Contact us Monday through Friday 8:00am CST to 4:30pm CST at 715-327-4402

Healing in the Riverway

PROFESSIONAL ARTISTS ANDREW WALSH, JAMES NETZ, AND KAREEN KING INSPIRE CREATIVITY IN RESIDENTS

The In a New Light Gallery was alive with excitement on August 10, 2019 as nearly one hundred Northwest Passage residents, staff, and supporters gathered to celebrate the conclusion of their fourth Artist-in-Residence (AiR) Season titled “Healing in the Riverway”. The AiR program was developed to provide a therapeutic experience with art for the youth of Northwest Passage. Each summer professional artists are welcomed to historic Schaefer Cabin on the Namekagon River to share their talents and philosophies with young people struggling with mental health issues.

This summer the kids spent two weeks in June with returning artist and professional photographer, Andrew Walsh. Andrew came from Portland, OR to lead the kids in nature photography and create unique double exposure portraits of each photographer, merging their image with a natural element that holds meaning for them, creating wonderful and unique works of art. The kids then spent two weeks with professional nature photographer James Netz, a local artist who splits time between the Twin Cities and Hayward. James is passionate about the outdoors and capturing its beauty and was able to inspire the kids to use their cameras to see nature as art. The final artist to visit Northwest Passage was Registered Drama Therapist, Kareen King from Osage City, KS. Using artistic modalities like storytelling, poetry, creative expression, metaphorical exercises, music, and improvisation, Kareen helped the kids capture their thoughts and feelings in written biographies and reflections, and vocalize their experiences through song and spoken word performances.

The unique resident portraits and photographs will be on display at the In a New Light Gallery, located at 7417 N Bass Lake Road in Webster, through September 2019. Admission to the gallery is free and open to the public M-F from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. For more information about Northwest Passage, please call 715-327-4402 or visit nwpltd.org.

This program was supported in part by grants from the Wisconsin Arts Board, National Endowment for the Arts, Arts Midwest Touring Fund, and the St. Croix Valley Foundation.

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Under the Surface Collection Makes an Impact

A selection of iconic photographs from Northwest Passage’s “Under the Surface” collection recently inspired visitors to the Dwight Foster Public Library in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. The exhibit, entitled “Under the Surface”, hung in the library from March 1 to April 1, 2019, and was one of the most attended exhibits held in the library’s history. Anne Moser, librarian for the Wisconsin Water Library at UW-Madison, held a talk on March 9 entitled “Great Lakes Challenges and Opportunities”  as a compliment to the underwater photography on display.

Many library visitors felt compelled to write to the artists and share their thoughts and interpretations of the exhibit.

Wow! Absolutely gorgeous and inspiring. I hope you give yourselves credit not only for your talent but for the courage it takes to be vulnerable enough to share yourself with others in this way. Thank you for touching my heart today, and best wishes to you all.

Nichole

Visitor, Dwight Foster Public Library

This exhibit took my breath away. What a fantastic program! I am blown away by how these kids have overcome pain and hardship and channeled emotions and experiences into creating great art. Thank you for sharing!

Yoyi

Visitor, Dwight Foster Public Library

Amazing photos. So very proud of these young artists, not only for their photos but for the difficult changes they are making in their lives. Wonderful program!

Pat

Visitor, Dwight Foster Public Library

I am the librarian responsible for bringing exhibits to our library. This exhibit generated the most comments – all positive – of any exhibit we have had in the past 8 years. People loved the subject and quality of the photos. They were moved by statements of the students. They were happy to hear about the great program that produced the exhibit. Kudos to all.

Amy Lutzke

Assistant Director/Reference, Dwight Foster Public Library

The Dwight Foster Public Library has a long and interesting history and operates in its second century with a proud record of achievement. Since its inception in 1890, the library has added greatly to the quality of the cultural life of its community with a constantly expanding variety of educational and informative materials and services including a community space to showcase art, like that of Northwest Passage residents, that addresses environmental and mental health issues.

