Friday, December 17, 2010
Chad Price our tour guide and head of the cosmetology department, told the girls that there is 1 hour of bookwork for every 5 hours of practical work.
Our girls were each assigned one of the students going to cosmetology school to give them a manicure. They were able to talk to them one on one and ask them all the questions that they had about the cosmetology program. The main thing that seemed to make a big impression on our girls was that you can get a great job that is fun, and pays well, while you continue your education.
It was great for our students to be introduced to new ideas and see some of the opportunities available to them.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
There are two types of consequences that parents need to be aware of, natural and logical. In years past, when children grew up on farms natural consequences were an integral part of their lives. If a child was given the chore of feeding the chickens each morning before going to school and didn’t, the natural consequence would have been that the chickens would suffer and their egg production would dwindle, affecting the whole family. The child learned that their actions had consequences beyond just that of being disciplined for not doing a job.
Logical consequences are consequences that have been set in place by the parent or person in authority, such as, “If you don’t eat your dinner, you can’t have dessert.” Here at Sorenson’s Ranch School we have a program in place to teach troubled teens that their actions have consequences. The program is based on a point system. The students learn that certain behaviors lose points and certain behaviors gain points. Based on the number of points a student has, they can be on level one, two, three, four, or five. Each level, going up, has additional privileges for the students.
Initially, teens arriving at Sorenson’s Ranch School with little or no prior experience of connecting their actions to consequences struggle for a while. As they gain experience in managing their own behavior, they are able to gain privileges by moving up the levels. They are able to see the results of their good behavior as well as their bad behavior. Teaching a struggling teen that their actions have consequences not only for them but also for those who are concerned for their welfare is a process that takes some time and is not something that can be changed overnight.
Sorenson’s Ranch School augments its behavioral modification program with a quality education, excellent therapeutic services, and experiential learning opportunities that one can only get on a working cattle ranch. Troubled teens find a place away from the hustle and bustle of modern life where they can concentrate on learning and changing maladaptive behaviors.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Many parents of troubled teens hope that if the holiday season goes well, it will mean that their teen has made a turn for the better, and that what they feared most will not have to come to pass. No parent wants to have to send their child away, even if they know it may save their life. We all want to think that we can do this ourselves. We are good, capable, and loving parents. And yet, for some of us, all the love, care, and concern that we have been giving to our troubled teen just gets thrown back into our faces. Rules are ignored and scoffed at. Behavior is beyond unacceptable. There is a feeling of a loss of what to do in order to stop the downward spiral.
Sorenson’s Ranch School has helped parents faced with the agonizing decision of what to do for their troubled teen for over 25 years as a residential treatment center for troubled youth. Before that we were a seasonal camp for troubled inner-city kids to get away for the summer. Over the years we have grown into a fully staffed and JCAHO-accredited residential treatment center for troubled youth as well as an accredited high school, grade 7 through 12. We have licensed therapists trained in dealing with the most difficult problems, such as RAD, BPD, and addiction issues.
If you are a parent with a troubled, out-of-control teen this holiday season, let us give you some hope with some words from other parents who also faced the difficult decision of what to do for their troubled teen:
“While we are fully aware that we must be diligent in our efforts to remain drug free, we feel the people at Sorenson’s Ranch have helped tremendously by developing our daughter’s love for animals…We are in awe of the changes she is making daily.”
“When our son came here, his future was dim and small. Now, thanks to you, it’s bright and big.”
“Last year at this time was very lonely for me and for my husband. Our son was with you for just over two months and we were trying to adjust to his being in someone else’s care. It was so hard and uncertain as to the outcome. Today I am relieved and loving every bit of being a mom. My husband and I are both so thankful for your love and care of him.”
Monday, November 15, 2010
One of the diagnostic criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder, and all of the personality disorders in fact, is that it cannot be diagnosed until it has exhibited itself for a number of years. For that reason, most clinicians wait until an adolescent is eighteen or older to make this diagnosis. However, if someone under eighteen has clearly exhibited the symptoms for a number of years prior to the age of eighteen, the diagnosis can be given.
Diagnosis for Bipolar Disorder is often difficult, because no one ever sees the entire disorder at any given time. Since it involves longer episodes of depression or mania and often periods of normalcy in between, a person with Bipolar Disorder is sometimes misdiagnosed with having a Major Depression instead. For that reason, it is important to get a thorough history of the teenager’s symptomology including any earlier periods of depression or mania. It is also important to look at family history since Bipolar Disorder has a genetic component to it. One reason it is important to have a more accurate understanding of whether a person is experiencing a Major Depressive Disorder or a Depressive Episode within a Bipolar Disorder, is the fact that an anti-depressant medication alone can trigger a manic episode in someone that has Bipolar Disorder. If someone has a history of Bipolar Disorder in their family and are experiencing a Major Depression, it would be important for them to have a mood stabilizer in addition to an anti-depressant medication to avoid the possibility of triggering a manic episode.
