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Welcome to Elements: Outdoor Therapeutic Program for Adolescent Boys

Primary Care Team

Elements is a specialized outdoor therapeutic program designed to support adolescent boys, aged 13-17, and their families. Elements clients face a diversity of challenges at home or school, including problematic behaviors, mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, learning differences, internet/screen overuse, and substance use. Led by experienced primary clinicians and dedicated staff, Elements provides an emotionally and physically safe space in a beautiful natural setting for clients to address their underlying mental health needs and come to terms with the harmful ways they have coped with life’s difficulties.

Elements believes in working with the entire family along every step of the process, not simply treating the individual as the “identified patient”. From the outset, parents and guardians are involved via support groups, psychoeducational seminars, individual calls with the therapist, with their own parent guides (coaches), and of course with direct communication through calls and letters with their child. In-person visits with their child are a standard part of the experience and parents will see every aspect of the program through these visits. Furthermore, parents can hire a family therapist to facilitate a multi-day Family Focus intensive. For more information about Elements’ family work, click here. 

We recognize that not every child’s needs are the same. As such, our program provides various autonomous, small groups, which are hand-selected with the best fit in mind. This allows us to choose the optimal therapist for individual therapeutic alliance and the optimal group makeup for social skill development and positive peer support. 

All groups move on their own itinerary through Utah’s gorgeous countryside, with each day a new opportunity to learn and grow. In the outdoors, our clients find themselves falling back into natural rhythms of a healthy sleep cycle, a healthy diet, and a healthy amount of movement and exercise. Their itineraries are intertwined with adventure activities that are a fun and intentional way to integrate the goals of their overall treatment plan.

About Elements

Elements is a short-term treatment program dedicated to providing comprehensive support for adolescent boys navigating complex challenges. Situated amidst the stunning landscape of south-central Utah, our program combines nature, adventure, and therapy to promote healing and growth. Led by licensed therapists and experienced professionals, Elements offers a safe and supportive environment where clients can explore their strengths, develop skills, and cultivate resilience.

At Elements, our commitment to the safety and well-being of adolescent boys is unwavering. We prioritize physical, emotional, and psychological safety in every aspect of our outdoor therapy program. Through our carefully crafted therapeutic approach, we aim to not only address the immediate challenges that our participants face but also to equip them with the tools and strategies needed to build emotional resilience for the future.

Our team of experienced professionals works tirelessly to create a safe and welcoming space where boys can explore their emotions, better understand their struggles, and develop the skills necessary to thrive in all aspects of their lives. Thanks to our safe and healthy setting, removed from the stresses of everyday life at home, our clients and their families leave with more than just skills. Our process helps cut through the noise, and every family, child, and treatment team member will leave the process with a solid assessment of the individual’s and family’s needs moving forward.

Our non-traditional clinical approach to therapy takes immersion to the next level. Picture this: therapy sessions unfold while the therapist joins the group each week, camping together, immersed in the client’s world for up to 36 hours. This in vivo method allows therapy to occur systematically in dedicated individual sessions, but also organically through real-time interaction and quality time spent together. By blurring the lines which traditionally have divided therapy and real-life experiences, we exponentially increase clinical contact hours beyond the confines of a traditional brick and mortar setting. In this dynamic environment, therapeutic alliances are developed in a setting of trust, and breakthroughs happen spontaneously and unprompted. This creates a truly transformative journey where every moment becomes an opportunity for growth, connection, and healing. Welcome to therapy redefined.

Our Approach

In this beautiful natural setting, our clients are removed from many of the stressors of life, and accordingly, the maladaptive coping mechanisms that they previously employed to cope with the stress. As such we see our short-term program as the perfect place to invite our clients to explore their relationship with these coping strategies while developing adaptive coping skills.

Whether they acted inwards and avoided challenges, or acted outwards and directed their energy away from themselves, all our clients can benefit from a mindful exploration of what, how, and why they dealt with life’s stressors the way they did. Utilizing the evidence-based practices of motivational interviewing and the 7 Challenges, our clients are guided through a process of better understanding their relationships with screens, substances, blame, avoidance, and any  other strategies they used to cope. 