2018 Equine Assisted Roundup

EQUINE THERAPY OFFERS A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY FOR HEALING

2018 marked the first year that both of Northwest Passage’s treatment programs – Riverside and Prairieview – had their own dedicated Equine Assisted Growth and Learning teams located directly on their campuses! Kayla Rinkel, LMFT led the herd at the Riverside campus and Angela Fredrickson, LCSW coordinated the intervention at the Prairieview campus. 

Each child residing at Riverside during the summer was engaged in equine assisted psychotherapy. The team was able to incorporate equine learning into every Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills group. The Alcohol and Other Drug Addiction group went to the arena to practice avoiding temptations and work on building stable foundations for living back in the community. Riverside residents also had the opportunity to incorporate equine therapy into their individual therapy throughout the summer months. Additionally, several kids took the lead to care for the horses by cleaning the arena, feeding the horses, and making sure they had water.

At Prairieview, a trauma-focused group was piloted that the participants dubbed “Triple H – Horses, Humans, Hope”. This group utilized the collaboration of expressive arts teacher Molly Thompson and therapist Gina Lundervold-Foley to join the interventions of psychoeducation, art, and equine learning. The equine team was also available to support both individual and family therapy throughout the summer months.  In addition, this fall each treatment team in the Prairieview program had the opportunity to experience equine intervention first-hand as they engaged in team building with their co-workers. 

Of course, equine therapy could not happen without our four-legged therapy partners. Much appreciation to Angel, Dreamer, Velvet, Lienies, Cindy, Buck, Casey, Sakota, and Emma!

Please support Equine Assisted Therapy and other unique opportunities for hope and healing!

Equine Therapy incorporates many elements of the PassageWay, our guide to living a therapeutic lifestyle. In addition to providing an opportunity for recreation and relaxation in nature, horses require relationships to be built in order to trust. Learning to build trusting relationships is an important life skill and the core of our human experience.

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The Greatest Show

PRAIRIEVIEW’S TALENTED DANCE SQUAD PERFORMS FOR A FULL HOUSE

 

The energy level in the Prairieview gymnasium was high on the afternoon of December 14, 2018. You could hear a pin drop as the Razzle Dazzle Groove Squad filed in, heads bowed and hands clasped behind backs. This, however, was the only silent moment of the afternoon. Once the dancers took the floor the music, applause, and cheers of support filled the room with wonderful noise!

The performance began with four solo dances and culminated with a group dance featuring ten kids. The audience, consisting of Northwest Passage residents, staff members and family and friends of the dancers, were treated to light refreshments following the performance. The teens were enthusiastic as they greeted their fans and supporters, and the pride they had for their work was evident in the smiles on their faces.

The Razzle Dazzle Groove Squad is a group that meets on a weekly basis to promote mastery, healthy emotional release, empowerment, confidence, nonjudgmental attitude towards self and others, and self-expression through dance. Dancing is a positive outlet giving the teens a way to get more comfortable within their own skin, express their emotions and experiences within a creative condition, gain mastery, increase their self-esteem and overall positive emotions as well as offer yet another healthy exercise means. RDGS is a place where the teens can experience liberation and emotional release in a healthy and sustainable way. Through dance, the teens are given the opportunity to take ownership and to be creative in their treatment, working through challenges and healing.

RDGS operates in two 10-14 week seasons per year, balancing time with other experiential arts programs such as equine therapy and underwater photography. Northwest Passage staff members, Ashley E, Gina, Ashley V, and Molly, guide the students through song selection and choreography. The students are able to choose their own music for the solo dances, provided the song chosen is empowering and appropriate. The Razzle Dazzle Groove Squad members are Star’te, Mary, Grace, Victoria, Alex, Dmitry, Ari, Ellie, Emma, and Jade.

Membership in the Razzle Dazzle Groove Squad directly relates to the kids’ therapy in a variety of interesting ways and offers them a positive outlet for emotional and physical release. While the enjoyment and pursuit of dance as a hobby may not continue for everyone when their time at Northwest Passage comes to an end, the confidence gained and memories of enjoyment with their peers are certain to last a lifetime.

