Contact us Monday through Friday 8am to 5pm at 715-327-4402

Spreading Hope

A SPECIAL SHOUT OUT TO YOU!

The kids had an absolute blast last week as staff passed out greetings cards with wonderful messages of hope and tasty locally made cookies.

Last week was the second annual Valentine’s Day of Hope at Northwest Passage. But, “What is this all about?” asked one new staff member as the excitement spread through the building. Well, it’s a long story, kind of. Last year a pair of staff were looking to engage people who cared about Passage in a way that was accessible, directly impacted the kids, and wouldn’t cost them a dime (literally, not even a stamp). They stumbled across the idea of asking our “friends” to send in cards with inspirational messages to our kids. “We asked our supporters to send these cards in for the kids, of course, but also for themselves. We know that any act of kindness, no matter how small, is good for us. It ties in with the power of service, one of the eight tenets of the PassageWay.” explains clinical director, Angela Fredrickson. She goes on to say, “We wanted to be able to provide an opportunity for those who care about the work we do to be a part of that work.” So, they gave it a try. The team sent out cards with a simple note asking people to send in messages to the kids. The response was overwhelming.

Our son was at Northwest Passage several years ago. It was a rough time for everyone. Even after Passage, there were challenges. But gradually, our son dug deep into his soul and realized that life could be good if he made it that way. Today, he is a college graduate with a good job, sober for several years and helping others who are on their way to sobriety. Our hopes and prayers for you are that you will receive the help that NWP offers and see the “good” in life. We don’t know you, but we love you.

Parent of Past Resident

“I found myself tearing up as I read through these heartfelt messages people were sending in,” one staff member recalls. Another one talks about the power of reading the notes sent by the parents of past clients.  “It was empowering to see the stories from parents I’d worked with in the past. To know our work changed the lives of their kids in such profound ways. I was speechless.” The cards came from social workers, educational consultants, past clients and their parents, donors, and partners who have worked with our kids in the past. And their message was loud and clear – so many people care about these kids and we’ve got to do this again. So we did!

This year we saw the response to the effort double, responses came in from across the country from hundreds of supporters. So when staff walked into the program on Valentine’s Day this year, they were able to give kids a handful of cards chock full of messages of compassion, hope, and inspiration. Not to mention a delicious sugar cookie and a glass of milk. So sit back and soak up some of the hope that flooded over our kids.

And thank you, for being a part of such a beautiful moment that touched the lives of staff, the kids, and you yourself.

Be assured, you are important. I am so very proud of the work you do each day to become the person you are meant to be!

Kathy

Please know that you are loved and that I care about you. Be confident that you have the power to overcome your obstacles. Have patience with yourself and never give up.

Deb

You will not be given any card in life that you cannot handle. You were born with the beauty and the strength to persevere through any hardships life throws your way and please don’t ever forget that you are strong, beautiful and worthy.

Ryan

Connect to the gift of life, trust is within you, let it sustain you, like the flower that blooms in the stone. Miracles are everywhere. Yes, that is also you. May universal love enfold you and sustain you.

Lori

I want to remind you how strong you are and that whatever challenges you are facing you can get through them. Be the best you that you can be, you are worth more than you know.

Jane

To learn more about how service fits into the Northwest Passage philosophy of living an everyday therapeutic lifestyle, check out the PassageWay.

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Have a little BOOST!

DON’T LET ANYONE EVER DULL YOUR SPARKLE

Article courtesy of mental health clinicianLisa B. Courchaine, LCSW

Hello fellow human! Today is the first day of the rest of your life. You know what else? February is national boost your self-esteem month. I know, it was news to me too!

I am a fan of quotes and also a fan of bullet points. So in honor of “national boost your self-esteem month,” here are some tips and things to keep in mind. I encourage you to be your own best friend and to enjoy the process of getting to know, accept and dare I say, love yourself….unconditionally.

Positive and Healthy Self-Talk:

  • “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” -Eleanor Roosevelt
  • “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better” -Maya Angelou
  • There’s no need to be perfect to inspire others. Let people get inspired by how you deal with your imperfections.
  • Don’t let anyone ever dull your sparkle.
  • Where attention goes – energy flows.
  • Your mind is like a garden, your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers, or you can grow weeds.

