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

Snuggling with pets creates more than just smiles

KIDS ENJOY SPENDING TIME AT LOCAL PET STORE

Our kids were able to reap benefits of a fantastic day interacting with the animals at a local pet store because of the field trip their teachers, Taylor Mathias and Bethani Sando, planned. They spent time in the community with positive adults, while having fun interacting with the critters at The Pet Store in Siren, WI. They had the opportunity to interact with a cat, ferrets, rabbits, a cranky parrot named Morgan and a host of scaly reptiles. They absolutely LOVED their time there, especially the soft and fuzzy feeling of the rabbits. One of the rabbits even nibbled on a young lady’s cheek.

Going to a pet store is way funner than swinging on a swing or playing a game.

Lyla, 9

For years, the effects of animals on their human companions have been studied. Numerous physical and mental health benefits have been shown in humans who share their lives with animals. Beyond that, research has shown physiological effects on people who merely have contact with animals, such as the lowering of blood pressure in nursing home residents petting a cat.

Specifically, in the arena of mental health treatment, the use of animals to help facilitate mental health interventions has been in existence for hundreds of years in some form or another. More recently, evidenced based animal-facilitated interventions have been increasing in the world of mental health. Organizations including PATH International http://www.pathintl.org/ EAGALA http://www.eagala.org/  and AAI http://www.aai-int.org/ help to provide professional standards and education to the varied field of animal assisted therapy.

Angela Fredrickson, LCSW – Clinical Director

Visiting The Pet Store and spending time with animals, of course, fits into the Northwest Passage philosophy of living an everyday therapeutic lifestyle. Read more about the eight elements at http://nwpltd.org/passageway/.

Earth Partnership for Schools

EDUCATION + ENVIRONMENT + HANDS ON = SUCCESS

Northwest Passage is proud to announce a new partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Arboretum to bring Earth Partnership for Schools to our campuses. We’re grateful for the Arboretum’s investment in our program and our kids. Since we serve kids across the country, and the nation, we’re proud to be exposing hundreds of kids each year to such a great core curriculum. Our Executive Director, Mark Elliott says, “We are looking forward to plugging into the experience and wealth of knowledge that Earth Partnerships will bring to our commitment to creating hands-on, environmentally focused, flexible educational opportunities for our clients.”

Earth Partnerships for Schools (EPS), “collaborates with diverse communities to create vibrant outdoor learning spaces using a curriculum-based ecological restoration process. Through facilitated relationship-building and dialogue, communities identify their shared stewardship vision and the ways EP can help make it a reality.” Northwest Passage has identified a beautiful 20 acre site as its stewardship project and has the goals to bring it back to its prairie roots.

“Everything came together to allow us to be able to make this commitment to our clients, Education Director Andy Flottum says of the prairie restoration initiative through Earth Partners. “Our outdoor classrooms are nearly finished, the pledge to the National Park Service to increase pollinator space was approved, and our desire to bring more flexibility and capacity to our educational curriculum was made a top priority. With all these things in place, we just had to make the connection with EPS and the rest is history.”

“We are devoted to meeting our kids educational goals while transforming mental health through the healing process. It is our belief that time spent in our natural environment will improve both mental wellness and capacity for learning. We hope to send kids home with a greater dedication to their education.”

“Using hands-on experience to foster learning and practicing skills by working through a long-term project that requires our students to really dig in to investigate and engage with a challenge and solve problems helps to connect our kids to the knowledge we want them to walk away with in a strength-based approach.”

Experiential Coordinator, Ian Karl, one of the staff charged with the implementation of this new curriculum is a naturalist himself and sees the obvious connection between Passage’s commitment to getting our kids all the tools possible to live a therapeutic lifestyle well into their independent lives. “If we can empower our kids to improve their world and learn from it, we’ll be fostering healthier lifestyles.”

What will this all mean for our students? Ellen Race, program Director at Prairieview and Assessment says that curriculum will be filtered through a project based, environmentally themed lens. “Our classrooms often have kids with varying skills in math, science, and reading. Now couple that classroom with a project done together that has tasks at varied levels for everyone to be successful? A child at a low-functioning level may do measuring, while a student who functions at a higher level may assist their group mates in calculating the measurements and mathematics, while another student may draw out the space, and yet another will write a narrative of the groups efforts. What you have is a win/win for students, teachers, and parents.”

