Professional Development/community building: At the outset of the course, participants engage in a series of adventure initiatives designed to create the container and establish the emotional safety necessary for participants to engage fully with each other and prepare to enter into an experience that will foster both professional and personal, growth. Course material is introduced and individual and group goals are established.
Human Development and the relationship to behavior: In this foundational piece, participants are introduced to the developmental tasks of adolescence, along with stages of cognitive development and psychosocial development. The focus is on the development of personality and sense of self in relationship to the environment/significant others’ differently through the life span (emphasizing birth through adolescence). We also highlight how disruptions in development at each stage lead to different developmentally related issues, as well as different needs that may underlie similar behavior. This also sets the stage for the discussion of common diagnoses that follows on Day 3.
With an emphasis on trauma informed care and the need to create safety in relationships, the applied discussion focuses on how staff might intervene differently based on their assessment of unmet developmental needs or developmental regression during times of heightened stress.
Resilience: The critical role of resilience to mental health will be explored through various models and tools to promote self-regulation. These skills can be applied for self-care and in working with students/clients to foster resilience and overall stability in emotions and behaviors. Drawing from the neurobiology of trauma and nervous system resilience, staff are taught the hand model of the brain and how moving into “fight-flight-freeze” takes someone out of their “Resilient Zone” and into a place of heightened reactivity that can be disruptive for a group and also for an individual’s treatment process.
Theories of Change: Building on human development, participants are introduced to different theoretical orientations that can be applied to gain greater understanding of what might be happening with individual clients in the group. This basic level theoretical understanding of what a client might be experiencing can allow staff to better determine how to most effectively utilize their relationship to achieve therapeutic goals.
Specifically, participants are introduced to the following theoretical orientations: Behavioral, Cognitive Behavioral, Object Relations/Psychodynamic, Humanistic, Narrative, and Reality Therapy. The application focuses on which of these perspectives resonates most with participants’ own understanding of the change process and how this might inform their intervention efforts.
Anger Cycle: Participants are introduced to a unique anger management tool that offers clients more choice when exploring their anger process.
Cultivating the Therapeutic Alliance: Based on the work of Scott Miller and the Solution Focused Therapy School, a simple and straightforward approach to engaging clients and creating emotional safety is presented. Participants are offered concrete tools for meeting clients where they are.
Boundaries & Ethics: Through a series of experiential activities, participants are engaged in exploring the unique aspects of physical and emotional boundary issues that are inherent in an outdoor or residential environment where staff are living collectively with students and participating together in the tasks of daily living.
Discussion focuses around such critical boundary-related issues as the pros and cons of self-disclosure, dual roles, maintaining contact post graduation, and scope of practice. The scenario that follows is designed to illustrate the complexities of these issues.
Communication Skills Lab: In this playful evening program, participants learn about “communication quandaries” and the four places shared meaning can be lost in communication. Emphasizing the importance of active listening, participants engage in a series of fun activities that illustrate effective communication and that can be easily employed with any group.
Clinical Assessment & Diagnosis: A basic introduction to clinical assessment and the diagnostic process, emphasizing the valuable role that staff can play in observing and reporting behaviors, symptoms and interpersonal patterns.
Assessment Tool for Staff: The GRABBS is a hands-on practical tool that participants can use to gather and organize information in any situation. It is particularly useful in preventing staff from overriding their own judgment.
Common Diagnoses: Participants are invited to determine the focus of this session by sharing which diagnoses they want to learn more about. Characteristics of these diagnoses are discussed, emphasizing what is it like for clients to experience life while struggling with these symptoms, the types of interpersonal patterns generally associated with the condition, how these patterns can support the ongoing symptoms of a diagnosis, and how staff intervention to shift these patterns is an essential component of the treatment process.
Review: This session offers participants the opportunity to synthesize and apply the vast amount of material covered to this point in the course.
Suicidality, Self Injury & Crisis Intervention: Suicide is presented as a behavior on the continuum of self destructive behaviors. Other self harming behaviors are discussed as well, including possible functions they might serve for clients The main focus of this session is to help participants feel equipped to competently deal with a suicidal client. Demonstration and role play are utilized to consolidate this learning.
Burnout- Self Care: An exploration of causes of burnout, signs of burn-out in self and colleagues, and practical steps that can be taken both in and out of the field/workplace to avoid burn-out. Self-care strategies are introduced and participants are invited to complete a personal self-care plan.