Surround yourself with those who accept and encourage you:

  • “Watch carefully the magic that occurs when you give a person enough comfort to just be themselves.” -Atticus
  • Be with those who bring out the best in you, not the stress in you.
  • “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” -Dr. Seuss
  • “Surround yourself with the dreamers and doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.” -Edmund Lee

Stop comparing yourself to others:

  • Others’ success is not your failure.
  • Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20.
  • Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.

Live according to your values:

  • Make a list of your top 5 values in life. Explore ways you are living in alignment with your values and ways you could improve. Make a plan and notice how it feels to live in alignment with your values.
  • “Practice your values rather than professing them.”-Brene Brown
  • “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you really are.” -Carl Jung
  • Do the right thing when no one is looking.
  • “Don’t share things that aren’t yours to share-it erodes trust and confidence.” -Brene Brown

Be mindful of your past successes and accomplishments:

  • List those times when you really, really, really wanted to give up, and didn’t.
  • List those times when you were scared and self-conscious and showed up anyway.
  • Find the meaning or wisdom gained through life’s challenges.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate goals you have met, no matter how small, progress is progress people!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Resources Refresh the Equine Therapy Program

Thanks to our clinical director Angela Frederickson, we have been able to provide Equine Therapy to our Northwest Passage kids for the past eight years. It has been an excellent experience for many of our kids and we are so happy to announce that our program is not only flourishing but it is also growing!

Passage is bringing back horses to the Gallery grounds on Fridays for the Riverside boys. Horses will also now be available at the Prairieview and Assessment facilities. Plus we have added another EAGALA certified clinician at Riverside who can facilitate the Riverside programming at the Gallery.

EAGALA stands for Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association. According to Eagala.org, EAGALA is the leading international nonprofit association for professionals incorporating horses to address mental health and personal development needs. Incorporating horses into our kid’s treatment plans is a refreshing way that they can become more introspective.

Equine therapy can be a great tool used by our residents. Associate editor at Psych Central, Margarita Tartakovsky M.S. explains, “Because horses can sense a person’s feelings and respond accordingly, they can serve as a mirror that the person can use to see and understand feelings they may not be aware of.”

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The EAGALA website states, “To evade predators, horses have evolved to be extremely sensitive to their environment. They instinctively analyze and react to our body language and other nonverbal cues. As a result, we are able to gain insight into our own nonverbal communication and behavior patterns. The EAGALA Model invites clients into an arena for ground-based interaction with horses to facilitate the therapeutic process. These horses become the focal point in client-driven discovery and analysis.”

Our newest EAGALA clinican, Kayla said, “I grew up riding horses in northwest Wisconsin with my family. One of the horses I am bringing to Passage has been with me since I was 12 years old and he has not only taught me how to ride, but also taught me how horses can impact people from the ground.”

The EAGALA model is based on off all groundwork; at no point does a client ever mount or ride a horse. By just being in the arena with the horses our clients can experience comfort, support and sometimes even a challenge. At that point, the horses become a part of the treatment team because they are apart of the recovery process and what happens in the arena. As part of the EAGALA model the animal is represented as a professional partner.

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EAGALA has more of a mental health focus compared to other horse therapy programs and is all about giving the kids a place to be themselves and to experience their issues in the moment. It requires a lot of trusting in the horses to take care of the session and to be able to sense what is needed in that moment.

Horses require relationships to be built in order to trust. They require relationship repair the same as any person would after damage has been made, but they don’t pre-judge the way that people tend to. The horses do not get a rundown of the client’s mental health history or any background information.

Tartakovsky continues to explain the opportunities for cultivating healthy relationships; “Horses offer the person a non-judging relationship, which can help a person struggling with the negative relationship consequences from his mental illness to rebuild his confidence without fear of criticism.”
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During our equine sessions, the horses are set loose and are free to roam around the arena so that they are able to be themselves. They each have their own personalities and mannerisms. It is entirely up to the residents to interpret the feedback that the horses give. The clinicians who facilitate these sessions are strictly there to provide emotional and physical safety if need be.

EAGALA is about trusting the herd. Due to this being such an experiential model, it is important that the horses names, genders, and ages are not identified to the clients so that they can utilize them as they see necessary in the moment.

Overall, Northwest Passage is excited to be exploring another innovative therapeutic method so the work can continue to expand on our diverse, yet effective paths of healing. By taking to these new techniques, it is just one more way Passage stands out from other residential treatment facilities. Northwest Passage continues to look forward to seeing all the progress our kids will make due to equine therapy!