 

The educators at Northwest Passage work every day to find new and exciting ways to teach our students. While we do use a classroom for some activities, we believe that getting them active and outdoors helps the learning experience, along with their overall physical and mental health. This partnership with Earth Partnerships for Schools will get them outside where they can see and touch the materials they are learning about and then return to the indoor or outdoor classroom where they can reflect on what they have learned.

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Tropical Adventure: An Expedition to Dry Tortugas National Park

KIDS EXPERIENCE DEEP CONNECTIONS

Water is medicine and adventure is transformative. When we cast aside our reference points and dive into something completely new, we can see who we are, feel who we are, with deeper clarity. The true journey of any grand adventure is ultimately an inward one.

As you’ve likely heard, the young artists of Northwest Passage have spent the past three summers submerged in Wisconsin’s rivers and lakes to photograph a story of otherwise unseen magic and beauty. Their award winning photographs have been celebrated in exhibitions, presentations, magazine articles, and videos. Imagine, if you will, snorkeling alongside the kids in their “home waters” of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway: maneuvering in the cool, swift waters; peering through the dark currents in search of fleeting shots of timid fish.  Now imagine an aquatic world as different as possible from the rivers of the north. You’re probably imagining a place much like Dry Tortugas National Park.

Dry Tortugas is a tropical paradise of crystalline waters overflowing with life.  This tiny cluster of islands 70 miles by boat from Key West, Florida is an underwater photographer’s dream.  Overlooking these waters is Fort Jefferson, an immense pre-civil war era sea fortress and one of the largest masonry structures in the western hemisphere. Fueled by the generous funding and guidance of the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center (SRC), the National Park Foundation, the Richard Parrish Foundation, and the staff of Dry Tortugas National Park; Jaden, Jonathan, and Johnny—three of our all-star program alumni—brought their unique artistic vision to these exotic waters last month. With the guidance of world-renowned underwater photographer Brett Seymour of the SRC, they spent a week capturing the essence of the islands. Joining Brett and the kids were program leaders Toben LaFrancois, Ben Thwaits, and Austin Elliott, along with retired NPS diver Bob Whaley, and filmmaker Jesse Placky, who was working with Curiosity Stream to film our experiences.

Our adventure had one additional companion.  Throughout our trip, Hurricane Matthew was stalking several hundred miles to the east. While we were extremely fortunate that our itinerary carried on as scheduled, Matthew’s high winds occasionally forced us off the water or limited our snorkeling to the lee sides of islands. But despite these challenges, the photographers discovered magic. It was a week immersed in a Neverland of coral reefs, giant groupers, and shipwrecks patrolled by packs of barracudas; of sun and salt and sweet sea air.

But Johnny, Jaden, and Jonathan also discovered a deeper layer of Tortugas magic, as it quickly became apparent that this expedition was about far more than just underwater photography.  The Tortugas experience was about connecting deeply with incredibly generous and talented National Park Service mentors, guides, and leaders,  whose passion for this place was inspiring, and who made us feel embraced and at home in a distant land. It was about living within the rich history of Fort Jefferson, which NPS historian Kelly Clark brought to life for us. It was about night skies of unmatched brilliance, delicious red snappers on the end of our line, and a crocodile named Carlos who seemed to bond with our team.

Above all, the Dry Tortugas was a peak experience of deep connection. Connection to peers, to mentors, to nature, to the past, to oneself.   And we all know that connection is the ultimate catalyst for healing.  But don’t take it from me.  Here’s what our young photographers had to say:

On my way to Dry Tortugas, I had so many ideas of what he place will be like, but I completely underestimated what it would be like. When it was in seeing distance of the fort, I was amazed by the size of it. it looked like something in a movie. Living here felt like a dream. Walking around the fortress and learning about all the history made me feel honored to stay in such a beautiful historic place. Being in Dry Tortugas has been such an amazing experience, and it has been everything I’ve been needing. It was really good to cut away from the world and be somewhere new. Seeing all this amazing life and being able to capture photos of it has been an experience of a lifetime.

Jonathan, 18

Dry Tortugas is an amazing place. It is simply one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is still hard for me to believe that I was there. You might be able to look this place up on google, but when you see in with your own two eyes it will all change. This place has so many things to do. Anyone who will ever come to this fort will fall in love at first sight. I still try to come to reality that there is a place like this on earth. This place can change you in a good way. It made a lot of things in life make sense to me.