“Bless myself” by Lucy Hale: performed by Mary

“Scars to my beautiful” by Alessia Cara: performed by Grace

“Through all of it” by Colton Dixson: performed by Alex

“Salute” by Lil’ Mix: performed by Star’te

“Come Alive” from the Greatest Showman: performed by the Razzle Dazzle Groove Squad

Please support the Razzle Dazzle Groove Squad and other experiential learning at Northwest Passage!

The Razzle Dazzle Groove Squad incorporates many of the elements of the PassageWay, an approach to wellness that borrows from the wisdom of the past and combines it with current research about the importance of living a full and mindful lifestyle. We have learned that real, sustainable change occurs when our clients connect with their community, explore their identity, develop their passions, discover effective recreation opportunities, and move their bodies.

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Artist in Residence: Words from the Artist

Hannah Prichard

Artist in Residence, Ceramics

My experience with Northwest Passage was particularly unique. At the start of the summer, I began as the Artist in Residence Intern but finished as the Artist in Residence. The first artist of the summer, Kat King, provided a good model of what the Artist in Residence should be and I was excited to get the opportunity to work with another artist in July. A week before the next artist was supposed to arrive I was told he had canceled last minute and I was asked to step in as the next Artist in Residence. Of course, a myriad of emotions flooded my brain: excitement, nervousness, anticipation, and doubt. I had to make the transition from supporting another artist to becoming the artist, planning and leading my own programming. Although I was not sure if I would be able to reach the bar set by Kat at the beginning of summer, I was eager to share ceramics with the kids.

I have always found working with clay to be a meditative experience. It has acted as an emotional release for me, as well as a source of joy and fulfillment. However, it was not until this summer that I realized how applicable the lessons I’ve learned from pottery are to real-world problems. Even though the kids may not realize it yet, I think they learned a little more about themselves and how they react to different situations. One resident had a hard time at the beginning of every project. Her frustration with the clay would build to a point where she was unable to think logically about the task at hand. Multiple times I told her to step away and take a break. Every time this happened, she would come back a few minutes later and conquer the project. It was only after she became angry with the clay that she was able to move forward and produce a beautiful end product. Not only did she make a quality piece of artwork, but she also expressed immense joy when she saw her finished piece. This resident’s story is a perfect example of how anger can hinder the artistic process. It isn’t until we take a step back and breathe that we can really see how to solve the issue. It also reminds me that anger is a natural part of the problem-solving process.

Over the course of the four weeks, I found that I was learning more from these kids than I could have ever taught them. I forgot what it was like to start out in clay; how difficult and new it felt. We don’t use our hands in our daily lives like we do when we are handcrafting something out of clay. However, the beginning isn’t just a time of frustration and confusion. It is the most innovative part of any new venture. Anything is possible. In addition, kids have a way of surprising you and doing the unexpected. Sometimes my instructions were not as clear as I wanted them to be and kids would create something completely different from what I pictured in my head. Although in many circumstances this was aggravating because I felt I was not communicating effectively, it allowed creativity to run free. These kids are incredibly creative and a lot of them haven’t been able to explore their artistry. Doing pottery allowed them to forge through uncharted innovation and individuality. They were problem-solving and coming up with many new ideas for other projects. For the first two weeks I had very specific plans, but once I realized their creative potential I let the kiddos expand and develop their own ideas. Of course, they needed a little structure, but only enough to get them started. Once they were started they didn’t want to stop.

There were many times a kid would call me over and ask me to do it for them. I would ask them to take a second, then follow their instincts and trust in their own ability. In almost every circumstance the resident told me the next steps to be taken and then proceeded to do it on their own. In that moment of doubt, where I can guess that many people prior had told them they couldn’t do it or simply took over and did it for them, they needed someone to tell them, “You know this, you can do it.” I can personally attest to this feeling; not knowing you had the ability until someone told you that you did. There is no better feeling than being empowered by your own ability.

