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 like marijuana abuse. The Phoenix Program at SUWS of the Carolinas is designed to help adolescentswho 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 who comes through our doors.
Marijuana, which is also commonly referred to as pot, weed, reefer, and herb, is a psychoactive substance derived from the cannabis plant that produces mind-altering effects. Adolescents who abuse marijuana are likely to experience a number of ill effects in various areas of their lives, especially when this abuse is allowed to continue. Marijuana abuse can compromise psychological, cognitive, and health functioning. SUWS of the Carolinas recognizes how destructive marijuana abuse can be in a young person’s life and how difficult it can be to overcome a marijuana abuse problem. We use a number of effective therapeutic methods to positively engage young people, helping them to recognize their inner strength and build a foundation for achieving long-lasting recovery.
Helping a Loved One or Family Member with the Treatment Process
When you find out that your child is abusing marijuana, it can be extremely difficult to know how to approach the situation. While your first reaction may be one of anger, punishing your child for using marijuana is not going to fix the problem, especially if he or she has developed a marijuana addiction. If your child is struggling with a marijuana addiction, the most effective way to address the problem is for him or her to attend a treatment program that specializes in treading adolescents with chemical dependency concerns. Here are some additional things to keep in mind when helping your child through the recovery process:
- Get your own emotions under control. Discovering that your child is abusing drugs can bring about a host of emotions, which you will need to get under control before you confront your child.
- Speak to your child about his or her marijuana abuse, being sure to express your concerns surrounding his or her behavior. It is also important that you speak to your child about the treatment program he or she will be attending. Give your child as much information as you can about the treatment program and allow him or her to ask questions.
- Be an active participant in your child’s treatment process; attend all family therapy sessions and participate in any support services that are offered.
- When your child returns home make sure aftercare plans are followed. Make sure to set clear boundaries and consequences for continued marijuana abuse.
- Support your child throughout the entire recovery process. Continue to provide your child with ongoing support and love.
Why Consider Treatment at SUWS of the Carolinas
Chronic marijuana abuse can lead to a significant amount of impairment or distress in an adolescent’s life. Marijuana abuse can negatively affect a young person’s cognitive functioning which, in turn, can lead to problems at school, such as a drop in grades, skipping class, or a lack of interest in school-related actives. Behavioral changes associated with marijuana abuse can place a young person at an increased risk for accidents as the result of engagement in potentially dangerous behaviors. It is also common for an adolescent marijuana user to experience changes in mood stability, energy levels, and eating patterns. Additionally, marijuana smoke contains carcinogenic compounds that place chronic users at an increased risk for respiratory illnesses or other physical health problems. Fortunately, engaging in treatment can help a young person drop this nasty habit and reduce the chances for these previously-mentioned risks.
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 marijuana abuse, include:
Medication management: There is no medication available that is designed to treat marijuana 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 on a regular basis. 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, marijuana 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 certain that the transition to the next phase of treatment is as smooth as possible.
Phoenix Outdoor not only helps treat pressing psychological and behavioral issues, but also provides care for adolescents who are struggling with substance abuse concerns like marijuana abuse. Each one of our staff members is determined to help each student who comes to us overcome his or her presenting issues and achieve a happier, healthy life.