According to the DSM-IV TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders) the criteria for the depressive and manic episodes of Bipolar Disorder are:
Major Depressive Episode:
1) Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful). Note: In child and adolescents, can be irritable mood.
2) Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective account or observation made by others).
3) Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day. Note: In children, consider failure to make expected weight gains.
4) Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.
5) Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
6) Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
7) Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick).
8) Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (either by subjective account or as observed by others).
9) Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
A. A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable
mood, lasting at least one week (or any duration if hospitalization is necessary).
B. During the period of mood disturbance, three (or more) of the following
symptoms have persisted (four if the mood is only irritable) and have been present
to a significant degree:
1) Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
2) Decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only three hours of sleep).
3) More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking.
4) Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing.
5) Distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)
6) Increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation.
7) Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments).
C. The symptoms do not meet criteria for a Mixed Episode.
D. The mood disturbance is sufficiently severe to cause marked impairment in occupational functioning or in usual social activities or relationships with others, or to necessitate hospitalization to prevent harm to self or others, or there are psychotic features.
E. The symptoms are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication or other treatment) or a general medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism).
Note: Manic-like episodes that are clearly caused by somatic antidepressant treatment(e.g., medication, electroconvulsive therapy, light therapy) should not count toward a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder.
According to the DSM-IV the criteria for Borderline Personality Traits are:
1) Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.
2) A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
3) Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
4) Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating).
Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.
5) Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
6) Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
7) Chronic feelings of emptiness.
8) Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
9) Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.
Students in the DBT group are currently on the Emotion Regulation Unit. In this unit students learn about how their emotions are experienced and influence their behavior. For the past three weeks students have been learning about different emotions and how they are experienced. Students have participated in small group activities in which they have been able to role play different emotions and use specific emotion words to describe their emotions instead of using broad categories of happy, sad, and depressed.
During the Emotion Regulation Unit students will be learning how to reduce vulnerability to negative emotions by learning techniques to stay out of the emotional mind. These techniques are basic, but powerful and include taking care of oneself by treating physical illness, balancing their eating, avoiding mood altering drugs, balancing sleep, getting proper exercise and building mastery. Building mastery is a skill that helps students to gain control through developing new skills and talents as well as strengthening their abilities.
Students have been completing homework assignments, which are designed to assist them in learning to identify and express their emotions appropriately as well as learning to identify the aftereffects and functions of their emotions.
Learning to identify emotions and understand the ways emotions are experienced and the impact they play in the individuals life are key in students learning to handle behavior problems including defiance, conduct disorder as well as being able to understand and work through issues of depression and other mood disorders.
For parents who have students in DBT group be sure to ask your student about the skills they are learning and using, and how these skills are helping them to reach their treatment plan goals.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
In November they will not only learn to read a recipe, but also how to make the recipe. We will be making Rice Crispy treats, and we will begin creating our own recipe books. Each week the teens will add a new recipe to their books. When they get out on their own, they will have a collection of recipes they can use.
Some of the other activities will include crafts, learning to do laundry, learning to keep track of finances, learning how to place orders for items, learning how to budget money in order to live on their own, as well as other life skills. The students really enjoy these activities, and they learn many valuable lessons.
Many teens that have experienced behavioral problems while going through adolescence drop out of school and enter the “real world” without a clue as to how to do any of the things that will be taught in these activities. Along with these types of activities, Sorenson’s Ranch School offers troubled teens a wide range of experiences that help them grow into well-rounded adults capable of facing the challenges of a complicated, busy world.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Replacing negative thought patterns is addressed through the use of the DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) and in individual therapy. The Sorenson’s Ranch School DBT group addresses identifying negative thought patterns by introducing the idea of cognitive myths and teaching the students to challenge these myths that they say to themselves. An example of a myth that students learn to challenge is: “It will kill me if he does not talk to me.” A possible challenge is: “I won’t like it, but I will move on if he does not talk to me.” Other myths include, “It does not matter; I don’t really care.” This one is generally used to avoid sharing feelings and managing emotions. Many students challenge this one with “I really do care and this is why.” Students are then taught to identify their own myths and challenge these and use these challenges every time that myth comes to mind. They practice replacing that thought with the challenge.
The next step in the Sorenson’s Ranch School DBT group is to learn about cheerleading statements. Students are taught to make their own cheerleading statements to give themselves encouragement and to empower themselves. These statements are particularly helpful for overcoming fears and helping the student to feel better about their self and to build upon their strengths.
Learning to change negative thought patterns is a very powerful tool in learning to feel better about oneself and in turn change behaviors. Remember our thoughts are directly related to our behaviors.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Students work as a group in workbook. We teach that conflict has three steps that we call the ABC’s of anger. People that express their anger inappropriately have “apparent” payoffs, but long-term negative consequences outweigh the short term gains. We discuss how anger can become a habit. We also teach the correct way to make a complaint, which is our first skill-streaming skill. Students are encouraged to use the skill during the week. Students are provided a forum where they identify and share with each other their own triggers. This helps them to begin to realize that they are responsible for how they respond to different situations.
