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

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!

In a New Light Gallery to host student film premier from Panama expedition

Northwest Passage Expeditions, Northwest Passage’s newest therapeutic program for students ages 18-24, has spent the past month on a filmmaking expedition in Panama.  Mentored by Sachi Cunningham, a renowned San Fransisco-based documentary filmmaker and photographer, the students created a series of short documentary films about “Blue Mind,” the emotional and psychological benefits of being in or near water.   The students will show will their films and talk about their experiences at the In a New Light Gallery in Webster on Wednesday, August 16 from 3:30–5:30 pm.  The event is free and open to the public.

 

“The students have accomplished something extraordinary” said Ben Thwaits, coordinator of the program.  “Not only have they mastered advanced skills as documentary filmmakers in less than a month, but they’ve also integrated themselves within new community and a new culture to find some truly fascinating people and stories.  Their films are powerful and moving, and they’re expressing new and important ideas. The experience is transformative on so many levels.”

 

After a 10-day orientation in Wisconsin, the students spent nearly a month based on Panama’s Azuero Peninsula, where they explored the region to spend time with people’s whose lives are centered on the water, from local fisherman to champion surfing celebrities.  With each, they explored the nature of their connection to the water. While the expedition focused on filmmaking, the students’ therapeutic experience was the primary objective.  “Adventure is inherently therapeutic” says Thwaits.  “Sometimes you have to remove yourself from the life you know in order to more clearly see the life that is waiting for you.”

 

The expedition to Panama was funded in part by the generous contribution of Darby and Geri Nelson.

 

About Northwest Passage

With locations in the northwestern Wisconsin communities of Frederic and Webster, Northwest Passage offers comprehensive residential mental health services to young people, with the aim of restoring dignity, emotional wholeness, and a sense of self worth.  Northwest Passage Expeditions is a new adventure-based program that partners world-class explorers, artists, and scientists with mental health professionals to lead therapeutic expeditions around the world for 18-24-year-olds.  www.northwestpassageexpeditions.org

 

About Sachi Cunningham, Panama filmmaking teacher

 

As a documentary filmmaker, Cunningham’s stories have screened at festivals worldwide, and on outlets including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, PBS FRONTLINE, FRONTLINE/World and the Discovery Channel. The Emmys, Webbys, and Pictures of the Year International have honored Cunningham’s work. A graduate of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Brown University, Cunningham’s documentaries focus on international conflict, the arts, disability, and the ocean environment. On land she has turned her lens everywhere from the first presidential election in Afghanistan, to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In the water, she has swum with her camera along side everything from 350-pound blue fin tuna to big wave surfers, to Olympian, Michael Phelps. Once an assistant to actress Demi Moore and Director/Producer/Writer Barry Levinson, Cunningham brings a decade of experience in feature films and commercial productions in New York, Hollywood and Tokyo to her career in journalism and filmmaking.

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!

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/.

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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Travel to the Apostle Islands with our kids

Travel Logs of an Expedition of Healing

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This fall, six of Northwest Passage’s Prairieview residents traveled to North America’s third coast, the shores of Lake Superior, for their capstone project in the latest chapter of New Light Under the Surface. We ventured north to spend time in this beautiful place and to work in partnership with the National Park Service staff of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and with Artist in Residence photographer, Andrew Walsh. This adventure was made possible thanks in part to the financial support of Wisconsin Sea Grant and The National Park Service Submerged Resources Center.

Lake Superior welcomed the group with unusually warm and calm water, clear skies, and a sunny disposition. We spent two nights and three days camping four miles from the mainland on Sand Island, near the Bayfield Peninsula, the western-most tip of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on which camping is permitted.

Getting to the Island

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For the majority of the residents, our first night camping on Sand Island was also their first night sleeping in a tent. It goes without saying that there was much preparation for the trip. In addition to the snorkeling and photography skills they learned and put into practice this summer, the group learned how to set up and take down a tent and how to ‘make their bedroom,’ how to pack a backpack, and how to plan their meals for wilderness camping. By the time we boarded the Park Service boat at Little Sand Bay the girls were well prepared for our adventure.