Johnny, age 17

The Dry Tortugas National Park is astonishing to say the least.  Above the surface is the old Fort Jefferson which in itself is amazing, but under the surface is where the real beauty is.  There’s a vast array of fish that are colorful and tropical.  I’ve never seen any animals that are so colorful and diverse.  Along with the fish are the breathtaking coral reefs.  The coral reefs are the center of activity for the fish.  It looks as if it’s straight out of a fish tank or something out of the movies.  It’s actually hard to put into words what’s under the water in the Dry Tortugas, so that’s what photographs are for. This experience was overwhelming, in a good way.  There was so much to take in and everything was so new to me that I was at a loss for words being a part of the expedition.  The trip really has proven to me that good things do come out of negative situations.  It was by far the most astonishing thing I have ever done.  It has also made me feel extremely grateful towards Northwest Passage organization and the National Park Service that I was able to experience these things.

Jaden, 18

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Behind the Masks

WORKING TOWARD SELF-ACCEPTANCE

Prairieview residents made individually casted personal masks creating a unique collaboration between individual therapy and therapeutic art group. The residents excelled with notable symbolism and creativity while exploring the pieces of self we show the outside world, what we hold within, and how we can move towards self-acceptance.

I show the world happiness and what I think the world wants to see. If I don’t do that, I feel different, I feel separate like I’m not supposed to feel the way I do. Sharing happiness eventually makes me happy, it distracts me from underlying sadness.

Marissa, 16

The girls spent two weeks casting masks of their faces with paper mache and then decorating those masks with many paint colors and other pieces like lace or beads. The front represented how the world sees them and the inside represented how they see themselves. “Each color represented a different emotion or way they see themselves, Molly Thompson, Expressive Arts Counselor said, “it was incredible to see how much time and detail they put into them.”

They then spent a day at the yurt. “We delved into pieces of personality, masks we wear, the purpose they serve, things we keep hidden and why and ultimately self-acceptance via writing, discussion, and dance,” explained Gina Lundervold-Foley MS, LPC-IT, Mental Health Clinician.”The girls shared stories and really listened to each other.”

“These brave residents demonstrated courage and vulnerability when they were able to experiment with “owning” their strengths and weaknesses. I was amazed to witness their willingness to consider the concept of radical self-acceptance. It was a beautiful and liberating experience,” Lisa Courchaine, LCSW, Mental Health Clinician said.

The Prairieview girls had an open house to display the masks they made. Program Assistant, Nadine Schmitt, describes her experience, “we got to speak with each girl about the mask she created. We heard various stories of how the outside was decorated to demonstrate how people see them. Then they turned the mask so we could see the inside, which was also decorated; but to show how they feel inside. My heart went out to one of the girls who showed me an attractive outside mask but when she turned the mask over to show me the inside of the mask, she had red “X’s” over the eyes and the face was unattractive. She stated in a matter-of-fact tone that this is how her mother treats her. What a statement!”

Northwest Passage is passionate about the arts. We use many arts, including music, dance, photography, drawing, painting, and theater in our work with kids. Creating these masks is another way for the kids to look at themselves through art.

Expressions in Watercolor

BRIGHT AND BRILLIANT COLOR.

BOLD AND BRAVE STROKES.

WET PAINT IN THE WELLS OF PALETTES.

INTENSE FOCUS, THOUGHTS, AND EMOTIONS ON PAPER.

For the last three months, the Prairieview residents have explored the world of watercolor during expressive arts class. Not only can watercolor painting be an enjoyable activity, but it has multiple health benefits, including improving creativity, memory, communication skills and problem solving skills. On an emotional level, painting with watercolors can relieve stress, increase positive emotions and release hidden emotions.

After practicing and getting to know the media, the Prairieview residents were allowed to take the creative reigns and come up with their own ideas and subjects to put into their work. An amazing thing happened when they were allowed this freedom: in enabling one’s emotions to flow through art, one can create a better grasp on her varying feelings. Whether it’s the ebb and flow of joy and sadness, or more complex emotions, the Prairieview residents ultimately increased their emotional intelligence. Getting to witness their restoration of hope and possibly some healing through watercolor painting is quite an incredible experience.

