Philosophy at Phoenix

Phoenix Outdoor is designed to support adolescents who are grappling with serious issues such as substance abuse, chemical dependency and dual-diagnoses. Our philosophy is to help bring about positive change in these teens in our therapeutic wilderness program.

Topics in Phoenix Group

The staff at Phoenix Outdoor help teens face important issues head-on, and to work through these issues using clinical excellence every step of the way. Some of the many areas we focus on in our program include:

  • Education and substance use
  • Sobriety
  • Creating a community- based support system
  • Stress tolerance and emotional regulation
  • Family system healing
  • Relapse prevention planning

Clinical Modalities in Phoenix

As we help students address all of their most pressing behavioral and psychological issues, we also recognize the importance of utilizing Clinical Best Practices for attainting individual and group goals. While we primarily use the wilderness for our therapeutic means, we also hold strong to our clinical modalities of care, many of which include the following:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Family Systems Interventions
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • The 12-Steps
  • Neurofeedback Training
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  • Parent Education Series
  • Yoga
  • Therapeutic Drumming
  • Prochaska’s and DiClemente’s Stages of Change Model

Phoenix Program Phases


Upon enrollment, all students receive a substance abuse assessment, clinical assessment, psycho-social assessment, family assessment, and an evaluation of emotional and behavioral patterns. The focus of this phase is on accepting placement, observing the group and interacting with field staff and therapists. Allowing students to observe group dynamics reduces fear and assists in making a positive transition. It is important for students to feel physically safe and emotionally cared for.


Many adolescents struggle to accept treatment, and have difficulty recognizing the negative effects drugs and alcohol have had on their lives. In this phase, students focus on self-acceptance and the decision to take action for themselves. This occurs for a Phoenix student through acceptance of being in an unfamiliar environment, personal contemplation and reflection in a tranquil environment, and journaling. Students are accepted into the Phoenix culture by other members of the group and staff that help minimize feelings of loss that may be experienced upon arrival.


Overcoming resistance and accepting responsibility takes great courage. In this phase, students face the causes and conditions of using substances and recognize resulting negative behaviors. Students learn “hard” wilderness skills such as making fire, building traps and hiking. They deal with the difficult emotions that arise during these tasks (e.g. frustration, anger, sadness), come to terms with their past, make amends, take ownership of their behaviors, and character development begins. Students become members of their community, and as they experience success, they will build confidence and begin believing in themselves.


In this phase students begin to incorporate habits developed and prepare for how they will be carried to outside lives. The 12-step principle of Giving Back is focused upon. Students fully engage in the group process and demonstrate consistency with new skills such as leadership, healthy communication, positive relationship skills, and healthy emotional regulation. Students are accountable to their staff and peers, and practice accepting responsibility for their words and actions. The Phoenix student is a leader of his group, is mentoring new members of the community, and is facilitating evening meetings and daily activities with field instructors.

Phoenix Rising

The final phase provides students with opportunities to mentor their peers and give back to their community. Leadership qualities such as role modeling, integrity, compassion, and support are essential in testing new recovery skills. In Phoenix Rising, students prepare to transition from Phoenix Outdoor to the next phase of their lives.

I went into this program scared out of my mind. At SUWS, I learned the tools I needed to work through my issues and I'm forever grateful.

– Anonymous Patient