Great Lakes Fisheries Biologist Jay Glase captained the boat, a sturdy craft with powerful twin outboard motors. It was also equipped with a ramp that can be lowered for loading cargo and passengers directly onto the beach, but most importantly, so that we could slip safely into the water for aquatic exploration.

The water was perfect by Lake Superior standards. A gentle breeze pushed up 1-2 foot waves which was just enough to make water spray across the deck as we cruised to the Island, bouncing over waves.

“Being on the boat gave me an adrenaline rush. I had never been on a boat before. It felt so good as the mist of the cold water hit my face. I watched the waves from the side of the boat fly up. It was so relaxing to watch and brought me so much excitement.” 

Jourdyn, age 15

Setting Up Camp

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Upon arriving at East Bay on Sand Island, Jay ran the boat right in to the shallow water and lowered the bow ramp. The group formed a chain and worked together to unload the mountain of gear. We thanked Jay for safe passage and waved as he departed back to the mainland. The group was now on the island and began to settle in for the next three days.

The girls put their camping skills to practice and spent that afternoon setting up camp. Pitching tents, assembling the camp kitchen, building tarp shelters, and gathering firewood. They helped one another out, sharing what they remembered of their training when others got stuck. Once camp was settled, we spent the afternoon getting to know our little corner of the nearly 3000 acre island.

“The two points on the island jut out on both sides of me. They’re slightly curved, as if giving me a hug and telling me I’m safe, nothing will hurt me. The island is protecting me. From what? I don’t know. But the secluded peace of it all gives me a great sense of security.

To my right is the mainland, the place where we parked the car and left. Not only did I leave the town and commotion behind, I left my troubles too. The 2 a.m. thoughts of self-hatred, the constant fear of what comes next, the horrific desire to not desire, the trance of unworthiness that fogs my mind.”

Rachel, age 15

First Night on the Island

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After dinner the group rallied the energy to hike the nearly three miles to the northern tip of the Island. We hiked through old growth white pine and cedar and arrived at a small peninsula upon which the historic 135 year old Sand Island lighthouse sits. We got there just in time to catch the brilliant colors of the sunset and see the first of the stars emerge overhead.

Artist in Residence, Andrew Walsh, provided instruction and guidance on sunset photography as the group took in the wild remoteness of the place. We played in the rock pools and explored what felt like the ‘edge of the earth.’

As night set in, we departed back to camp, the group persevered through the long hike back on a dark and buggy trail by singing and joking as we followed the lights of our headlamps. When we arrived back at our well-made camp at East Bay, everyone settled in for the night to get some much needed rest.

“The most challenging part of this trip was coming back from the lighthouse, when I got my hair stuck in the bug tent and the gnats swarmed my face because my headlamp was still on. This showed me that I can overcome struggles.

Hailey, age 14

Exploring the Caves at Swallow Point

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The next morning brought perfect weather – again! By the time our boat arrived promptly at 8:45 the group had eaten, cleaned, and secured camp. They were ready and waiting in wetsuits when Julie Van Stappen, Chief of Planning and Resource Management, and their boat captain for the day, arrived on the beach. We boarded with gear and cameras in hand and traveled up the shoreline to Swallow Point.

The Caves at Swallow point are one of the most notable geological features of the Apostle Islands. Their beauty is rivaled only by the caves on Devil’s Island and the mainland caves at Mawikwe Bay (which received international notoriety and tens of thousands of visitors during the winter of 2013).

The caves at these unique locations are formed from red sandstone that has slowly eroded to create arches, tunnels, and deep caverns. They are a living geological feature that continues to be gradually broken down by ice in the winter and smoothed by wave action in the summer. These caves have been photographed by hundreds of explorers and dozens of professionals. But never before have they been explored and photographed like this.

The group stood on the deck and was given guiding words of inspiration and safety by Ranger Van Stappen and their team leaders. We then slipped into the water in teams of three, two “buddies” and a team leader in each pod, and swam to the caves.

