Personal Growth and Responsibility

Most people entering treatment in any setting typically gain a cognitive understanding of treatment expectations and what is required to alter the behaviors that ultimately landed them in a program. This may best be understood as a sort of “wake-up call”. Unfortunately, this awakening lasts only from the point of pre-contemplation to the actual realization that perhaps behavior may be a problem. This is the point in most programs where the treatment actually stops.

Young adults who are reasonably intelligent and moderately verbal are easily able to “talk” their way through treatment without demonstrating aligned behaviors. Treatment-savvy individuals are quite adept at recognizing the external indicators of program success and will readily say all the right things in an effort to create an illusion that treatment goals have been met. Many clients in treatment are quite well intentioned and sincere in their statements concerning their intended change.

If you remove the intervention the client is back in control. Without any motivating forces to change the emotional needs underlying their behavior, they will revert back to familiar cues and signals in the same manner as before. As a result, both the young adult, as well as support system, become further disappointed and disillusioned. The client never experienced coping with life in terms that were any different than before the assumed treatment.

At Medicine Wheel, we recognize that the cognitive “wake-up call” is merely the first step in a process of disrupting the behavioral pattern. To terminate the process prematurely is to risk failing to achieve the goals of that process. Because we cannot predict for each client when the cognitive component will be initiated, we make provisions for each young adult to work through this process at his or her own pace.

The wilderness environment and small community dynamics offer the struggling young adults the opportunity to confront “the business of life” at a very basic level. Typically, most of our clients do their best to avoid this responsibility and remain on a developmental hiatus. They persevere in their attempts to find someone who will shoulder the responsibility for them. As they rely on old coping habits, their dysfunctional ways become readily apparent.

At this stage, working through the treatment process becomes more than a cognitive exercise in debate and requires an integration of mind, soul and body. This, in turn, provides an opportunity for clients to begin constructing an identity based upon their own thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

For some young adults, this process happens quite smoothly. Usually these clients are those who had previously made a commitment to changing behavior, but were unable to make those changes while living in their old environment. To some extent, these clients are actually appreciative of the intervention which brought them to Medicine Wheel. Now they experience progress in their previously-determined direction. These clients readily integrate into the program and find a renewed sense of fulfillment based upon their achievements.

Other clients take an opposing approach and remain entrenched in their problematic behavior for a longer period of time. The realization they are unable to manipulate their environment helps move these young adults to a cognitive acceptance of the situation. But it typically takes these individuals longer to reach the point where they experience the internal sense of self-fulfillment associated achieving personal goals.

Where these clients used to rely on the outside world to give them meaning and a sense of well-being, they now need to build a personal sense of security and happiness regardless of what’s going on around them.  For these clients, it’s imperative to allow them flexibility in their length of stay. An open-ended enrollment period removes limitations imposed by the calendar.
By the third or fourth week in Medicine Wheel’s wilderness therapy program, most young adults have become accustomed to their environment. Because they have adjusted to nature’s physical challenges, clients now begin to focus more on their treatment goals and appropriate solutions to the problems that brought them to the program to begin with. They establish sincere, trusting relationships with other young adults and with guides, building healthy communication and support. Each client will eventually participate in leadership roles, assuming responsibility for the group as a whole, rather than just themselves. They are learning the power of teamwork and the necessity of individual contribution.

Each stage of the wilderness therapy program introduces a powerful message that is supported by an experiential learning process. This process is reinforced by the guides, clinicians and an individualized treatment plan for each client. As clients work their way through the program, they develop a new confidence and strength in their ability to meet future challenges.

Please explore our website or call an admissions counselor at (800) 898-1244 for additional information about how Medicine Wheel at RedCliff Ascent can help you.