With your child as one of the most important people in your life, selecting the best treatment program when they are struggling becomes a vital decision. As you consider the many options of programs three key considerations will help you identify the best fit for your child and family:
1. Programs and services offered 2. Immediate outcomes for your child 3. Lasting results
Today with heavy hearts we said farewell to the incredible families who came out for the North Carolina Aspiro Alumni Initiative. There was so much bravery, compassion, and strength shown over the past few days. Yet again, our Aspiro alumni have shown that they are the driving force behind the work we are blessed to preform here at Aspiro.
Folks got right into the mud during our first nights group. They laid their hearts on the table, opening up and discussing the real issues and challenges they face as families. In addition, they shared all the accomplishments they’ve experienced since returning home.
Our second day was mind blowing! These folks embraced the challenge of climbing and pulled out all the stops. Positive communication and cheering echoed across the granite faces on which they climbed. After an enjoyable session of art therapy, these families took things even deeper. During our group there were tears, laughter, and overwhelming hope. Families reached out to one another without judgement.
Thank you for touching my heart and sharing so much of yourselves. This was an awe inspiring inspirational experience.
Until our paths cross again,
Shane Maxson Director of Adventure Programming Aspiro Group
The storm clouds were looming above us, rain pummeling our tents, and wind tearing at our clothes and flesh in cyclones of fury…then as a ray of hope, the sun rose basking the day of glory in the sweet nectar of dawn.
We were so blessed the weather broke at daybreak. Though the wind was intense, it dried the climbing area long before our guests arrived. Despite the storm, many brave souls came out to support the initiative.
The gorge came alive this morning with birdsong while we hiked the ridge out towards the Chimney’s at Table Rock. Views of the surrounding mountains were breath taking, eliciting sighs and exclamations of awe from us all.
The climbing was challenging. Everyone gave it there all, and dare I say one participant (who shall remain unnamed) looked like a pro despite the lack of climbing shoes upon her feet.
After a lively climbing session we returned to our camp where our guests engaged in a debrief focused on the masks we wear in life. Through crafts and thought provoking conversation we explored the mental landscape with each member of our group, everyone sharing openly about their experiences.
Thank you John Huie, Linda Tatspaugh , Mills and Cory from Four Circles Recovery, Amanda from Auldern Academy, and Mandy from Camp Albemarle. Your energy and enthusiasm made this day an incredible experience for us at Aspiro. We hope to stay in touch and continue building this powerful network of industry leaders to help provide ever greater support for the community we serve.
The food, forests, and fall colors have all been spectacular! Best of all, Southern hospitality has been evidenced in its finest. Sharon Clegg, our director of risk management, and myself, field operations manager, had the pleasure of meeting with SUWS of the Carolinas on Monday morning and Four Circles Recovery Center on Tuesday morning. The goal was to meet our neighbors in our outdoor behavioral health community and share best practices with the people who did jobs similar to our own. Risk management, staff training, permits and LNT, as well as the many nuances of our professions were discussed. Personally, I am so grateful for the opportunity to have grown and shared alongside our counterparts. These conversations have added depth to my own understanding of the work we do and have become foundations for relationships I hope to nurture in years to come. A huge thanks to Camille and Deara over at SUWS as well as Corey, Mills, and Todd at Four Circles for hosting us, providing wonderful lunches, and sharing their depth of experience.
The second stop on our tour landed us in the breath taking Queen Creek Canyon; just outside of the sleepy little town of Superior, Arizona. This area is rich in mining history; the volcanic landscape is dotted with the remnants cast off from the copper boom which at one time brought prosperity to this region. Old wooden structures stood upon the hilltops like weathered sentries, while the steel of modern equipment continued to remind us that industry has not yet lost its influence on the fragile desert environment.
With a blanket of clouds sheltering us from the blistering sun; we met our group in the campgrounds of Oak Flats. After introductions and laying out a roadmap of our day; we began a ground school session to prepare the incredible group of industry professionals for our day of climbing.
Immediately folks were able to see the incredible ability climbing has to build trust amongst people; while also bringing out the insecurities and fears which lurk in the deeper recesses of the psyche. Our platform continued to build up, exploring these questions of trust and communication until everyone had learned the skills necessary to keep each other safe and was empowered to accept the challenge of climbing.