Teens at Sorenson’s Ranch School are also taught how to recognize and listen to their own warning signs that they are becoming angry. They are encouraged to listen to their own warning signs and to become more aware of what other people might be feeling. Teens are learning to express anger through appropriate verbalization and healthy physical outlets. Our goal for the teens who attend Sorenson’s Ranch School is to understand and apply the basic concepts of anger management that have been presented in the group.
OBJECTIVE: To identify general events, and red-flag events and situations that trigger anger for each individual student. To become aware of external triggers as well as internal triggers.
INTERVENTION: Students were provided a forum where they identified and shared with each other their own triggers. Helping them to begin to realize that they are responsible for how they respond to different situations. Also discussed how to recognize and listen to their own warning signs that they are becoming angry. Teaching the steps to understand the feelings of others. Which is the 2nd skill-streaming skill. They were encourage to listen to their own warning signs and to become more aware of what other people might be feeling this week.
OBJECTIVE: To identify anger warning signs (cues) so that the students can start to make use of anger reduction techniques and increase self control and personal power when they notice that they are getting angry.
INTERVENTION: Learning to express anger through appropriate verbalization and healthy physical outlets.
OBJECTIVE: For students to know reminders (self-instructional statements) that can be used to help increase success in pressure situations of all types. Also to learn skills that will help them deal with someone else’s anger and to learn relaxation through breathing.
INTERVENTION: Studying a list of reminders and encouraging the students to come up with their own personal reminders that would be effective in helping them to stay calm. Discussing different techniques that can be used in dealing with someone else’s anger and teaching them how to breathe in order to relax.
OBJECTIVE: To understand that when someone violates your rights the best way to deal with that person is to be assertive, not aggressive or passive.
INTERVENTION: To read about the differences between being assertive, aggressive, or passive and fill out a worksheet. To read about and discuss the Conflict Resolution Model, which is one method of acting assertively.
OBJECTIVE: For students to understand that self-evaluation is a way for them to (A) judge for themselves how well they have handled a conflict, (B) reward themselves for handling it well, or (C) help themselves find out how they could have handled it better.
INTERVENTION: Reading and explaining self-evaluation and filling out a worksheet. Discussing different aspects of self-evaluation and asking students to give some examples of how they can use it in their lives.
OBJECTIVE: For students to understand and apply the basic concepts of anger management that have been presented in the group.
INTERVENTION: The basic concepts of anger management were reviewed and summarized. Students were able to ask questions concerning what we have learned so far.
OBJECTIVE: For students to learn how anger and other emotions are expressed in their family and analyze how past family interactions affect current thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
INTERVENTION: Students filled out a worksheet asking them different questions such as: Describe your family? How was anger expressed in your family? How did each member of your family express anger? Where you ever threatened with physical violence? Was your father or mother abusive to you or each other? How were other emotions expressed? How were you disciplined? What role did you take in your family?
Students also drew a picture expressing how anger is shown in their family.
OBJECTIVE: Continued for students to learn how anger and other emotions are expressed in their family and analyze how past family interactions affect current thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
INTERVENTION: Students filled out a worksheet asking them different questions such as: Describe your family? How was anger expressed in your family? How did each member of your family express anger? Where you ever threatened with physical violence? Was your father or mother abusive to you or each other? How were other emotions expressed? How were you disciplined? And what role did you take in your family? Students also drew a picture expressing how anger is shown in their family.
They shared with the group and talked about seeing the cycle and unless they change could continue into their own families.
OBJECTIVE: For students to understand that anger is a normal emotion and needs to be handled in appropriate ways. Mishandled anger includes: Displacement, Passive Aggressive, Suppression, Denial, and Repression. People with chronic anger are mad most of the time and are extremely unhappy. Violence is not a solution, it only compounds the problem. Ways of managing anger includes: Expressing your feelings, Cooling down, and Being constructive. Attack the problem, not the person. When you can acknowledge your anger without resorting to destructive or aggressive behavior, you can turn your anger into a positive experience that makes life better for others and yourself.
INTERVENTION: We watched anger management video. Students were able to identify the different types of behavior they use in expressing their anger.
OBJECTIVE: To be able to recognize what we do or say that makes other people angry and try to change these problematic behaviors that could lead to conflicts.
INTERVENTION: Students shared three ways that they anger others and we discussed how they could change these behaviors.
OBJECTIVE: For students to understand and remember all that we have learned in group and prepare for the test next week.
INTERVENTION: We reviewed all the basic concepts of anger management that have been presented in the group.
OBJECTIVE: For students to remember everything they have learned in-group and be able to apply it in their own lives.
INTERVENTION: Students took a final test for the group. If they don’t pass the test, they may have to repeat the group.
Monday, August 2, 2010
We arrived at the ballpark in Salt Lake City at 5:00 p.m. and enjoyed a picnic lunch of all you-can-eat hotdogs with condiments, chips, beans, watermelon, and soda pop. We sat in a shaded area of the ballpark where we ate and had a great time talking with each other. This was a good time for the teenagers to relax and interact with each other in a positive way.