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

Submitted

Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, stable, and nurturing environment. Please join us during April Prevention Month to “Say Something, Do Something for Kids,” by promoting and strengthening child abuse prevention efforts in Wisconsin.

Children are the foundation of our society, our community and our future. Children raised in loving and supportive environments are more likely to prosper academically and financially, becoming successful contributing members of society. Wisconsin must be a leader and champion for all of our children. We need to enhance the success of our communities by promoting programs and policies that seek to support the lives of children and families. Preventing child abuse and neglect results in better childhoods, ultimately saving millions of dollars currently needed for the services to address the short and long-term effects of abuse on children, their families, and our communities. The savings generated through prevention can be used to serve our communities in other ways, making them safer, economically successful, and great places to live and grow.

It doesn’t matter how big or small your effort. Prevention is about making sure our communities know and show
that all children deserve great childhoods and that every individual in Wisconsin has the power to “Say
Something, Do Something for Kids.”

Join us, along with the Wisconsin Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board, Prevent Child Abuse Wisconsin (PCAW), a program of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Community Services, and Wisconsin Department of Children and Families in our April Prevention Month activities.

This month, we come together to participate in activities that show our commitment to children and families. Please download the toolkit below for more information.

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See Suicide Behaviors In a New Light

PASSAGE REFLECTS ON CARE AND TREATMENT OF SUICIDE AND SELF-HARM

We here at Passage are all too familiar with the pain and fear associated with suicide and self-harm, as many of our residents have experiences with suicidal thoughts and/or attempts. We wanted to take a moment to honor the spirit behind Suicide Awareness Month by talking about just what these behaviors are and how we can look at this phenomenon “In a New Light.” Join Riverside’s Clinical Director, Angela Frederickson, as she discusses this salient topic.

Suicide and self-harm behaviors can be some of the scariest expressions of mental illness that youth and families experience. They can hold family systems hostage in such a compelling way that everyone feels trapped in a cycle of misery and fear. Those who engage in suicidal behaviors and/or self injury feel equally trapped and miserable. Often the overwhelming emotional load of this topic can prevent parents and helping professionals from effectively intervening in a sustainable way. Helpers can find themselves desperately working to eliminate the problems of suicidal behavior and self-harm behavior by taking away the means to engage in such behaviors, reducing the risks leading up to such behaviors, or addressing the fallout after suicide attempts or self-harm.

Simply stated, the only resolution to the problem of suicide behaviors and self-harm behaviors is to stop engaging them. However, looking at suicide and self-harm behaviors as a solution to a problem versus the problem itself opens clients, families, and helping professionals up to a whole range of possible and effective interventions. To open our minds to consider suicide and self-harm in this way, we must try to understand and ultimately accept that to the person contemplating suicide or engaging in self-harm, these solutions are completely valid and sensible options to unbearable situations. In order to find the empathy required to help, we must acknowledge that suicide/self-harm might be a reasonable response to deep psychological pain, a reasonable effort to express that which cannot be expressed, or a reasonable punishment for an individual with tremendous self-loathing.

When we find that place of understanding and have the courage to sit with that uncomfortable acceptance of another human’s unbearable pain, we are ready to begin searching for the actual problem. If suicidal and self-harm behaviors aren’t the actual problem…then what is the problem? Perhaps the problem is a lack of skills to effectively communicate emotional intensity or needs. Often youth who have a deficit of skills in effective communication will use suicide words or self-injurious behaviors as an attempt to share with others the desperation they feel. Perhaps the problem is feelings of guilt and a desire to relieve the burden a young person feels they have placed on those around them. Suicide might seem to present a viable resolution for this situation or the use of self-harm might feel like the only adequate punishment. Perhaps the problem is the experience of crushing depressive symptoms or the torment of hallucinations, nightmares, or flashbacks. Suicide or self-harm may be the only way to alleviate the psychological pain.

While the only solution for the problem of suicidal and self-harm behaviors is to stop those behaviors, there are a myriad of sustainable solutions for a deficit of skills, a desire to discontinue feelings of guilt/self-loathing, or a need to alleviate psychological pain. The team at Northwest Passage has gathered a multitude of evidenced-based interventions to help address these problems including Dialectical Behavioral Skills group, Wellness Recovery Action Planning, and therapeutic lifestyle choices.