At the top of a rock outcropping looking down to the creek below; we were asked the question; “What if I refuse to rappel down there, what would you do then?” This question though presented with whimsy was alluding to a true anxiety. In the classic Aspiro fashion; our facilitator assured that this rappel is possible and whatever support was going to help create success would be offered with arms wide open, without judgment, and total commitment to the individual needs of the participant.
This scenario is quite common while on trail with our students. They are in a new place and asked to take on a challenge unlike any other they have faced before. These are golden moments for utilizing and practicing new coping skills, building a healthy relationship through mentorship, finalizing in a feeling of accomplishment which can be generalized toward any struggle life throws in your direction.
With all our new community members safely and ecstatically at the bottom of the cliff the conversation drifted toward topics around trauma; the power of climbing to bring one back into their body. Mindfulness, the ways climbing replaces self injurious behavior like substance abuse among adrenaline seeking individuals, as well as the monumental effects accomplishment brings to building one’s self efficacy.
A huge highlight for me was a moment when sitting fifty feet up at the top of a climbing route when one of our group completed her first rock climb ever. She stretches her arm out smacks the anchor and yells; “I did it! I didn’t think I could ever do that; what can’t I do now!” Holy smokes; this woman helps folks battle through the dregs of eating disorders, trauma, and doubt daily, creates life changing experiences for young men and women, succeeding when others would cringe at the prospects of working with this delicate population. If someone who is already so strong and full of fire can find empowerment through climbing; imagine the experiences our students must have.
We hope to see our new friends from Tucson Transitional Living, Mirasol, and In Balance Ranch again soon.
It is with great excitement that the Aspiro Group and Outback Therapeutic Expeditions announce a joint partnership that will provide more comprehensive treatment solutions in the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare community!
For over eight years The Aspiro Group and Outback have shared a similar commitment to clinical excellence that promotes a strengths-oriented and relationship-based model of therapy. Independently, these two leading Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare organizations have demonstrated the effectiveness of a multi-systemic approach utilizing progressive adventure and conventional expedition models of wilderness treatment.
This new business partnership will not affect the independent integrity of either program. Rather, each program will continue to offer its own format for the most sophisticated level of clinical assessment and treatment. Aspiro will maintain a primary focus on adventure-based therapy utilizing multiple novel environments, and Outback will deliver its proven model of metaphoric, expeditionary treatment in the beautiful hills of Utah’s West Desert.
Collectively, The Aspiro Group, including Outback Therapeutic Expeditions, will be led by our new CEO, Dr. Rick Meeves. Rick is a respected and proven leader in the field of Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare and residential treatment settings. “This concept of offering a true adventure-based model and a true conventional expedition model under the same management is really exciting to me. Both provide substantial levels of expertise and proven success, and both programs have a strong and well-defined identity,” said Rick.
The leadership of Aspiro welcomes Rick Meeves to the team, in addition to the partnership with Outback Therapeutic Expeditions. The Aspiro Group’s Board President, Brian Church, commented, “our innovative field of wilderness therapy is constantly evolving. This new partnership will continue to jointly advance the clinical best practices of treating adolescents and young adults in the outdoors.”
We look forward to the journey ahead and our ongoing collaboration together.
Josh Watson, LCSW Director of Admissions and Marketing
Parents often reassure themselves that their pre-adolescent or adolescent is doing fine as long as the child is not involved in dangerous behavior (alcohol use, drug use, sexual acting out) and is making good grades. In fact, the warning signs of impending trouble are actually closer to home than the more extreme behaviors just mentioned.
It is important for parents to focus on the relationship they have with their child rather than whether or not they are currently making poor choices. The parent/child relationship is the foundation for being able to navigate through the difficult adolescent years and the challenges they bring. A 12- or 13-year-old who already defies parental authority and treats parents with disrespect is setting the stage for becoming an uncontrollable 15- or 16-year-old and doing whatever pleases them.
It is normal for a pre-adolescent or adolescent child to push away from parents and want to assert their own authority. That is part of establishing their own identity and is developmentally appropriate. But where do parents draw the line between developmentally appropriate behavior and inappropriate acting out?