At 6:30 p.m. we went into the game, and our seats were perfect. We were right behind home plate and also in the shade. The first Bees batter got up to bat and on the first swing, the bat broke. It was amazing. It's not very often you get to see a bat break in a game.
After the game was over, the teens watched an outstanding fireworks show! It lasted about 30 minutes, had great music, and the adolescents’ faces were glued to the sky. They were more like little kids again, instead of troubled teens that had been sent to Sorenson’s Ranch School for intervention.
These activities are great because they reward the kids for their good behavior and hard work. It is a great motivator to keep them on the right track. They look forward to such activities here at Sorenson’s Ranch School. Special activities such as this augment our regular activities of horse riding, camping, fishing, etc. When higher level students return to campus and excitedly tell their friends what they did, it gives the lower level students incentive to keep their behavior in check so that they can get to a level to be able to go the next time.
Sorenson's Ranch School
Friday, July 23, 2010
The Sorenson’s Ranch School Therapy Department held another fun day of outdoor challenge activities to assist students with creative problem-solving and teambuilding. In June the Therapy Department facilitated a low ropes course day for our adolescent students and it was a big success. In the second week of July, we did another challenge day for the girls, as well as a day for the boys with all new challenges. The students moved in small teams of approximately eight to ten students from one activity to the next. All challenge activities were facilitated by a therapist or group leader. The students had a lot of fun with these challenges and tended to get very involved in solving or completing them. After the completion of each challenge, the leader facilitated a discussion to assist the teens in relating their approach in the challenge to broader issues in their lives either here at Sorenson’s Ranch or back at home. Students related the challenges to a variety of challenges in life that teens have to deal with such as staying clean and sober, working through their treatment program successfully, getting along with and supporting their peers, improving their relationship with their parents, meeting their academic goals, making positive plans for the future, etc.
The Sorenson’s Ranch School therapy challenge day was set in a picturesque mountain setting approximately seven miles from campus up a wooded canyon. A beautiful stream lined one edge of the site where the event took place. The students made their lunch up in the mountains in a picnic area near the stream. We also made homemade ice cream, which everyone enjoyed. There was a little bit of free time at the end to enjoy the creek. It was a hot day and students enjoyed cooling off in the stream, as well as playing tug of war across the stream.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Sorenson’s Ranch School has adolescent clients with a variety of presenting concerns including Oppositional Defiance, Substance Abuse, PTSD, behavioral problems, school problems, Attention Deficit Disorder, mental health problems, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Borderline Personality Tendencies, and unresolved adoption issues, including Reactive Attachment Disorder. Because of the variety of presenting problems that our adolescent students display, it is important that we individualize their treatment. Each student has a treatment team that consists of their parent(s), their therapist, case manager, and her/himself.
The therapist is designated as the leader of the treatment team. The case manager will serve as the parents’ primary point of contact. They will speak to the parent(s) each week about their child in order to provide an update on how their child is doing in the program: including how they are doing following rules, interacting with staff and other authority figures, interacting with peers, performing in school and other extra curricular activities, and working in individual and group therapy. The case manager will be aware of how the student is doing in therapy due to the fact that the case manager and therapist “crossover” about how the student is doing in the program each week. However, the therapist will also contact the parents on an approximately every other week basis in addition, to provide some more detailed information regarding how the therapy process is going and to elicit useful relevant input from the parent(s) to assist in the therapeutic process.
There are times when students get caught up in comparing what their case manager, therapist, or parent(s) is/are doing. For example they may say “why is my case manager doing such and such when somebody else’s is not, or why is my therapist requiring this of me when someone else’s is not. It’s important that the treatment be individualized to the particular student. We encourage students not to worry about what any other case manager, therapist, or set of parents is doing, but to focus on their own work here at Sorenson’s Ranch. It should be noted that although the primary adolescent treatment team consists of the parent(s), therapist, case manager, and student, every staff member here at Sorenson’s Ranch is an important part of the student’s treatment. Group leaders, teachers, residential staff, cooks, ranch and maintenance workers, and administrative staff are all essential in playing their specific roles in assisting the students who have behavioral, substance abuse, and/or mental health problems.
It is natural for the student in treatment to want to know how long they will be in the program. Although parents are tempted to give their child a clear answer in hopes of motivating them, it has been our experience from working with thousands of troubled adolescents over more than two decades that how this question is answered can make or break the student’s motivation to actually engage and apply themselves fully to working on themselves and making real progress in the program. We feel strongly that the best answer to this question is to tell them that their length of stay is dependant on their actual progress in the program and that you are relying on their therapist to let you know when they have completed the program. The therapist will develop a treatment plan that includes treatment plan goals and objectives/interventions to assist in meeting those goals. It’s been our experience that if students do not believe that their discharge date is completely dependent on their actual progress, they will not work as hard, instead hoping that their parents will discharge them prematurely or at a designated point of time, or that their parents will “run out of money and discharge them regardless of their actual progress.” If you have any questions about what to tell your child about discharge, it is recommended that you talk to the child’s therapist about it before speaking to your child about it.