These interventions for youth and families from leaders in the field – Marsha Linehan, Mary Ellen Copeland, and David A. Jobes – adhere to a unifying theme that there is nothing inherently wrong or mysteriously broken about a person who presents with suicide or self-harm behaviors. Such a person is simply a human being with intense pain who also possesses the capacity to heal, change, and grow. Informed by this belief, the focus of the work is to help youth and families harness the inherent strengths of those involved in the client system to systematically work toward building mental health and more sustainable problem solving.

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New Research Supports Efforts at Passage

BEHAVIORAL THERAPY PAIRED WITH PSYCHOTHERAPY REDUCES SELF-HARM

We see evidence of the power of residential treatment paired with living a therapeutic lifestyle in our clients progress towards mental health up close and personal, but it is always nice to read research to support that experience. This year, a Norwegian study found that using “behavioral therapy that teaches coping skills, used in conjunction with psychotherapy, not only significantly reduces self-harm among adolescents but also more rapidly leads to recovery from suicidal ideation and depression than enhanced usual care.”

Program Director, Ellen Race, says that “we are always happy to see evidence that supports what we are doing for our clients.” The specific therapy addressed in the article is one that Northwest Passage uses in its Prairieview and Riverside programs, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT is, “a type of therapy that focuses on developing the behaviors skills and coping mechanisms for our kiddos so that they can navigate life’s challenges in a healthy and sustainable way.” Angela Fredrickson, Clinician Director for Riverside explains. She goes on to say that, “DBT is a part of our efforts to promote the skills and experiences necessary to commit to living a therapeutic lifestyle long after treatment ends. We are giving access to our clients to practice living a healthy lifestyle and DBT fits right in with that. It is grounded in mindfulness, being active and expressive in a healthy way, and building healthy relationships – which are key elements necessary to live therapeutically.”

To learn more about the PassageWay and living a therapeutic lifestyle, please visit our website and to read the article summarizing the research in full, please visit the Medscape article: Self-harm in Teens: Rapid Response With Novel Behavior Therapy. 

We know it is essential to pair expert psychotherapy with the tools necessary to make change, it is something we do every single day with our kids. Our guiding principles are articulated through the PassageWay, which proposes that the journey to building a healthy lifestyle includes the building of skill and insight through psychotherapy intervention, the judicious use of psychotropic medication, and a commitment to providing access to therapeutic lifestyle moments for our clients to actively heal and practice being well.

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Horses back on the job

USING METAPHOR TO FACILITATE CHANGE

The warm smell of hay and the sound of hoof beats will once again greet you if you visit the back lot of the Northwest Passage Gallery in Webster.  Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) sessions have resumed for the warm weather season.  EAGALA facilitators Angela Fredrickson and Shannon Brice work on a weekly basis with small groups, families, and individuals from each of the treatment programs at Northwest Passage.

The youth in the treatment programs have been working with the equine therapy team since the first week of May.  They have been exploring their path to sobriety, learning about relationship building, discovering the role of judgment in their lives, and working to find harmony in their living groups with the help of the four-legged practitioners.

This year a new horse has found her way onto the team.  Her late-in-life change in career seems to be an excellent fit as her open, expressive manner has drawn in many residents.  We are early in the season and she has already been described as “the most beautiful animal I have ever seen” and “my best friend.” Alternatively, she has also demonstrated the art of being aware of danger and the complexity of conflict as she works to reflect what has entered the arena space.

What’s up with using horses in therapy anyway?

The use of horses through the EAGALA model is experiential.  This means that participants learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses and then processing or discussing thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and patterns.  Through active, solution-focused participation, clients can tell their own story and begin to create metaphor that can facilitate change in their lives.

Horses are large and powerful animals which draw our attention.  It requires a level of confidence to interact with them and working to overcome fear in this work can be a useful intervention.  Additionally horses are naturally social animals and are extraordinarily sensitive to non-verbal communication. The horses’ responses give us information that can bring awareness of problem spots in our lives and can help motivate change by being an emotionally safe, external symbol of relationships.  Their responses to us can feel quite familiar to the responses we experience from those in our day-to-day lives making work with horses prime for the creation of metaphor.