At the end of the unit, the Prairieview residents held a small exhibit of their final watercolor projects at our In a New Light Gallery to show off their new found skills and to take pride in completing the watercolor unit. As their Expressive Arts Teacher, it brought me great pride and joy to see their faces light up as they walked into the exhibit to see their very own fine art on display. Each resident got a chance to speak with patrons of the Gallery about their artworks as well as indulge a little on the delicious snacks provided. I truly could not be more proud of their efforts.

Molly Thompson, Expressive Arts Counselor 

Paintbrush in my hand. Stuff on my mind. Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Thinking about the night before.Worrying for the future. You can’t change any of that. But only you choose how to handle it.

I found the watercolor unit helped me cope with the fear and worry that I would carry on my shoulders.
It was just me and the watercolor.

I challenge everyone to take at least five minutes out of the day, TV and cellphones off, and just focus on an art project. I challenge you to explore the aroma of Water Color Painting.

Jourdyn, age 15

Watercolors is one of the units that our expressive arts counselor guides our kids through. It is a recreational, relaxing activity, that allows for exploration of spirituality. Like Jourdyn describes above, it allows them to get lost in creativity letting their worries fade away while reflecting on things that matter to them.

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Sights set High

“Mankind has always dreamed of taking to the skies, and when they did, their outlook on the world changed forever.”  

Elias, age 16

FLIGHT PEAKS YOUNG MAN’S INTEREST IN BECOMING PILOT

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Riverside client, Elias, was one of the participants of Northwoods Flyers EAA Chapter 1537’s annual Young Eagles event held at the Burnett County Airport, as part of our “In a New Light” programming.

 

“I took photos of the pilots and their young passengers before they took flight.”  

After the first round of kids went on their flights, there was a short lull in participants, and so Elias got his opportunity to fly. He and his mentor pilot walked around the plane checking over the plane before he got strapped into the backseat.

“I was able to take on the skies myself along with pilot, Tom Wilde, in his Bellanca Scout Aircraft. A while after takeoff Tom offered to let me try to fly the plane myself. After a bit of hesitation, I took the controls and felt what it was like to be a pilot.” 

It was an experience that Elias hopes to repeat.

“Once it was over the only thing on my mind was when I was going to do that again? 

Seeing things from above was very different than on the ground, it almost made me feel a little insignificant seeing the vastness of the world we live in.

I can only imagine what it must feel like to go to space!”

Elias has since become an EAA Student Member and started Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course online. Northwoods Flyers EAA Chapter 1537’s Young Eagle event and program has sparked an interest in Elias that he may not have found so soon in his life, if ever.

The Young Eagles program was started by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in 1992. It gives children between the ages of 8 and 17 the opportunity to fly free in an airplane. According to the EAA web site, the program’s mission is “to introduce and inspire kids in the world of aviation” and our local chapter met their mark with Elias and hopefully more of the 35 kids that took part in the day or the 250 they have taken up in the last four years.

“There were lots of smiles and thank yous – it makes it worthwhile. I love being able to share the experience of flying with kids. I am thankful for our local pilots who donated their time and fuel.” 

Roy Ward, Pilot and Event Organizer

In Northwest Passage’s nearly 40 years of development, we have learned that real, sustainable change occurs when our clients connect with their community, explore their identity, develop their passions, appreciate time in nature, attend to their relationships, discover effective recreation opportunities, learn healthy nutritional habits, and move their bodies. This Young Eagles program has met many of these therapeutic lifestyle choices.

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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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School with Cedar

Outside the Classroom Learning

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During school hours at our Assessment Center, we engage our kids in arts, outdoor, and environmental programming, along with academic studies. It is a time for adventure and exploration – we look “outside the Passage bubble” for opportunities to interact with our surrounding communities and partnerships and keep our minds and bodies busy!

Additionally weekends have been full of hiking, fishing, swimming, and exploring our local parks.

Sketching with AiR: Cait

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Cedar, our younger kids group, participated in the Artist in Residence program with Cait Irwin at Schaefer Cabin on the Namekagon River. Many of the residents were able to connect on a personal level with Cait as they developed a rapport, spent several outings with her, and learned that everyone has struggles they work through in their lives. It was a pleasure watching them grow and become more confident in their drawings and expressing themselves through these means. At each outing, residents were given a communal sketch book to use and were introduced to authentic artist’s tools. We spent a portion of the time working independently to create our sketches, coming together at the end to share our work, thought processes, and ideas about our artwork.