In addition to individual therapy, students receive group therapy weekly. We have groups on a variety of topics: including Teenage Substance Abuse Intervention/Prevention, Anger Management, Adolescent Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Adoption, Grief, Sexual Abuse and Rape Survivors, and Yoga/Meditation. Students may be participating in anywhere between two and five or more groups at a time depending on their specific needs and inclusion in the categories mentioned above, such as being adopted or being a sexual abuse or rape survivor. As therapists and case managers, we need and appreciate the participation and input from parents as one of the key members of our treatment team. We are open to questions and/or feedback regarding how we are working with your student and encourage you to work with us collaboratively on helping your child. Any questions or concerns are welcome.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
This innovative program forces troubled teens to step outside of themselves and learn skills the heretofore would never have considered. The goals of the program are to encourage group participation, develop listening skills, self-esteem, responsibility and commitment for a project, leadership skills and to foster a sense of accomplishment.
These are some of the same goals we hope to accomplish with our teens here at Sorenson’s Ranch School, but instead of learning to perform Shakespeare, they learn horsemanship skills in order to perform and compete in local 4-H competitions. The 4-H program encourages group participation as they learn together the ins and outs of how to care for livestock, how to ride a horse, and how to compete in local county fairs. Learning to ride a horse with a group of other riders develops listening skills as they have to pay close attention to what those around them are doing and saying as they train their animals. Winning awards in the 4-H competitions builds self-esteem and gives participants a sense of accomplishment.
Many of Sorenson’s Ranch School’s troubled teens have come from urban areas where they have never been near a horse or seen a buffalo. They have no concept of how food is grown or what it takes to manage a herd of cattle. It is their first experience in the processes of growing hay, from daily having to move large sprinkler lines to helping load the bales of hay onto the flatbed trucks.
Our country is faced with many troubling complex issues today, not the least of which is our youth, and with so many teenagers having difficulties Sorenson’s Ranch School commends programs like the Shakespeare in the Courts Project. Many families are in crises these days, and parents need all the help they can get. We at Sorenson’s Ranch School strive with great diligence to change the lives of those troubled teens in our care in order to give them a brighter future. So that one day they may “Be not afraid of greatness.”
Monday, May 17, 2010
Sorenson’s Ranch School facilitates a skills group entitled Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) developed by Marsha Linehan. The DBT group focuses on teaching skills to assist with developing Core Mindfulness, Interpersonal Relationships, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance. The majority of students at Sorenson’s Ranch School have difficulty in at least one of these areas; therefore, learning the DBT skills can be an important part of their therapy.
Distress Tolerance Skills are skills for tolerating painful events and emotions when you cannot make things better right away. Distress Tolerance Skills were developed to assist individuals who have a difficult time managing their emotions in handling situations that they cannot fix quickly, including: death of a loved one, intruding thoughts of a trauma, getting along with others, and tolerating a situation in which they are not getting their way. Many of the students at Sorenson’s Ranch school have difficulty managing their emotions, and are impulsive and defiant. The DBT Distress Tolerance skills are designed to help students manage life changing events and daily stress.
The Distress Tolerance skills focus on teaching students crisis survival strategies through learning distracting skills, which include joining in activities and contributing to others through service. Sorenson’s Ranch School provides daily activities for students to use these Distress Tolerance skills. A few of the activities include educational fieldtrips, campouts, cookouts, fishing, boating, fun games such as capture the flag, organized sports, and service projects on campus and in the community. These activities are designed to teach social skills, help them learn to have fun while sober, and offer the opportunity to leave one’s worries and problems behind for the moment, until they can be appropriately worked through.
What might look like just a fun, time-consuming activity for your student is really a well thought-out and planned activity that has a purpose in teaching your student lifelong skills to manage their behaviors and emotions. If you would like to learn more about the DBT Distress Tolerance Skills be sure to ask your teenager’s therapist.
Linehan, M. (1993). Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderlines Personality Disorder. N.Y.: The Guilford Press.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
The list goes on. So the pot use increases. Soon the report card comes out, and the teen finds out that they are failing in school. Maybe they lose their job. At home, problems increase with parents and following the rules. They don’t want to associate with parents or go to family functions. So in the Pot Circle all of a sudden the adolescent is dealing with failure and disappointment in their lives. Nothing is working out for them. So the smoking increases. It continues and soon they realize that they have reduced their options. The teen becomes more disappointed. They continue to hang out with people who are all in the same predicament as they are. Most of these adolescents by now have been kicked out of school, either for being tardy or being caught smoking pot at school, or other similar behavior. Maybe the teenager has failed so many classes that he/she is feeling overwhelmed and guilty. Thinking, “If they would just leave me alone, I was handling everything.” “If people would just back off and let me do it my way, it would have all worked out.” “It’s all my parents’ fault, or the teachers’ fault.” “Who needs all of that anyway?” “Man, we have the life.” “Who cares?” “ I just want to be left alone.” “Hey, you do your thing, and let me do mine.”