Angela Fredrickson, LCSW – Clinical Director

Study on referential communication in horses:

http://www.thehorse.com/articles/37681/study-confirms-horses-talk-to-human-handlers

Link to EAGALA website

http://www.eagala.org/

Northwest Passage is committed to providing a diverse set of therapy opportunities to our kids. We are happy to be able to provide Equine Therapy sessions to our kids as an alternative way to open up and communicate about themselves and their lives. Those of us who have had an opportunity to experience the safety and comfort of Equine Therapy, can say just how special this is. Thank you to Shannon and Angela for making this happen. To learn more about our Equine Therapy sessions, please check out past articles on the subject here and here.

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Mental Health Awareness Candlelight Vigil

PAST RESIDENT EMBRACES MENTAL HEALTH

Thursday, May 19, my colleague and I, in conjunction with a local youth voice group, organized a Mental Health Awareness candlelight vigil.  We walked with candles from our town to the adjacent town to show support for the multiple suicides that have occurred over the past few months in both school districts.

We stopped at the courthouse, placed our candles, and then opened the forum for people to share their struggles and triumphs with mental health challenges. Quite a few high school kids stepped up and spoke. It was very moving! And then…young Theo, my son and past resident of Northwest Passage, stepped up to the megaphone and told his tale. I couldn’t believe it! It’s the first time I have ever heard him talk about it all – his anger issues, depression, placements, and therapy! Wow.

He was like a little man up there…we were so proud. Then a few kids walked up to him and talked to him about their siblings who have the same issues and are in placements, and Theo listened and offered support and advice. He even got a bracelet from one of the adult onlookers that simply states “you are not alone” and he still has it on.

On our way to the walk, Theo asked me, what do you think it means to be a man? I told him, a real man takes ownership of his choices and his actions, whether they are good or bad.  He did that last night. He told me that he’s still working on it all, and I told him that he just took the BIGGEST step in recovery.

Gillian Turner, Past Resident Parent – c/o Anna Pearson, Riverside Case Manager/Aftercare Coordinator

Northwest Passage stays in touch with the kids and their families after they leave. We enjoy hearing about what they are doing and like to share these stories. It warms our hearts to hear that they are embracing who they are and what they have been through.

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Together against bullying

UNITED FOR KINDNESS, ACCEPTANCE AND INCLUSION

#unityday2015

160,000 students skip school each day because of bullying and 3.2 million students are bullied each year. Students who experience bullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, and poor school adjustment (pacer.org).

At Northwest Passage, we work hard to teach our residents compassion and kindness. Through daily programming, weekly groups and special events, the girls at Prairieview are given many opportunities to learn and practice positive social behaviors that foster empathy and tolerance.

For example, the girls participate in a weekly character development group that covers a variety of traits including: compassion, empathy, respect, tolerance, attitude, preparation, honesty, integrity, self-control, and responsibility. The group allows for a safe space for discussion and personal growth through discussion, activities and weekly homework. The girls also have weekly unit goals that target their interpersonal skills while in treatment, focusing on effective communication and respect for others.

On October 21, 2015, Unity Day was celebrated nationwide and Prairieview participated in full force. The girls participated in a variety of activities including t-shirt decorating and team chalk murals. All staff members were involved as well, with every person in the building wearing orange t-shirts that they personally decorated. The chalk mural project challenged the girls to make a final product that showcased their individual talents as well as their ability to problem solve and work together. 16 residents were split up in to teams and given blank chalkboard canvases and a picture that they had to re-create. The process was amazing to watch and unfolded beautifully. Initially, the teams struggled to communicate and respect each other’s comfort levels with the task. Many groups had to start over while others had to make adjustments throughout the process to keep their artwork consistent. The girls spent several hours working on their pieces and strived for perfection. The murals exceeded all expectations and allowed for very productive, creative and fun team building project. The girls beamed with pride, showing off big smiles as staff expressed their excitement over the finished products. The murals are now hung around the building, reminding all staff and residents on a daily basis that when all differences are set aside, you can work together and be successful!

Your donations make projects like this possible. You are with us when we are teaching these teens to respect each other and show compassion and kindness to everyone they meet. You make it happen. Anything you give makes a difference. Thank you for your support.

Northwest Passage is dedicated to the social care of our kids. This is done through events like Unity Day, where they are taught not to bully their peers, but instead to show respect for all people.

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