Exploring and Photographing Nature

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Parts of these trips were also spent exploring the woods of Schaefer Cabin, the stream, and the environment surrounding us. We took advantage of this environment and spent time on our photography unit. A favorite was capturing the local wildlife which included frogs, soft-shelled turtles, snakes, spiders, and bugs.

Attending the Reception

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Three residents were able to help wrap up our experience by attending the Artist in Residence Reception at our Gallery. Cait was generous enough to spend part of her last day with us as we did some free sketching and observing at the Assessment Center.

Hands-on Learning Activities

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Much of the learning that occurs for our residents is through experiencing new places and knowledge and dealing with it in a hands-on approach. Cedar has gotten to explore different lakes and outdoor spaces surrounding us by swimming, critter catches, making I-movies, and creating presentations about our environments.

One of our culminating activities was going for a swimming trip to the Best Western in Siren for an open swim time. Residents greatly enjoyed this trip and got the chance to challenge staff in several kids vs. staff challenges. There was great sportsmanship and much enthusiasm when the kids were victorious in several of these events!

Every Friday afternoon Cedar participates in the In a New Light photography programming and has a new park or trail that we explore.

Reading Program

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To keep up with our reading we have been reading class books together every several weeks, including – The BFG by Ronald Dahl. As we read along with these books we enjoy creating projects, dioramas, posters, and other art projects around the themes. We enjoyed attending the movie after finishing the book and compared them to see if they are similar or different.

Previously we read Holes and had a variety of projects associated with this book. We also enjoyed a variety of other picture and chapter books that reflected our group’s areas of interest.

Learning Communication from Sammy

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As we continue throughout the school year, we look forward to more adventures and experiences ahead of us! A recent highlight was having Sammy, a therapy dog, come in for weekly visits with the kids. Many of the favorite activities are playing fetch, reading to her, and practicing open and clear communication by teaching her new tricks and practicing her obedience training.

Hannah Curran, Assessment Teacher

 

Northwest Passage is dedicated to providing access to all eight elements of living a therapeutic lifestyle in a myriad of unique ways. Our teachers are known for incorporating them in the lessons that they teach the kids every day. These are just a few of the many examples where they are leaving the “traditional classroom.”

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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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We’ve Got the Beat

CONNECTING TO A THERAPEUTIC LIFESTYLE THROUGH DANCE

A natural passion for dance struck the halls of Prairieview this winter, it quickly blossomed into a therapeutic phenomenon. We have learned throughout our history of therapeutic interventions with youth that people heal through a variety of channels. We know that real, sustainable change occurs when our clients connect with their community, explore their identity, develop their passions, appreciate time in nature, attend to their relationships, discover effective recreation opportunities, learn healthy nutritional habits, and move their bodies. Often those things can come together in powerful ways. Join the young women of Prairieview as they build relationships, develop strength and stamina, and rejoice in dance.

See below for the origin story of this joy filled feat of self expression taking place right here.

The Birth of a Legend

This year, Prairieview found itself in the midst of a dance phenomenon. The girls spent their down time dancing to music, dancing to the Wii games for fitness, and on the weekends they began requesting further dance fitness routines. There was spinnin’, poppin’, and jumpin’ on both units. Girls began protesting; requesting (if not downright begging) for dance competitions. With these given talents and interests of the girls, as well as the innate therapeutic value of dance, our psychological interest was perked. Plotting, proposing and planning began as the co-founders established the goals, mission and purpose. As the New Year was born, so was Prairieview’s Razzle Dazzle Dance Squad.