It was truly inspiring to watch these young people work through and find their own creative process and find the ability to create something beautiful. Frustration is so important because it means that we’re engaged in our work and we care about the outcome. Knowing that we worked harder and really dedicated the time to perfect one-piece makes it more significant than the others that came easily too us. This experience exceeded my expectations and the moments of frustration, hope, and joy I had with these kids will never be forgotten.

 

 

New Wellness Center

Northwest Passage is celebrating its increased capacity for serving children and families at its Frederic location this week with an Open House. The Prairieview and Assessment programs have gained a new Wellness Center, complete with a gym and both an outdoor and indoor classroom, and Prairieview added a new unit. The event will be held Thursday, August 24 from 3:30 – 5:30 pm at the new Wellness Center at 201 United Way in Frederic.

Situated at the south edge of town, Northwest Passage operates two mental health residential treatment programs serving youth struggling with mental illness ages 6-17. Ellen Race says of the programs, “treatment deals with everything from their physical and mental health, academics, and fun. Adding a facility like the Wellness Center provides greater quality of care, rain or shine.” As a part of the Wellness Center expansion, Northwest Passage has committed to providing an immersive, environmentally themed, project-based educational curriculum.

The students will work with a number of pollinator friendly projects throughout the year. They will work to assist Northwest Passage in the restoration of a portion of its land to native prairie grasses through multiple projects such as the St. Croix Master Watershed Stewards rain garden initiative and the National Park Service’s Pollinator Pledge. They will work directly with pollinators through service at Horst M. Rechelbacher Foundation’s pollinator lab, by tending to their own beehive. They will also grow pollinator dependent fruits and vegetables in their own gardens thanks to St. Croix Valley Foundations support and make pollinator friendly art projects – all of which will be on display at Thursday’s open house.

Tours will also be given of the newest unit at Prairieview. “We’re excited to be showing off our new unit in our Prairieview program,” says executive director Mark Elliott. “There is a dramatic shortage of residential mental health services in the state and all over the county. This expansion does a small part in reaching that need. It allows us to pursue our mission with even more kids.”

Northwest Passage would like to thank the St. Croix Valley Foundation as a number of these projects received funding from the SCVF and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.

For more details about the event, please visit our events page at nwpltd.org/events. To RSVP please call us at 715-327-4402 or visit our Facebook page.

Resources: Photos courtesy of Dillon Vibes

 

Therapeutic Art Program Helps Reshape Youths’ Futures

Arts bring out kids’ strengths; help them heal

 

Outside, the world is lushly green, it’s pouring rain, and the tune “Here Comes the Sun” floats through the room. There’s a low murmur of voices: nine girls are engaged in shaping animal figures out of clay or drawing fish figures on cardboard. Occasionally there’s laughter at a comment from the instructor’s baritone. You can feel it’s a happy place.

 

That’s exactly one of the outcomes Ian Karl aims for by having Chris Lutter-Gardella as Northwest Passage’s August Artist-in-Residence at the remote Schaefer Cabin located in the Namekagon River watershed. Ian is Northwest Passage’s Experiential Program Coordinator in charge of the program.

 

The Artist-in-Residence program is one of several NWP art programs that evolved from the organization’s 39 year history of promoting a therapeutic lifestyle for their clients. Over the last six years, art has emerged as a strong component of Northwest Passage’s mission. So much so, that one mile south of Webster on State Road 35 NWP opened the In a New Light Gallery.

 

Puppets, masks relate to nature

 

The Gallery features the kids’ art – primarily nature photography – and is open to the public. Why that name? Because through this program the clients are able to see the world around them in a new light and see themselves in a new positive light: capable and creative. That’s a fulfillment of the NWP mission: to restore hope through innovative health services for at-risk children and families.

 

But back to Chris and the girls at the Schaefer Cabin. During his four-week session from July 17 to August 14, thirty-two boys and girls ages 6-17 in four separate groups, came to the cabin in shifts, working on art projects, described by Chris: “We’re creating masks, puppet art pieces and props that relate to the natural world here in the northwoods and also globally that will appear in a music video called Life is Better With You.”

