SUWS of the Carolinas is a therapeutic wilderness program that focuses on short-term, high-impact clinical intervention and assessment for male and female adolescents, ages 10 to 17, who are struggling with a range of academic, behavioral, emotional, and substance abuse issues. At SUWS of the Carolinas we provide four different treatment programs (Approach, Phoenix Outdoor, Seasons, and SUWS), which are designed to meet the distinct needs of all of our students, including those who are battling substance abuse concerns.
The Phoenix Program at SUWS of the Carolinas is designed to help adolescents, ages 13-17, who are struggling with different psychological, behavioral, and substance abuse issues. It is the goal of the Phoenix Program, with the use of the wilderness and multiple therapeutic approaches, to help encourage effective change in each adolescent that comes through our doors.
Substance abuse is defined as the continued use of drugs and/or alcohol despite the presence of multiple problems that are occurring as a direct result. Substance abuse brings about a number of cognitive, behavioral, and psychological symptoms, all of which can cause functional impairment in a young person’s life. At SUWS of the Carolinas we are aware of the challenges that a young person faces when trying to overcome an addiction to alcohol and/or other drugs and have developed specialized programming to help these young people gain control of their lives.
Helping a Loved One or Family Member with the Treatment Process
If you have a child who is struggling with substance abuse problems, you are likely very worried for his or her overall wellbeing and may be distressed about what the future holds for your child. Sending your child to an outdoor treatment program can be scary and may raise a number of different question. Below are some possible suggestions that may help support your child during this difficult time:
- Learn about substance abuse and addiction. The more you learn the better you will be able to understand what your child is going through and why he or she may have started using drugs and/or alcohol in the first place.
- Speak to your child about his or her substance abuse, encourage them to talk about anything that may be of particular concern to him or her. While you may be very angry try to remain calm and collected when talking to your child.
- Talk to treatment program your child will be attending so that you can get a better idea of what to expect. They should be able to answer any questions you may have and address any concerns.
- Support your child throughout the entire recovery process. Continue to provide your child with ongoing support and love while they head down the path toward sobriety.
- Be an active part of your child’s treatment process, working closely with your child’s treatment team.
Why Consider Treatment at SUWS of the Carolinas
When a young person is abusing drugs and/or alcohol, many if not all, areas of his or her life are going to be impacted. Many young people abusing substance may begin to show a significant decline in grades, may stop going to class, and may no longer care about their academic achievement. Additionally, instead of spending time with family or friends a young person may place all of their energy into obtaining the substance, using the substance, or recovering from its effects. Recurrent substance abuse may result in failure to meet obligations at home, which can lead to increased conflict between family members. Additionally, it is not uncommon for persistent substance abuse to result in many physical and psychological problems that have either been caused or exacerbated by the substance. All of these reasons, as well as many more, are why it is imperative that a young person who is abusing drugs and/or alcohol get treatment as soon as possible. The sooner treatment is sought the better the chance for preventing these negative consequences.
Types of Treatment Offered at SUWS of the Carolinas
In the Phoenix Outdoor Program at SUWS, the wilderness is the forefront of treatment and the 12-step structure is infused into the daily activities of its students. 12-step exposure puts many tools in a student’s toolbox along with motivational enhancement, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, neuro- feedback and supplemental activities such as equine assisted therapy, yoga, mindfulness and meditation practices.
Recovery Support provides a guide for translating daily wilderness skills at SUWS into a 12-step recovery process so that when they leave the program, students have already been forming the habits of a 12-step lifestyle. By addressing the concepts embedded in the 12-steps through didactic instruction, time for reflection, opportunities to translate the steps into physical activity, and coaching of daily habits, a culture of support, positivity, and vulnerability are fostered among students in the Phoenix program. Ultimately, students are given the opportunity to practice the 12-steps and how they will be implemented outside of SUWS so they can envision how they can take the steps and run with them!
Throughout this treatment process, our staff provides guidance and helps students see a solution to their internal and external struggles through the framework of the 12-step program. We have found that students in the Phoenix program are easily able to attach meaning to the activities and structure they encounter, which enables them to use those metaphors as powerful tools of introspection and guidance. Some of the therapeutic activities offered through the Phoenix Program, for the treatment of substance abuse, include:
Medication management: There is no medication available that is designed to treat substance abuse; however, if your child is struggling with a co-occurring disorder he or she may be prescribed medication to control the presence of any distressing symptoms. All medication use will be a joint decision between you and your child’s psychiatrist, with whom your child will meet on an as-needed basis. Our psychiatrist is available to meet with students at base camp every other week in the fall, winter, and spring, and every week in the summer. Additionally, we have a registered nurse on staff and all of our field staff are trained in medication administration.
Individual therapy: Each student in our Phoenix Program receives individual counseling sessions with a licensed mental health professional at least two times per week. Through individual therapy your child can work through any emotional issues he or she may be struggling with and can continue to work on the skills needed to remain sober.
Group therapy: Group therapy in the Phoenix Program at SUWS of the Carolinas focuses on substance abuse topics and the 12-step model for recovery. Possible group topics may include relapse prevention, anger management, and social skills development.
Family therapy: Throughout the duration of a student’s stay at SUWS, parents will participate in weekly calls with a therapist who will update them on their child’s progress and treatment status. Because we firmly believe that family members should also be making positive changes in their lives, we also provide a two-day family workshop for parents, which is designed to foster awareness of their own behaviors. We also offer a 10-week series of webinar classes where parents can learn more about wilderness therapy, substance abuse, and the recovery process.
Experiential therapy: In addition to traditional therapeutic methods, SUWS of the Carolinas offers a number of experiential therapies to provide our students with well-rounded recovery. Some of the therapies offered to our students include:
- 12-step meetings
- Therapeutic drumming
- Equine therapy
- Ropes courses
Continuing Care and Levels of Treatment
Once a student has completed the Phoenix Program here at SUWS of the Carolinas, he or she will participate in a three day graduation process, during which he or she will be reunited with family members for final closing sessions before returning home. During the graduation process parents will spend a night in the wilderness with their child, where they will begin to establish new behavior patterns. On the final day, a ceremony honoring the accomplishments of each graduate will be held prior to their departure.
As part of the treatment process at SUWS of the Carolinas, we provide each student and his or her family with transitional planning to help determine the most appropriate placement upon graduation from our program. SUWS therapists will coordinate aftercare planning with parents, referring professionals, and the family transition specialist as needed. Our therapists and other mental health professionals work diligently to make the transition to the next phase of treatment is as smooth as possible.
Phoenix Outdoor SUWS not only helps treat pressing psychological and behavioral issues, but also provides care for adolescents who are struggling with substance abuse concerns like substance abuse. Each one of our staff members is determined to helping each student who comes to us overcome his or her presenting issues and establish a more successful, sober life.