Mission Ahead

In the months that followed, the girls engaged in weekly practices and frequently additional practices amongst themselves. At first, they stretched and stumbled with more than few grumbles and frowns but over time with increasing enthusiasm and investment. Multiple songs were learned and rehearsed. Warm-ups were advocated for. Stretching leaders were chosen. Girls with interest or background rose to the top and gracefully became leaders; often naturally guiding and assisting girls without experience. The renegade pop-and-lock competitions died down and instead the unit was fueled with requests for additional dance time particularly for solo and duet projects that also were individually advocated for and created by each individual girl. Girls who had little or no dance experience slowly grew more confident in their “new moves.” Still other girls whom chose not to perform due to cultural, religious. or personal beliefs, participated with valuable encouragement, critiques, dress rehearsals, flyers, and even MC’ing our first performance. The girls slowly, and at first a bit begrudgingly, took ownership, investing in the group and ultimately in their performance. On that day, each one of the girls were skittish and flustered as their debut approached. It all worked though. The uncertain sound system, the nervous girls, the much anticipated audience and a lovely reception after their grand finale.  In the end, each girl glowed with pride, laughed, genuinely encouraged one another and celebrated that one special moment.

Why Dancing?

Dancing is far more than a rite of passage for many adolescent girls (and some boys). Dancing itself is expressive and inherently cathartic. It holds the power to improve emotional, cognitive, physical and social arenas. Studies have shown that dancing is beneficial to one on a physical level as it can increase muscle tone, endurance, and strength. It can also improve balance, coordination, agility and offers a fun avenue for cardio fitness. On top of all this, dance directly benefits mental health. Research shows that dance is effective for mood management, increased self-awareness, improved self-esteem, and it can provide a healthy avenue for the expression of emotions. It is often used for stress reduction and can be incorporated into yoga and mindfulness practices.

Dancing and the PassageWay

Learning to dance is a powerful expression of living a therapeutic lifestyle, a key component to the PassageWay. By learning to plan and practice new choreography, participants are actively “avoid avoiding” by taking one small step at a time in order to learn a much bigger, more complicated dance and reach completion of their goal. Furthermore, as participants work towards smaller, more achievable goals before reaching the long term goal (and fantastic performance) they are working on mastery itself. Learning dance movements and choreography requiring active participation and mindfulness as it is necessary for participants to be fully present, in mind and body, as they practice and master dance skills. For some girls, using dance as an expression of emotion can in itself be a coping skill and valuable as a built-in aspect of PLEASE MASTER to achieve further emotional regulation. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, for long term success, dance is an aspect of the therapeutic lifestyle that can easily be transferred from treatment into the community via dance therapists, dance teams throughout schools nationwide, and private dance organizations. This in turn prevents success within a vacuum and instead offers participants a real-life opportunity to implement skills that they are invested in, enjoy, and are valuable towards their personal and emotional success within the community.

Resources

For additional information on the therapeutic value of dance can be found at:

American Dance Therapy Association. (2016). What is Dance/Movement Therapy. American Dance Therapy Association. Retrieved on June 2nd, 2016 https://adta.org/faqs/
Castillo, S. (2012). The Happiness Trick You Haven’t Tried. Prevention. Retrieved on June 2, 2016 from http://www.prevention.com/mind-body/emotional-health/dancing-shown-help-boost-happiness-and-mental-health
Jackson, M. (2004). Dance Therapy for Mental Patients. British Broadcasting Company. Retrieved June 2, 2016 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3551063.stm
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Dance Can Improve Mental Health of Teen Girls. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/11/22/dance-can-improve-mental-health-of-teen-girls/48024.html

Meet the Author

GINA LUNDERVOLD-FOLEY, LPC-IT  | Clinician

Gina’s work is focused around an awareness that the kids she serves have already struggled in their communities and often throughout many other therapies and placements. She sees kids come to us with no sense of hope and no one to believe in them. She believes healing is possible but for that to happen, they must have hope. Gina strives to instill hope in her kids by providing a safe place with her, to grow to trust in a therapeutic relationship, and to work toward change. She works with each of her clients to explore their past and themselves in whatever way is needed so that they can be successful in the community.

  • Specialties: DBT, CBT, ITCT-A, Narrative Therapy, Save Person-Centered Approach
  • Education: BA, Family Social Science; MS, Clinical Psychology
  • Memberships: IPPA, IATP, Association for the Development of the Person-centered Approach
  • With Northwest Passage since 2014

“Dancing is magical! It sets my mind and heart free.”

Ilyna, 15

Northwest Passage is dedicated to providing access to all eight elements of living a therapeutic lifestyle in a myriad of unique ways. We foster and celebrate staff who take a creative approach to this challenge. Thank you for taking a moment to share the origins story of a dance troop that has taken the Prairieview program by storm and has become a place of renewal, friendship, fun, and more for our girls.

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