"What's new with Blue Ridge?" This question is one we often get asked. We have a fantastic team, strong leadership, and a comprehensive, individualized, clinical assessment focused program for teens and their families. We’re taking the opportunity to share more about Blue Ridge’s program and communicate what’s changed (and what hasn’t). Here are 5 things to know about us.
- We Include a Strong Focus on Clinical Assessment. We are continually looking at students and families through the lens of assessment, which is why we initially see clients in a wilderness intervention. Earlier this year we introduced our strengthened early clinical intake assessment administered by Lorena Bradley, Ph.D. We have seen that reinforcing the intake assessment process early in a student’s stay results in stronger case conceptualization, more tailored treatment, and more explicit goals established for discharge planning.
- Dr. Bradley conducts intake assessments for every student within the first 10 days of enrollment. It provides the Primary Therapists a second set of eyes on the student and an additional layer of clinical assessment early on. The aim is for treatment to be as effective and individualized as possible and Blue Ridge is beginning with that end in mind.
- The intake assessment includes a clinical interview, a mental status exam, a brief cognitive assessment (K-BIT2), and a risk evaluation (SAVRY).
- Utilizing Dr. Bradley’s expertise and early evaluation tool has been integral to our intention to deepen assessment, which is why we include this service in our fee.
2. We Are a Year-Round, Nomadic Model of Wilderness Therapy. This has been the case since Blue Ridge opened its doors in 2002 and we wholeheartedly believe in the power of being immersed in nature throughout the entire wilderness experience. We’re grateful to utilize the Appalachian woods of North Georgia as our field area, as this special part of the country is especially quiet and peaceful with dense forest and a rich, verdant landscape.
- Our students do not come in to a base camp, transition from point to point in vehicles, participate in adventure sports, or engage in other breaks in the experience. There is no perceived relief of the break in the program, and the result is a fine-tuned group experience in which students and staff learn to settle into the quiet nurturing of the wilderness.
- The wilderness environment involves the removal of distractions and avoidance strategies. The distraction-free environment optimizes the opportunity students have to examine and honestly evaluate themselves. Nature does not respond to attempts at manipulation, and, with an entirely different set of peers and adults with whom to interact, students come to see themselves as the common denominator in these similar situations.
3. We Overhauled Our Field Menu To Be Nutrient Dense and Locally Sourced. Last summer, we carefully examined all components of physical health, and the idea was to nurture health and wellness by putting intention behind the food, organized exercise, stretching/yoga, and mindfulness/meditation. We changed our entire field menu last summer to add vital nutrients, lower sodium, reduce added sugar, cut out preservatives, and to find whole foods as locally as possible. We started to track these changes earlier this year, and we have seen positive outcomes.
- The initial goals were to analyze the nutritional content of our current menu, identify and make changes based on the differences in dietary needs of young males/females, and create a consistent menu that we would revisit with intention.
- Our Health and Wellness Director tracks the weight of students every three weeks in the field. We’ve found that 88% of our male and female students either maintain their healthy weight while in our program or they move into a healthier weight category, whether that is pounds lost or gained.
4. We Believe in Whole Family Treatment, which means including siblings and extended family members when clinically recommended. Our dedicated Family Support Therapist works closely with families with a goal of long-term success.
- Our Family Support Therapist offers weekly calls with families as an added support. We individualize the frequency and focus of this support to a family’s unique needs, from providing a safe space for processing feelings, to helping parents strategize how to support other siblings at home. Blue Ridge offers a menu of family supports and resources so families have choices in what will work best for them at various stages of their process. Our Family Support Therapist works closely with Primary Therapists to truly offer integrated, whole family care.
- Mid-program visits and Parent Workshops are a highlight for families and provide direct experience with clinicians, field instructors, other parents, and experiential activities. Workshops educate parents on healthy parent-child relationships while connecting parents to helpful tools and parent mentorship and support.
5. We Have Strengthened Our Core and We’re Focusing on Adolescent Treatment. Our team is zeroing in on our adolescent treatment and focusing on strengthening our core and the enhancements we’ve added to the program. We are revamping our entire curriculum, for both students and their families, to showcase our Blue Ridge identity and individualize treatment more than ever.
- We will be working with students, ages 13-18, exclusively in Georgia, and no longer accept students to our Footsteps program, the younger middle school age group, which has been in North Carolina. We are excited to use this opportunity to come together as a team under one roof in North Georgia, all in the same state, for the first time in eleven years, and focus on providing the highest quality adolescent treatment within a nomadic wilderness model.
- Jeremy Nunnelley, who has been working with the middle school population since he joined the Blue Ridge team in May, will finish up his Footsteps caseload and continue his primary work with anxiety with adolescent boys, ages 13-18. Jeremy has a strong background in program development and will be playing an important role in revamping our curriculum and programming.
Adolescents at Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness experience something that takes them beyond shifts in behavior to true second order change. We believe it is the depth of work and individualization that matter most. Our model allows for the greatest amount of flexibility to meet the needs of each unique teen we work with, as well as the peer group they are integrated within. The constant, gentle pressure of this model speaks volumes to our students. It reminds them of their self-agency, power, compassion, responsibility, depth, and resilience. It is crucial that we continue creating a healthy and robust foundation and that our program meets our vision of providing excellent clinical support to our students and families. We offer the most effective and individualized programming possible for our clients and their families and the enhancements we have made over the last year and a half support our vision as we continue to grow and evolve.