 

The content is consistent with each group. There are three projects: making masks with clay and paper mache, building insect puppets, and creating fish figures In addition to the educational connection with nature, Chris demonstrates conservation and environmental responsibility by using primarily repurposed and recycled industrial materials.

 

He explains: “For the bumblebees, which was our kick-off/warm-up project with the boys the first week, we used plastic bottles that I got from a bottling company down by Stillwater. Wire clothes hangers we used for handles and legs; plastics from mattress bags we repurposed into bee wings.

 

 

 

 

“For the fish, we’re using recycled cardboard boxes; we’ll put scales on them made out of heavier plastic packaging from the furniture industry. The clay forms are mostly recycled clay from the ceramics industry – clay that can’t be fired that typically ends up being dumpster-ed. Newspapers and paper bags we use for the paper mache, with burlap for the fringes around the masks.”

 

Chris connects the projects to cosmology – the nature of the universe: “The bumblebees are our connection with the air. We call them the ‘Keepers of the Air.’ The animals we’re making like the bear, the cougar and other creatures we consider ‘Keepers of the Land,’ and the fish are the ‘Keepers of the Water.’ That encourages the kids to think in terms of elements and different realms the animals help take care of.”

 

Some of the girls worked in pairs to create masks of various animals, real and imagined: cougar, bear, elephant, and dragon. Candice and Lorena were working on the dragon. Candice commented on the art project:I like it. I feel like it’s a way to express your feelings, and it’s a good way to cope with how you’re feeling, too, and how to interact with people. It makes me feel like I can do something that I wasn’t able to do before.”

 

She said she and Lorena like the reemergence of the dragon in popular culture and they wanted to bring one to life. Candice added, “It also represents fire, and I feel like no one else has fire as an animal, so, we’re like, ‘let’s do a dragon.’”

 

Attitudes turn around

 

Chris has worked with youth in the past. He observed, “The girls are just loving it. They’re really getting into sculpting the clay forms for the masks. They seem really invested and dedicated, excited about their pieces. When the art projects are completed, Chris explains, “We’ll take the kids outside and do some fun playing with the masks and props in the woods and along the [Namekagon] river and get some video of that.”

 

Cassie Bauer, a summer intern and student in Digital Media Production at Drake University is documenting and producing the video. Musician Kathryn “Kat” King is providing the accompanying music. The final film will be a rendition of Michael Frante’s Life is Better With You. It will premiere at the Taste of the Trail event at the In a New Light Gallery on September 23rd.

 

The residual and significantly more important outcomes are reflected in the kids’ turn-arounds of attitudes and feelings. Ian noted, “Every one of the kids involved seemed happy doing what they were doing. They were smiling, fully engaged. This sort of activity allows them to separate from their problems, they can block out other noise in the world and focus on the task at hand.”

 

“When we’re engaged in things we enjoy, get fulfillment from and see the results of our work, we’re happier, content and feel a sense of achievement. This fits in to the idea of taking a strength based approach to problem solving. When you help kids find their strengths and give them opportunities to thrive, the mental health challenges they’re facing have the potential to take a back seat. Being engaged in tactile art in a unique location where you can physically feel you’re leaving your troubles behind is really powerful and beneficial.”

 

He continued, “If we consistently focus on the kids’ problems, the mental health challenges and the diagnoses, then all the energy goes into focusing on that. But if we can help them find their strengths and what they have to offer others, they are happier, more content and work better together as a group. And that’s exactly what we see going on at the cabin. When you go to a unique place like [Schaefer Cabin] and are guided by a professional artist with the constant, calm, consistency and experience that Chris provides – that is priceless.”                               