Here are five warning signs that indicate the need for a teen intervention:
Has your child become increasingly disrespectful toward you to the point of screaming at you and calling you names?
Does your child consistently disregard your rules and do as they please in the home or outside the home?
Does your child believe he/she is the center of your family and demonstrate blatant disregard for the feelings of family members, their time or their possessions?
Does your child escalate when they do not get their way to the point that you must give in just to be able to manage the situation safely?
Do you suspect, after listening to friends and relatives talk about their children that your child’s emotional acting out in the home exceeds what other parents experience? Do your child’s friends or your friends comment to them or you about how poorly they treat you?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it might be time to talk to a counselor about how to improve the relationship with your child. If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, you may need a more intensive intervention than counseling. Your child currently may not be making poor choices that are obvious to you, but when they do, you will have difficulty intervening because your authority has already been undermined through their continual disrespect of you and disregard for your rules.
There is nothing more frightening than watching your child spin out of control and feeling hopeless to stop that process.
At Aspiro, our priority is restoring the parent/child relationship into one of mutual respect, yet with clear lines of parental authority. Once they are at Aspiro, your child can gain a new perspective on their behavior toward you through the stories of other students and the expectations of the staff. They will be able to learn how destructive their behavior was, not just in damaging the parent/child relationship but also in pushing themselves head-long into choices and decisions they are ill-equipped to make. Students gain a clear understanding of how the adults in their life, including parents, are there to support them, helping make decisions for and with them and they learn and grow.
If you are already experiencing many of the problems alluded to in the above questions, don’t wait for your child to start making poor choices before you act. You can change the course of your family’s future by acting now – before your child is spiraling out of control.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Vantage Point program at Aspiro, and I’m amazed by where we’re at right now and what amazing clinicians we’ve got on board that works with autism spectrum therapies. As a former Vantage Point field guide-turned therapist, I have seen the workings of this program from the angle of “brush your teeth, pack your bags, walk the miles, and change your socks” to individual therapy sessions and phone calls with loving, albeit anxious parents.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Vantage Point program, let me fill you in. First, however, let me give you the typical pitch I’d give another professional. Here goes:
“Vantage Point is a wilderness adventure therapy program designed specifically for adolescents and young adults who struggle with a variety of neurodevelopmental and cognitive issues such as autism spectrum disorders, severe Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, executive functioning deficits, learning differences (ex: Non-Verbal Learning Differences), social relationship management problems, impulse control and even traumatic brain injuries.”
Now, let me tell you what I know to be true about the Vantage Point Program and its students.
Vantage Point is for those adolescents and young adults who have been left behind, marginalized, misunderstood, lost, teased, and bullied. It’s for those who’ve struggled tremendously in school, with their family and with building relationships with others. They often want so badly to be understood, to have friends, to be less anxious, and to not be confused and overwhelmed in social situations.
When I think of a Vantage Point student, I think of a 15-year old boy named Cameron I worked with when I was a field guide. During an initial therapy session with Jamie Kaczmarek and myself, Cameron broke down, cried and stated, “I just want to be normal. I just want to have friends.”
At Vantage Point, this young man experienced, for the first time in his life, being accepted into a peer group and forming real friendships. He was no longer picked on, bullied or just “tolerated.” He was understood. His guides were patient with him. He did not get “left behind” when he struggled to keep up with others. In fact, he became loved and respected by his peers for having a positive, cheery outlook and a fascination for reptiles – of which Utah has no shortage. He was made fun of for these things in the past. Before coming to Vantage Point, he was isolating himself in his basement. After becoming accepted into a supporting, nurturing environment, Cameron was challenged to work on developing healthy coping behaviors, He began to talk about his thoughts and emotions. His therapist, Jamie Kaczmarek, worked with Cameron on developing specific social relationship management skills. Cameron, who had significant executive functioning deficits, became more independent and learned to cook his own meals, pack his backpack, keep track of his gear, plan ahead, transition more quickly, and make good decisions. Although Cameron will probably never be what society considers “normal”, he began to feel more normal and accepted during his stay with Vantage Point. When he left, Cameron was more confident in social situations, he was able to more independently care for himself and he had further developed his ability to face challenging situations and overcome. He felt more “normal.”
That is what I know Vantage Point to be.
