behavioral patterns or ways of interacting with his or her parents. Following return to campus, a family therapy session is held to debrief the visit, assess relationship dynamics, and resolve any lingering issues.
Following the parents’ visit, weekly therapy sessions resume via telephone or video conference, gradually shifting in focus to transition planning and the family’s fears or concerns about taking the next step. On the teen’s final day in the program, the parents return to campus for the final face-to-face family therapy session, addressing transition planning, behavioral expectations, and future growth. A Good-Bye Circle is also held to honor the student and mark the end to his or her stay at Summit Achievement. This ceremony includes all the staff and students who worked with the teen while at Summit, each offering feedback or a special remembrance.