As we approached the Sea Caves there were three things that stood out; the geology, the crystal blue clarity of the water, and the sound of the waves ‘galumping’ against the hollows of the stone. To many, the idea of swimming into a cave, in deep cold water would be a terrifying and claustrophobic proposition beyond imagination. These six brave young women dove in and didn’t look back. They boldly went forward chasing their curiosity and the opportunity for just the right shot.

“I felt so calm. I was in my own little world. I didn’t worry about all the stressors going on in my everyday life. I left that all behind. I just sat back and listened to those beautiful waves and took amazing underwater shots.”

Jourdyn, age 15

Going Below the Surface

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The unparalleled beauty of these caves can only be fully experienced by seeing both the above water and below water elements of them. The caves that arch overhead, also arch underwater and it takes unique skill and equipment to capture the whole picture. Fortunately the group was equipped with the eye and the gear to do so.

They were driven by the inspiration that they had the unprecedented opportunity to share the beauty of this global treasure with thousands of others. They were bringing the Apostle Islands to the rest of the world.

The excellent weather made hours of photography both above and below the water possible. The morning sun reached far under the water’s surface making for exceptional photographic conditions. We swam deep into the caves and through the arches. After exploring nearly a quarter mile of shoreline, the morning came to a close. We swam onto the boat and returned to our campsite for lunch and conversation with Julie.

“Lake Superior is brilliantly blue. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such blue water in my life. I can see how people of other nationalities and faiths base a lot of their beliefs and practices on nature and why they cherish lakes so much.” 

Anonymous, 15

On to Eagle Island

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After eating and resting up, the group was given the unique opportunity to visit another of the Apostles. Julie ferried us around Sand Island and across three miles of open water to Eagle Island. Eagle Island, one of the smallest of the islands, sits on the far western edge of the National Lakeshore. It serves as a bird refuge and people are barred from stepping foot on dry ground there for 6 months of the year – fortunately for the group, they were remaining in the aquatic realm.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the submerged rocky ledges and deep crevasses of Eagle Island’s north shore.

By the time Julie had to part ways, the cameras were full of images and our bodies and minds were out of energy.

We returned to camp and wound down day number two on Sand Island.

“Riding on the boat with Ranger Julie Van Stappen made me feel like I was special, that she truly loved taking us out and watching us.  I hope one day I could have her take me to more of the islands.” 

Kim, age 15

Heading Back to the Mainland

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Day three defied the forecast and blew expectations out of the water. Instead of the thunderstorms and high waves that were predicted there were gentle clouds on the horizon and clear blue skies above. The water was again, warm and calm in the sheltered East Bay.

We packed up and cleaned the campsite then spent the morning with our guest, Artist in Residence, Andrew Walsh. Andrew has volunteered time with Northwest Passage on two previous occasions, but this was a first for him to join a group on an expedition. On the days previous he had joined the group in the water and on land offering professional insight and tips, he had also spent time doing night photography with the girls the evening before.

This morning he set up on shore and gave the photographers the opportunity to be the stars on the other side of the lens.

After lunch, we loaded the mountain of gear onto the boat and boarded the boat heading back to the mainland. It was bittersweet partings leaving the place that we had all formed a strong bond with over the course of three short days.

Early in my career I spent four years instructing and guiding sea kayaking in the Apostle Islands. I spent thousands of hours paddling and countless nights camping in the Islands. I ushered hundreds of guests to and from the shores of the mainland out to these gems of Lake Superior. Not until this trip, did I realize the potential of this place to help those, in the most dire need of nature’s elixir, find hope and healing.

Ian Karl, Experiential Programming Coordinator

“Into the water I went. Washing away the pain the scars left. I watched the memories float down. Away from my thoughts, away from me. Submerged in the peaceful currents. I let myself go for just a moment. As I rose up out of the water. The sun seemed to shine brighter.”

Jade, age 16

Every child’s journey to mental health at Northwest Passage incorporates therapeutic elements such as those encountered while at the Apostle Islands. The girls practiced a number of therapeutic practices from time spent in nature and recreations to relaxation and time spent building relationships with peers and staff. It is opportunities like this that the girls are able to put their efforts in treatment to work in a rewarding and awesome way.

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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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