Teenagers sit around and talk about what they are going to do, but the motivation to go do it has left. So they continue to do more and more pot. “Why keep pace with those crazy people out there?” “All they’re doing is sticking it to each other.” “Why can’t they relax?” This brings us to the final spot in the Pot Circle, reduced motivation. So the Pot Circle becomes a vicious cycle. In the Sorenson’s Ranch School group discussions we ask the students, “Where are you in the Pot Circle?” “Do you think that you have a problem with marijuana?” “Where is your life headed?”
Monday, May 3, 2010
At Sorenson’s Ranch School girls are given the opportunity to be involved in wholesome activities. Every four to six weeks on a Friday night, we do a sleepover activity. Level Three, Four, and Five girls are invited to attend. We spend the evening cooking, dancing, doing crafts, facials, and watching movies. We choose a food theme, such as breakfast for dinner. The girls cook their own meals with their favorite ingredients. They can get very creative with their dishes.
We listen to music while we cook. They really enjoy dancing. There is a lot of laughter and fun as they teach each other dance steps. Sometimes we do karaoke, which can be very entertaining.
At the last sleepover we made bags from bandanas. The girls were creative in mixing patterns of bandanas. It’s fun to see their creativity. Many troubled teens with self-esteem issues do not realize how creative they really are. Sorenson’s Ranch School provides various opportunities for our teens to discovery their inner talents.
We sometimes have facials from homemade ingredients. They mix egg, honey, and olive oil. It’s interesting to see the reaction of putting such a concoction on their faces. They are always amazed at the results.
We bring in blankets and pillows, spread them on the floor, and settle in for a night of movies. We’re allowed to stay up as long as we want on that night. The girls really enjoy our sleepovers, and it shows them there are alternative ways to have fun. They learn cooperation, patience, and tolerance of each other in working together to create a fun night. They gain confidence in trying new things. They have a desire to achieve higher levels because no one wants to miss out on the fun.
This is just one example of the fun activities available for students at Sorenson’s Ranch School. As we move into the summer season, campouts will be a regular part of student life. Girls will be able to do many of the fun activities that they do during their sleepovers, but in an outdoor setting. Singing around a campfire is always fun. Troubled teens from urban settings are always amazed at how fun and enjoyable outdoor experiences are. Combining sleepovers with the outdoors, which is what a campout is, creates experiences that they will remember the rest of their lives.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
During their treatment at Sorenson's Ranch School each student who has been adopted attends an adoption group. This group is offered to the students to help them recognize how some of the problems they are experiencing now stem from issues connected with their adoption. We help the students work through their feelings of anger and confusion related to their adoption. Students are also able to relate to each other and see that they are not the only ones that have certain feelings about their adoption.
It is important to note that the first two years of life are the most important and critical time for a secure attachment to take place. Children need to experience the cues of attachment from their primary caregiver. These cues are eye contact, touch, smiling feeding, heart connection and being in the caregivers arms. It is very important that the child’s needs are met during the first two years. Parents may wonder what some symptoms of a compromised attachment are that may be affecting their teenager. A brief list of these symptoms are low self-esteem, needy or clingy, extremely difficult time coping with stress and adversity, lack of self-control, behavioral and academic problems at school, lack of compassion and empathy, do not show remorse, aggression and violence, difficulty with trust, hoarding, difficulty showing affection, oppositional with parents and other authority figures, unable to develop and maintain lasting friendships, and negative view of self and the world in general.
Some of our students are diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and some have less severe attachment issues and do not fully meet the criteria for RAD, but still have some attachment issues related to their adoption that need to be worked on so that the adolescent can be successful in life and have successful relationships. It is important to get your child help early if they are experiencing symptoms related to attachment or their adoption.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Of the many hazardous situations that face today’s teens, arguably the most difficult to control are the environmental cues, which includes a teen’s peer group. A teen’s peers are one of the strongest influences that he/she tends to struggle with. The need for peer approval often supersedes that of parental approval, which then develops into a power struggle for control of our adolescent’s attention and influence. As the social beings that we all are, we are to a degree dependent on each other to develop social skills and personal awareness to ultimately succeed in family life and a work environment.
Because of the parent’s lack of resources in controlling peer influences for their adolescent, they are often left to the mercy of the prevailing peer group that will embrace their teen’s need for social interaction. Due to the urban settings of our modern era that most teens are growing up in, the possibility of the parents controlling all of the environmental variables such as peers is, in some cases, an insurmountable task if they attend school. Many other parents have either been worn down by their own teenage children or have an overall lack of interest in setting boundaries for their own youth, and so we become the scapegoat for why they cannot do whatever they please.
