The emotional culture or “milieu” of our program is critical for the necessary healing and growth of our clients. A strong sense of emotional and physical safety is paramount so that the girls feel more comfortable with the work they need to do. Furthermore, the daily interactions and behaviors of the girls in and among their teammates are reflective of how they are progressing in their journey.
In addition, daily interactions with peers and staff are best illustrated by the levels of responsibility they are developing, as well as the respect and care they invest in their relationships. Given this, the role of the residential program and the therapeutic impact it has in the lives of the girls we serve is vitally important in creating a safe and healing culture.
Within the total community, the girls are divided into teams with a maximum of 12 girls each. This allows for small, more personal groups within the community. These teams are based on the primary therapists’ caseload, so that each team has two primary therapists that are assigned to them. Some of the girls’ activities are team specific, such as some off campus outings and groups, community meetings and team-bonding activities. This allows for deeper and stronger relationships of trust to form within teams, as well as creating a feeling of a smaller, safer sense of community.
Parents often ask how we manage behavior and discipline. Our focus is on internalizing values and principles aimed at the development of girls becoming women of character and honor.
Our goal, at one of the top troubled teens programs, is to change hearts, not just behavior.
The implementation of principle based interventions, as opposed to simple behavioral consequences, results in deeper levels of insight and growth. For instance, when a girl “borrows” something from another person without permission, rather that losing the privilege to watch a movie, she may be asked to participate in a principle based intervention related to honesty and trust, and to “give back” to the community in a way that restores trust she may have damaged by her choice.
She will also spend time processing how similar behaviors in the past may have impacted others she cares about. This therapeutic process is intensive, and has significant impact over time when consistently applied in a therapeutic community. There are several levels of principle-based interventions at Solstice that each girl participates in throughout her journey.
Responsibility, respect and accountability, good work ethic, pride in a job well done, teamwork– these are some of the valuable principles we attempt to integrate within our community. One of the ways we do this is through incorporating community roles. A community role is a “job” or “responsibility” within the team. These duties range from more simple roles such as maintaining a laundry schedule or emptying trash cans, to more challenging ones such as making sure the team gets to its activities on time, teaching job duties to new students, or holding the team accountable for carrying out their duties effectively.
There are many roles, and every girl holds at least one role at any given time. In addition to teaching responsibility, it also helps provide a sense of duty to others, a feeling of being “needed” and increases self-efficacy and self-confidence.
The Solstice phase system is patterned after the archetypal Hero’s Journey. Themes in the Hero’s Journey can be found throughout literature, arts, drama, film, dance and many other expressive mediums. This journey embodies the ideas of growth, healing, skill development, identity formation, and service. Each phase of our program includes specific tasks and “quests” that must be completed, sometimes chosen by the student, and at other times chosen by the therapist/treatment team.
As students progress through their Hero’s Journey, they start to learn about principles, roles and relationships, and, over time, through greater insights and skill development, they begin to display leadership and service. Each of the phases is a representation of where each girl is in her individual journey and growth process.
This process is not dissimilar to life, where we face challenges and “dragons” that must be conquered so we can learn, and then progress to the next challenge. The strength that is developed in the process of facing and overcoming increasingly difficult challenges is remarkable in preparing these young women to face the life of ups and downs ahead of them.
Each team meets in short community meetings at the end of each day. This is a time for all team members to account for how the day progressed, what goals were accomplished, how job duties were fulfilled, and to make goals and assignments for the following day. Team leaders provide feedback, encourage support and strengthen team members who may have had a difficult day. This team time is a way to build community, resolve challenges and build resolve and commitment. Teamwork and unity are vital to each individual team member’s progression.
A Relational Approach
The foundation upon which this community is based is the belief that healthy, predictable, consistent relationships are at the core of well-being. This theme flows through all areas of the day, and all interactions, whether peer to peer or student to staff. The process of making mistakes, repairing them and learning to improve is a regular part of daily life. This is a focus of our community and results in girls that are well practiced in communication and problem solving abilities.