It is, hands-down, the best place for these kids to make some serious changes in their emotional, behavioral, and social well-being. In an effort to become the best treatment program that we can be, we have made some excellent additions to our clinical team in the last year.
Let me tell you about all my amazing co-workers on the Vantage Point clinical team.
Caitlin Galt, LCMHC, is a “quirky young adult” whisperer. I have had the pleasure of sitting in many therapy sessions with Caitlin. She is patient and takes her time with slow processors and those with attention difficulties. I’ve witnessed a two-hour therapy session for a student who needed it – she knows how to build rapport with these kids. Caitlin works with the young adult Vantage Point group, a clinically complex, challenging group of students to be working with. The parents of these students are often struggling as well, and Caitlin is a master at working with complex family dynamics to treat the whole family.
Carl Smoot, Ph.D., is a recent addition to our Vantage Point clinical team. Carl specializes in neuropsychological, academic, vocational, aptitude, and personality assessment, including projective assessment tools. He is a great fit for the Vantage Point program as our students are oftentimes very clinically complex. His assessment skills are 15 years in the making and Carl is well known for providing clarity and understanding with these types of often misunderstood and misdiagnosed adolescents and young adults. Carl also has extensive experience in program assessment and will be working with the Vantage Point program to improve program outcomes for our students and their families.
Jamie Kaczmarek, LCSW, has been with the Vantage Point program for several years now. Jamie connects with Vantage Point students – she “gets” them like no other. I recall being in a therapy session with Jamie when I though all was lost and a Vantage Point student was becoming dysregulated and shutting down. She used humor, distraction and physical activity to strategically re-engage this student and was able to make significant progress with him during this session. In the past, other therapists had given up in frustration; but not Jamie. These are her skills – she connects, she understands, and she is very dynamic. On the phone with Vantage Point parents, she is able to provide parents with clear assessment and understanding of their son or daughter. I’ve heard multiple parents say with relief, “Someone finally understands my kid!”
Lastly, Gordon Day, Ph.D., is the clinical director for Aspiro and the Vantage Point program. He has been with us since 2008, and has been instrumental in developing the Vantage Point program to its current status. Like Caitlin, I think Gordon is another “quirky student” whisperer. I have yet to witness someone build rapport with a Vantage Point student faster than Gordon. A student on the spectrum often struggles with significant anxiety, and Gordon has an amazing knack at setting even the most high-strung, difficult student at ease. In line with some standard Vantage Point vernacular, he is the Jedi Master when it comes to working with these complex young men and women.
As a Vantage Point therapist, I have a very strong belief that our clinical team is the best out there. We love our jobs, our company, and the amazing students we work with. As a former Vantage Point field guide, however, I know it’s not just about the therapists! As a field guide, I was involved in extensive training in working with Vantage Point students. After all, it is a very unique population; I’d even say the most interesting and fun-loving population! Our Vantage Point field guides are particularly patient and maintain a focus on keeping Vantage Point students engaged in treatment. After all, these students have become skilled at avoiding engagement in school, with family or with other people in general. I can recall many, many times “on trail” when a Vantage Point student would shut down because they were overwhelmed, anxious and/or emotionally dysregulated. It required copious amounts of patience, empathy and creativity to assist these students in processing their thoughts and emotions to overcome their shutdowns and continue through the day. Our field guides are so caring and skilled. I am very proud that I get to work with these amazing people.
One of my favorite theoretical frameworks is Positive Psychology.
Within this framework is a belief in actively expressing gratitude, and how this active pursuit of being grateful can improve our “happiness.” In that spirit, I will close by saying that I am grateful for my past year at Aspiro and the Vantage Point Program. I am grateful for a company and it’s professionals that care about the happiness of our students. Further, I am grateful for the happiness that working with these wonderful, quirky, and fun-loving young men and women provides me!
Our specialist team is on hand with 24/7 support to guide you through the Aspiro Adventure Therapy program.
Aspiro Adventure Therapy is continuing to support families through this unprecedented time. We are closely monitoring information related to COVID-19 and have implemented additional safety precautions to mitigate risks. Our enhanced admissions screening and program guidelines are informed by the CDC and Utah department of health. To learn more, contact us at (801) 349-2740.