From the environmental standpoint, this is one of the areas where Sorenson’s Ranch School shines. On the working ranch, we can control their environment. Because of our remote location, there is no escaping the everyday fact of chores and responsibilities that coexist with a working ranch environment. By having control over the physical environment, we can stack things in the interest of what will be good and wholesome for the youth. Also by having been removed from an environment where they have spun out of control, they can work on reestablishing what they want to become and where they ultimately want to be. Although no one can create a perfect environment, we have invested 25 years developing the most idyllic set of surroundings to foster introspection and personal growth. This can be achieved without making a boot-camp setting, but in a more therapeutic, boarding school venue. Whereas boot camps provide harsh verbal rebukes, we can provide interventions that highlight cause and effect, propagated by personal choice and the rippling effect that has on each of our lives. A therapeutic boarding school setting also fosters the rebuilding of relationships between a parent and their children in controlled setting. Sorenson’s Ranch School is one of the few therapeutic boarding schools that is also a working cattle ranch, which is what sets us apart from the others.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
The Utah State Student Art Show is juried, and there are many exciting awards given. The top prize is the Congressional Award. There are three congressional districts in Utah. The first place prize for the Congressional Award is two round-trip airline tickets to Washington D.C. The student’s work is then hung for one year in the United States Capital Building. Some of the other awards were cash prizes and college scholarships. Sorenson’s Ranch School students were very interested in the jury process and spent time trying to guess which pieces won awards. Their favorites were not always the pieces that won awards. We discussed how art is subjective, and that there isn’t a right or wrong opinion.
Teens with behavioral problems in the public school systems rarely get to participate in these types of extra curricular activities. At Sorenson’s Ranch School, we believe that these are exactly the kind of teens that will benefit most from such cultural experiences. Teens who have been having trouble in their personal and academic life have a very myopic view of their situation and of life in general. By exposing troubled teens to these culturally enriching activities, Sorenson’s Ranch School hopes to open their minds to the many possibilities that life can offer them. These teens that have had fun and enjoyable experiences without the use of drugs are better able to keep away from drugs after returning home. It is with this in mind, that these activities are planned and prepared for the youth at Sorenson’s Ranch School.
Friday, April 2, 2010
According to the CDC, youth who start drinking before age 15 years are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21 years. Teens who are drinking alcohol by middle school are more likely to have academic problems and delinquent behavior in both middle school and high school. Adolescent alcohol use is associated with employment problems, other substance abuse, and criminal and other violent behavior in early adulthood. Teenage use and abuse of alcohol contributes to risky sexual behavior, which increases the risk of physical and sexual assault. Teens who drink alcohol are more likely to experience memory problems and changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
While alcohol is a leading cause of death among teenagers and contributes substantially to adolescent motor vehicle accidents, other traumatic injuries, suicide, date rape, and family and school problems, many parents are in denial that teens with drinking problems could be living in their home. They usually think that underage drinking is someone else’s problem. Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports that over half of the current underage alcohol users drank at someone else’s home the last time they used alcohol and another 30% drank in their own home, but only 31% of parents of 15- to 16-year-olds believe their child had a drink in the past year, while 60% of teens in that age group reported drinking. Teens who reported that a parent or a friend’s parent had provided alcohol at a party within the past year reported drinking more on their last drinking occasion and were twice as likely to have consumed alcohol within the past 30 days.
In a survey, 33% of teenagers said their parents never, seldom, or sometimes set clear rules for them and almost 50% said their parents never, seldom, or sometimes discipline them when they break the rules. Sorenson’s Ranch School provides a drug and alcohol-free environment with clear rules and consequences. Sorenson’s Ranch School has been treating troubled teens with alcohol issues successfully for over 30 years. Sorenson’s students who have problems with alcohol participate in AA meetings and receive counseling from trained addiction counselors. Even though alcohol is the nation’s largest youth drug problem, killing 6.5 times as many young people as all illicit drugs combined, there are ways to save your teen from this disturbing trend. Sorenson’s Ranch School is dedicated to the belief that no teen is beyond help, and works diligently to “Change the world, one child at a time.”
Sorenson's Ranch School
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
On the next Tuesday the girls made Valentines for everyone on the Sorenson’s Ranch School campus. They also made homemade cupcakes and learned to carve flowers out of gumdrops to put on top of the cupcakes. The girls enjoyed making Valentines for everyone and felt the satisfaction of serving others, something that troubled teens rarely feel because of being so wrapped up in themselves.
February 16th was our Sorenson’s Ranch School Etiquette dinner. A group of four girls planned, shopped, and cooked the entire meal without help. They also learned how to properly set a table, place a napkin on their lap, and how to use proper manners while eating. This was a unique opportunity for adolescents with behavioral difficulties to practice the art of using good manners. The menu consisted of chicken, corn-on-the-cob, homemade biscuits, fruit, punch, and ice cream sundaes.
The last week of the month, we had an “Egyptian” day for the entire school at Sorenson’s. The materials that were covered met academic goals in Social Studies, English, Foods, Science, Math, and Art. It also accomplished the goal of exposing the students of Sorenson’s Ranch School to other cultures of the world in the hopes of expanding their view of their world. Troubled teens tend to have a narrow view of the world and of their part in it. The outline below shows how the day went. The kids had a great time.
• Artifacts display, maps, and vocabulary terms.
• Watch and discuss Pharaoh’s Voyage, the Discovery of a Boat.