 

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In a New Voice Program

Recently, Northwest Passage has been expanding their creative programs into an experimental writing project called, In a New Voice. The program is highly poetry based but also includes creative non-fiction like a personal essays, journal entries or short stories. Before the residents begin their reflections, they go out in nature and do various activities like hike, canoe, examine rocks, trees, plants and animals. This serves as a way to spark inspiration for their poetry.
Using the material they created from their reflections, they begin to transform those poems into “motion poetry.” Motion Poetry is where the kids pair their poems with images and possibly music in a video format. The residents have been involved with the entire process from the writing, storyboarding, editing and shot selection.
Soon the the program hopes to incorporate a spoken-word component with the residents performing a piece or to in a live reading setting!

I’m here to share my secret.

Be quiet and you shall see.

All the things floating around me will fill your heart with glee.

It will take your breath away and drop your jaw so low, for…

I’ve travelled from here to there and brought back an amazing glow.

You think you know me oh so well

But you’re only at the start.

I’ve travelled past the comets and been burned by the hearts of stars.

I’ve travelled to the planets and seen their awful scars

I’ve made my way through supernovas and been spat out just as hard.

I’ve seen so many planets with mountains high and chasms deep

Galaxies so beautiful they make a giant weep.

I’m the one to wake the planets and send the moon to sleep.

I’ve seen the sun’s great power, with an attitude so rare;

Don’t underestimate the sun for she might give you her ugly glare.

Be careful where you travel, don’t go so far.

Make sure to be safe and always remember who you are.

Don’t tell me that you know me.

That, “right here is what you are.”

I am the universe in motion.

I was born by the stars.

Jazzy

Ancient Traveler

Nature

Calm, Windy

Chirping, Swimming, Fishing

Trees, Grass, Park, McDonalds

Walking, Laughing, Crying

Noisy, Crowded

City

5 senses

Julia

Inspiration by: “I am a Tree” Laleta Davis-Mattis

 

I am an owl

A wise, wise owl

I am constantly on the prowl

I search up high

I search down low

There are many places that I can go

I see the mice running around

So that I can swoop them off the ground

Then take them to my nest up high

Which is up, up, up in the sky

 

I am an owl

A wise, wise owl

I am constantly on the prowl

I think about how the human race

Could possibly get me misplaced

How the destruction of trees

Is as far as I can see

And I ponder if they get my nest

Will I then call those humans pests

For the rest of eternity.

Caroline

I Am An Owl

Check out more In a New Voice videos here!

Chris Lutter Returns to Passage

Northwest Passage welcomes Minneapolis-based theater artist Chris Lutter-Gardella, noted for his work in Burnett County, as its July Artist-in-Residence.

Chris designed and lead the Jordan Buck Community Art Project to celebrate the centennial of that national record-holding whitetail in August of 2014. In 2015 and 2016, he lead students creating the Siren Dragon mascot and the Webster Centennial Sunfish art project.

The Wisconsin native specializes in designing projects using industrial materials that would typically be discarded. He emphasizes eco-consciousness and resourcefulness, explaining “As a community educator and artist-in-residence, I engage community members in re-purposing various ‘waste materials’ into performable artworks, while deepening their connections to the Earth and to one another.”

Chris hopes to further expand on the work of former Artist in Residence, Cait Irwin, with symbols and metaphors. He plans to use water as the main symbolic focus and have the kids explore what that means to them.

In addition to Chris’ residency, he manages and directs Puppet Farm Arts, a nonprofit organization that centers around “teaching artistic improvisation while integrating the repurposing of waste-stream material into imaginative inventions for “public-square community theater.””

Over the past two years, Northwest Passage has hosted many artists with skill sets ranging from sculpture, drawing, music, photography and much more. Inviting artists to the Passage campus raises the caliber of treatment that Northwest Passage can offer.

The Artist in Residence program is just one program that sets Passage apart from other mental health treatment centers. Incorporating the Artist in Residence program builds a warm, immersive atmosphere that contrasts the typical sterile environment of a hospital setting.

By doing this, the residents can forget about the mental health stigma and truly focus on their recovery. Since 1978, Northwest Passage’s mission has been to restore hope through innovative health services for children and families.

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!

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