Are you a parent trying to implement changes in your household? Or are you a teenager trying to figure out what to do about a friend your parents don’t like? Have you ever felt uncertain about a decision, not knowing which choice is the right answer? Do you ever feel stuck … in a relationship, an argument, a role, a problem situation, in life?

While feeling challenged, uncertain, and conflicted is a part of being truly alive, these feelings often elicit more of an experience of suffering than vitality for most people. Is there anyone out there who actually enjoys feeling stuck, trapped, or “stalled out”? I doubt it. So how do you change it? How do you get past being stuck without getting bogged down by uncertainty, discomfort, or pain? Of course, there are no magic answers … but ACT has a tool called the Resilience Formula, and it comes pretty dang close to seeming magical in those true moments of feeling stuck.

So, what is ACT?

 Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT [pronounced like the word “act”]) is a treatment modality. It’s about being flexible in the face of challenges. It’s about riding the emotionally stormy seas of life without drowning. It’s about accepting that we’re all human — that we’re all faced with successes and challenges, happiness and suffering — and learning how to meet the highs and lows of our lives with grace, purpose, and a commitment to the things that matter.

I work with teenage girls, and many of them feel stuck: in conflict with their parents, in drug use or partying culture, in school, in unhealthy relationships, in their reputations, in trauma stories, in anxiety, in depression, in figuring out who they are, etc. That’s where I come in.

Often, by the time my clients arrive at SUWS/Phoenix Outdoor, they’ve tried many different strategies to become “unstuck.” Some of those strategies have perhaps made the situation a little better; some of them have maybe made the situation worse. Either way, the individual, their parents, consultants, or therapists have decided to take a bigger step toward getting “unstuck” by enrolling the student at SUWS. Early on in this process, learning how to implement the Resilience Formula serves as a road map to start heading in the right direction.

The Resilience Formula:

In every problem situation, we have three options:

  1. Leave.
  2. Stay and change what can be changed, accept what can’t be changed, and live by your values.
  3. Stay, but give up and do stuff that makes it worse.

Seems simple enough, right? It can be simple, but it can also be incredibly complicated.

 The first step in using the Resilience Formula is to be firm on what your personal values are. Without confidently knowing your values, you have no compass to determine which way to go in problem situations. Values are defined as: desired qualities of behavior. These are our heart’s deepest desires about how we want to interact with the world, others, and ourselves. Some of you might be able to easily identify your core values, but for those who are uncertain, I find these questions helpful to get yourself thinking:

  • What’s important to you?
  • What do you want your life to stand for?
  • What qualities do you want to embody as a person?
  • How do you act, and how do you wish you acted, in relationships with others?
  • Many, many years from now, how do you want to be described about who you are today?

For examples of values, values lists, and values quizzes, I recommend taking a few minutes to do a quick Google search. There are a number of great resources for values identification out there.

Set aside some time in the next few days to settle on your core values, and stay tuned to learn how to apply the Resilience Formula to your, your child’s, your partner’s, or your clients’ lives!

 Want to learn more about SUWS? Visit

Want to learn more about ACT? Visit

K. “Alice” Cennamo, LCSW LCAS, is a wilderness therapist at SUWS of the Carolinas/Phoenix Outdoor, working with adolescent females as they move through problematic substance use, trauma, family conflict, and co-occurring disorders. She utilizes a strengths-based approach in her work with adolescents and emphasizes empowerment as an agent for creating change.


SUWS of the Carolinas offers wilderness programs for adolescents who are struggling with various challenges, including mental health concerns, substance use, behavioral issues, and autism spectrum disorder. Our expert staff provides developmentally appropriate care to young people in a safe, therapeutic environment. We accept private pay only, but our staff can help develop a detailed financial plan for your family to ensure your child gets the care they need so that they can successfully return to their school and community. 

About K. “Alice” Cennamo, MSW, LCSW, LCAS

K. “Alice” Cennamo, MSW, LCSW, LCAS works with adolescent females as they move through problematic substance use, trauma, defiance, anxiety, family conflict, and co-occurring disorders. She utilizes a strength-based approach to adolescent identity development and emphasizes empowerment as an agent for creating change.

Alice has been working at SUWS of the Carolinas since 2011. Thanks to her three year tenure as a field guide in wilderness therapy she has an extensive understanding of the challenges and successes her clients experience during their stay at SUWS, as well as a keen eye for staff training and clinical oversight.

As a clinician, she specializes in dual-diagnosis treatment. Alice treats both the problematic substance use patterns, as well as the anxiety, depression, avoidance or perfectionism patterns, underlying chronic shame, unproductive personality traits, emotional dysregulation, identity development, self-esteem issues, PTSD, family conflict, and/or defiance that often occurs.  Often, the young ladies she works with have been resistant to past treatment interventions, might expertly manipulate, or require an especially savvy therapist. Through her training in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Interpersonal Psycho therapy, and Motivational Interviewing, Alice guides her clients towards refocusing their power, realigning with their values, and reuniting with their true selves.

Alice assists her clients in generalizing and applying the skills they learn in wilderness to their functioning in greater society, as well as assisting parents on their parallel process of integrating communication skills, parenting tools, healthy relationships, and boundaries to the after graduation environment.

Prior to her time in the wilderness, Alice worked in after-school programming, transition coaching, and curriculum development, as well as academic and interpersonal counseling. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology: Human Services and Addiction Studies from Appalachian State University, and a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work from Ohio University.

When not at base camp, she can be found presenting at industry and national conferences on Trauma & ACT, the nuances of working with young women in recovery, and rebuilding healthy peer relationships after a teen has returned home from treatment. She enjoys trail running, identifying local flora, spending time with family, and hiking with her dog.

View all posts by K. “Alice” Cennamo, MSW, LCSW, LCAS