• Discuss the Pyramids.
• Watch Mr. Mummy, a video of the mummification process.
• Mummify a lemon.
• Create and decorate a personal sarcophagus.
• Write names using Egyptian hieroglyphs and create a cartouche.
• Make and bake an Apricot Egyptian cake.
Friday, March 26, 2010
We started our day by driving from Sorenson’s Ranch, a residential treatment center for troubled teens, in a van full of teens toward Interstate 70, going through Greenwich, passing Otter Creek and Piute Reservoir. The close streams were running clear and fast. We chose an area in Marysvale to have lunch, by one of the more peaceful and calming streams. On the drive we were also able to pick out some really good future fishing, cookout, and horse riding spots that the teens wanted to visit.
Arriving early for the demonstration, the Visitor Center hostess directed us to the exploration path on the grounds. The students from our residential treatment center, just followed the numbered observation points. We observed several Petroglyphs and Fossils. The trail also led to several places to view the canyons where the Indians built dwellings in the ground to capture the heat from the day’s sun. After climbing around some, we went back to the visitor center for the "Pioneer Bucket and Broom" demonstration. Pam told us that the brooms are made from reeds, grown like corn, and are from the sorghum family. She uses three layers of the reeds. Each reed is secured by heavy gauge cord and wound tightly by hand. The last row of reeds was also woven into a pattern to decoratively top the broom. These handmade brooms were touted to last 15 to 20 years of household use.
Darold, a cooper, makes handmade pioneer buckets. He used planing tools to shape each piece of wood fitting them securely together thus preventing any leaks. The buckets are functional as well as decorative.
After a short question and answer session during which the at-risk youth asked several questions, we headed back to Sorenson’s Ranch School. Everyone had had a lovely day and enjoyed their experiences there. This was just one of many outings that our troubled teens are able to participate in. These type of excursions make lasting impressions on our at-risk youth, many of whom came from difficult situations where their experiences were limited and so they came to believe that getting high and doing drugs was the only way to have a good time. Sorenson’s Ranch tries to prove them wrong by filling their lives with rewarding, drug-free experiences, and has been successfully doing so for over 30 years.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
EMDR is a therapy technique specifically designed to assist people in working through and releasing old trauma. It was developed by Francine Shapiro in the 1970s. Shapiro was a therapist working in California with both Vietnam veterans and rape survivors who were experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other negative psychological reactions due to very upsetting or traumatic events that had occurred to them. Simply put, EMDR utilizes a technique to get both sides of the brain firing very strongly at the same time. It works on the theory that when we go through our normal day-to-day life and something mildly or moderately upsetting happens to us, our brain will process it through to the most adaptive or healthy level for us. However, whenever an extremely upsetting event occurs the brain can become overwhelmed and not be able to fully process the incident to the most healthy or adaptive level for us. EMDR utilizes a simple process of getting both the right and left side of the brain firing strongly while the client goes back through their memories and associated thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations related to the traumatic incident. There is also a process for desensitizing the negative thought about themselves that the client developed in response to the traumatic incident and reprocessing the negative self-thought to a more positive self-thought that fits them better today.
I have utilized EMDR successfully here at Sorenson’s Ranch with a number of issues including death of a parent, death of a pet, automobile accidents, sexual abuse, physical abuse, witnessing physical accidents, witnessing domestic violence, and negative issues or patterns that students have been stuck in. EMDR is one of the few evidenced-based practices in psychotherapy. There is a fairly large body of research indicating its success. In addition, EMDR is one of the most quickly effective techniques for making progress on healing traumatic issues. Usually, one to four EMDR sessions are all that is needed to release an old trauma.
Joy Morris, Ph.D.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Parents often wonder if their teenager that is impulsive and does not think logically will ever be able to begin thinking through their decisions and be more reasonable in the choices that they make.
Sorenson’s Ranch School facilitates a skills group entitled Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) developed by Marsha Linehan. The DBT group focuses on teaching skills to assist with developing Core Mindfulness, Interpersonal Relationships, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance. The majority of students at Sorenson’s Ranch School have difficulty in at least one of these areas; therefore learning the DBT skills can be an important piece of their therapy.
In addition to teaching self awareness the Core Mindfulness skills teach about three states of mind, which include: reasonable mind, emotional mind, and wise mind. Students are taught to combine the reasonable mind, which is thinking rationally and logically based only on facts and emotional mind, which occurs when thoughts and behavior are controlled by emotions in order to be in the wise mind state. The wise mind state allows students to incorporate logic including the concept of what is right versus what is wrong with the emotional mind, which teenagers typically use most frequently. Students are taught with this skill to stop and think before acting and to learn to make decisions that are well thought out and based on truth as well as to look at how they are feeling and what the surroundings are telling them about the situation.
Using the DBT skills along with behavior modification ensures that students learn to change and manage their behavior including making decisions that are less impulsive and more thought out.
Linehan, M. (1993). Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderlines Personality Disorder. N.Y.: The Guilford Press.