Despite the desire to attend wilderness programs, many families find the cost of wilderness therapy to be prohibitive and are unable to afford tuition on their own. Earlier this year, Blue Ridge partnered with 501(c)(3) non-profit, Sky’s the Limit Fund (STLF) to offset the cost of treatment for more families in crisis. Now, for every grant received by STLF, Blue Ridge matches that amount with an equal reduction in tuition for those who qualify.
We recently had the opportunity to interview Susan, a Blue Ridge Alumni Parent whose family received support from STLF this year:
Why did your family enroll at Blue Ridge?
My daughter was struggling in school with executive functioning and challenges. In the past year she was placed in a school program that was like a gap year program, but she met a lot of kids that were older and she discovered pot. After her online boyfriend broke up with her, she just spiraled and was missing school and was using substances to get high. Although the substance use was mild, I didn’t want it to get worse.
I was referred to wilderness therapy by my child’s therapist. When the therapist suggested wilderness, I knew it would be the best thing for her, I was not providing her enough and we needed to recalibrate!
How was your experience at Blue Ridge?
The experience at Blue Ridge was smooth and really great. Kathy was great and we learned a lot. In New York there are so many kids that have executive functioning problems and programs are so focused on treating the kid as the identified patient. I was always seeking parent support and coaching. I always had a nagging feeling that this (therapy) should be family-oriented therapy. This is what I’ve always struggled with, and I’m a therapist! My family has invested a lot of time and money (into therapy) but the programs did not emphasize family systems and my own part in my child’s problem. Even as a therapist who is more well-versed in this stuff, my patterns of avoidance were preventing me from working on it. No one was pushing me to do it (family therapy) so I didn’t do it.
But at Blue Ridge, right when you begin- it (the family therapy component) is right in your face. It’s not an indictment, it’s not castigation, but it’s like look, this is something that you have participated in.
What about the program was particularly helpful to your family?
The piece about values was very helpful. Before my daughter was born, I bought a book about values. But as for teaching values, I was never shown how to do that, that was not modeled for me. With Blue Ridge’s parent workshop, along with our child’s primary therapist’s feedback, we learned about teaching values, compliance vs teaching, parenting styles, and communication. The way the parent workshop was presented, especially relating to values, was really an eye-opener and propelled us moving forward.
Having my daughter in wilderness really allowed me to take a step back and focus on my own stuff. I think the separation from me was also really helpful for my daughter. We have a good relationship but it allowed her the space and the freedom to work on herself without us falling into the same patterns.
The letter writing was also awesome. I didn’t know my daughter could express herself to that degree!
Learning the I feel statement, having guidance from the therapists, going to the parent workshop, and the online modules were all really helpful as well.
How has your family relationship changed?
We are communicating in a more substantive way. My daughter really got the mindfulness piece and there’s a pacing that’s different. I am now able to recognize when I am feeling anxious and the emotional dynamic that is happening when I am communicating with my daughter and am able to slow my response down. As a family, we are more slow to react, more thoughtful, and we use the tools. Our communication is more effective, responsive, and attuned.
How was your experience with Sky’s the Limit Fund?
When enrolling my child, I was in the midst of chaos. I felt like I was in survival mode. I talked to them (Sky’s the Limit Fund) on the phone and they were so lovely and they offered many resources. The funding was so helpful and the fact that Blue Ridge matched it was really helpful. Not only have they helped us financially for our daughter's stay at Blue Ridge, but they have offered free parent coaching sessions for me, coaching for my child, and more financial help for aftercare. I am very appreciative!
What advice would you say to parents that are deciding to enroll their child at Blue Ridge?
It will be the best thing that your family will experience. I don’t see what child or family couldn’t benefit from the experience. The ability for the young adult to separate from the family system to to have time and space to self-reflect with guidance is really key. I am sold on how much the program emphasizes family work. The family work is really key.