Thursday, November 09, 2006

Troubled Teen Alternative: The Way of the Ancient

The Anasazi way is an ancient way, based on proven principles that helps a child within to grow as the man or woman they should be, reaching divine potentials that no ordinary treatment center could comprehend.

Let me share some of my new discoveries with this new hope i found with Anasazi Foundation;

The Ten Guiding Principles
First presented at a special reunion of the BYU 480 Survival Alumni, August 24, 1990 in Provo, Utah.)

1. The emphasis of the entire program focuses, first and foremost, on the Young Walkers.

a. money
b. convenience
c. personal interests
d. logistics

2. Every Young Walker is a person of worth, is inherently good, and deserves the respect and protection of his agency and dignity.

a. seen as bad kids
b. abused or degraded in any way
c. punished
d. forced

3. Each experience in the Young Walker's wilderness walking is authentic and legitimate and is based on a reality that is subject to the causes and effects which occur naturally in that environment.

a. manipulations
b. contrived activities
c. psychological games
d. contrived consequences

4. ANASAZI Trail Walkers walk with the Young Walkers and participate fully in all aspects of daily life on the trail, serving at all times as role models.

a. privileged with special food, supplies, equipment, and paraphernalia
b. merely unskilled wardens leading a trek
c. relieved of the daily hardships of trail life

5. The ANASAZI curriculum is a series of Makings that grow naturally out of the experience of living with one another on the land.

a. theories and models
b. outlines, workbooks, or classes unrelated to the wilderness experience
c. busywork

6. Therapeutic interventions at ANASAZI consists of the intimate, personal availability of one who gently assists the Young Walker in the Making of an Awakening resulting in a Change of Heart.

a. behavior modification
b. manipulative or coercive
c. focused on perceived weakness but on individual strengths

7. Participation of the parents in the ANASAZI Parent Program is essential in the Making of a Healing for the entire family and completes the foundation upon which the family can start a New Beginning.

a. viewing the Young Walker as being the problem
b. an intervention independent of the family
c. ignoring the fact that the whole family has contributed to the problems
d. teaching parents techniques of control

8. Safety and concern for the physical and emotional well-being of each Young Walker is a primary element in all aspects of the ANASAZI Way, and every situation and activity is monitored with that in mind.

a. putting Young Walkers at risk
b. watering the program down with over-protection
c. dismissing their physical complaints as being merely manipulation efforts
d. requiring them to do things beyond their individual capabilities

9. Surrounding all of the principles of the ANASAZI Way is a tender concern for the spiritual well-being and growth of every Young Walker.

a. a toughening up exercise
b. an imposition of religious beliefs
c. a contrived inquisition or purging of the spirit of the Young Walkers
d. secular, academic treatment, which denies access to matters of the spirit

10. The ANASAZI Way recognizes the absolute, separate, and individualized rights and concerns of each Young Walker.

a. a herding through the wilderness
b. a prescribed set of generic activities and interventions
c. a set of arbitrary rules or restrictions unrelated to the safety and well-being of each Young Walker

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Troubled teens need proven intervention, not boot camp
7 questions to help parents find a safe and effective alternative

By Michael J. Merchant
March 1, 2006

The decision to seek help for a struggling child is one of the most difficult and important choices a parent may face. When inpatient or residential treatment is recommended, parents must consider a variety of options-from psychiatric hospitals, to alternative or therapeutic boarding schools, to wilderness treatment or outdoor behavioral healthcare providers, to "tough-love" programs. With few resources to aid them, desperate parents are often confused. Many are also troubled by the well-publicized tactics of a few programs using an in-your-face, boot camp philosophy.

How do caring parents find the program most appropriate for their child and family? They must first understand that not all inpatient and residential programs are alike.

Some boot camp-oriented programs employ degrading confrontation, deprivation of basic needs, and a philosophy advocating that resistant teens must be broken down before they can be helped. These programs only hurt children and further alienate them from their parents.

There are, however, residential and outdoor behavioral healthcare providers who offer nurturing and caring environments with evidenced-based psychotherapy, drug and alcohol counseling, parent education, social-skills training, and other proven interventions. When outpatient therapy is unsuccessful, these programs can help facilitate change, strengthen families, and even save lives.

To know the difference, parents should ask the following questions:

1. How does the program regard the children it serves?

According to researchers, a key success factor in the effectiveness of any treatment intervention is the "therapeutic alliance"-in other words the relationship between the caregiver and the child. If the caregiver regards a child as a person of worth and potential, the caregiver is more likely to understand and treat the child in a way that he or she would want to be treated in similar circumstances. The caregiver who regards a child as a problem-or inferior-is less likely to be responsive to the child's needs.

Perhaps most importantly, the nature of the caregiver also determines the influence of the caregiver's interventions. Because children can sense our motives, they are more likely to cooperate with a caregiver who understands and be resistant to a caregiver who is trying to manipulate or change them.

When a teen is resistant in a program where caregivers regard children as problems to be fixed, caregivers feel justified in using punitive tactics to obtain cooperation. This only provokes more resistance and escalates risks of injury or even death. Parents should ask, "How will your program respond if my child does not cooperate?"

2. Does the program have the competencies to effectively treat the needs of your family and child?

Whenever possible, parents should seek an independent assessment by a qualified professional before placing a child in an inpatient or residential program. This can aid the family in finding the most appropriate intervention.

Some diagnoses are effectively treated by programs skilled in behavioral therapy and parental education. Others may require psychiatric care and in some cases medication. The best programs provide comprehensive aftercare planning and follow-up.

3. Does the program involve parents and align with your family's personal values and belief system?

Each child is part of a family-family relationships will carry on long after program completion. Troubled teens often use their strained or severed family relationships to justify self-destructive behavior. Effective programs will provide resources and tools to help heal family relationships and will not divide children from their parents by promoting conflicting values or beliefs.

4. Is the program regulated by a licensing and/or accrediting body?

To maintain state licensure or national accreditation, a program is required to meet approved standards of care, report incidents, and be subject to periodic (often unannounced) on-site reviews and audits. Parents should contact licensing and accrediting agencies to learn of the program's safety record and current standing.

5. Are therapy and medical care provided by independently licensed practitioners?

Independent licensure requires education, training, supervision, and verification of competency. Thus, the employment of licensed herapists and medical professionals provides programs with an additional level of accountability. Registered nurses, board-certified psychologists, and licensed social workers are not likely to place their own licenses in jeopardy by working for a program that uses questionable practices.

6. Does the program allow confidential communication to family and child protective services?

Programs must give children a way to freely and confidentially communicate concerns of abuse or neglect with parents and regulatory agencies.

7. Can the program provide you with independent outcome statistics?

In addition to informing parents and professionals of program effectiveness, independent outcome research is often an indicator that the program is actively engaged in continuous program-improvement initiatives.

Parents can learn more about programs and best practices through the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs ( and the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Industry Council (

Michael J. Merchant is president and executive director of ANASAZI Foundation, a non-profit and nationally accredited outdoor behavioral healthcare provider. He serves as chairman of the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Research Cooperative ( and is a frequent lecturer on standards of care and the importance of effective parent-child communication. Mr. Merchant has chaired numerous councils and committees focused on best practices for adolescent behavioral healthcare providers. In 2004, he developed the communication component at the heart of the Emmy-nominated "Take the Time to Talk" substance-abuse awareness and prevention campaign.

"Though many of my Anasazi memories have faded, I will never forget what I learned there. I learned that I have a choice. Whether I make the wrong or right choice, I know I have one. And, I also know which one is right and which is wrong."
--Young Walker, Texas