Simultaneously, our staff and therapists all work in real time to provide a foundation for adaptive coping skills through another clinically proven therapeutic modality: Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. This is a fancy name for a relatively simple process of addressing the questions of: What are these challenges I am confronting? Can I change them or is it in my best interest to accept them? From there our clients get the opportunity in real time to employ change skills (Emotional Regulation and Interpersonal Effectiveness) or acceptance skills (Mindfulness and Distress Tolerance).

All of this is done in a non-punitive and non-judgmental approach. After all, if our clients are going to choose a new path forward, they must arrive at that decision mindfully and without coercion. By virtue of their 8-day work shifts, immersed in nature around the clock with our clients, Elements staff are able to provide continuity of care that is unparalleled in the treatment field. This continuity only further serves to help clients gain and retain a new perspective on their role in creating the life they have, and skills to carry this new perspective into their future.

We prioritize trauma-informed approaches in our outdoor learning program. Our approach focuses on creating a safe, supportive, and empowering environment that acknowledges the unique needs of each individual. Through personalized care, therapeutic activities, and a team of experienced professionals, we aim to help participants heal, build resilience, and move forward on their path to recovery and growth.

Why Choose Elements?

  • Personalized Support: Our program offers individualized treatment plans tailored to the unique needs of each client.
  • Empowering Experiences: Through adventure and therapy, clients develop essential life skills and cultivate resilience.
  • Safe and Supportive Environment: Elements provides a safe and authentic space where adolescent boys can explore, learn, and grow with confidence.
  • Small Groups: Our program provides small groups of up to 9 clients to foster individual expression and growth in a safe and supportive environment.
  • Experienced Professionals: Elements is led by experienced licensed clinicians, and supported by experienced staff dedicated to the well-being of our clients.
  • Family Involvement: With a dedicated and fully integrated family program, parents/guardians and even siblings have a role to play in helping the system move towards health and reunification. 
  • Adventure Activities: Weekly adventure activities such as rock climbing and canyoneering are planned according to group needs and  clinical goals, providing fun opportunities for personal and social growth.

Treatment Modalities

Outdoor Living

Three to five days a week, our clients backpack from campsite to campsite. Every other week, there is a day or two of adventure activity. Regardless of the week’s hiking or adventure schedule, there is personal time built in for clients to work on therapeutic assignments, letter writing, reading, as well as time for games, conversations, and group processing of different therapeutic topics.

Two days a week, the therapist visits the group wherever they are in the field area. Individual and group therapy sessions happen on these days. The therapist also brings out mail for clients from family and loved ones.

Adventure

Adventure programming offers a fresh approach to therapeutic treatment for adolescents, setting itself apart by prioritizing individual agency and empowerment through the concept of “Choose Your Challenge.” Rather than pressuring clients to participate, this personalized methodology allows each client to navigate their journey at their own pace, embracing challenges that resonate with their unique needs and aspirations.

From high-angle rock climbing and rappelling to ground-level games and activities, our clients are encouraged to lean into experiences that foster personal growth, resilience, and self-discovery. Adventure programming in this primary therapeutic setting not only cultivates essential life skills but also instills a sense of autonomy and accomplishment, laying the foundation for enduring positive change.

The Family Element

At Elements we use every opportunity available to us to incorporate the entire family system wherever possible. As such, each family will have a host of opportunities to engage with their son in the program, be it via therapeutically driven letters and phone calls, embedded in the group for one or more overnight visits, or immersed in a 3-day Family Focus. Most of our parents engage in all aspects of family communication and visits, including bringing siblings or other close family members out for the Family Focus.

Skill Development & Personal Growth

The outdoors is the ideal setting for learning and growth.  The first thing our clients learn is how to take care of their own physical needs. We will ALWAYS keep them safe, but we will not rescue them from discomfort. That is their job. We equip them with all the tools, gear and supplies they need, and they get to hone their “hard” tangible  skills and use the unlimited opportunities to make themselves more physically comfortable every day. Throughout this whole process, as they are building confidence in their ability to take care of their physical needs, we are working consistently on supporting them in developing emotional strength and resilience to take care of their emotional and psychological needs. We refer to these as the “soft skills” necessary to live a healthy and fulfilling life in community with others. 

All of the discomforts (both physically and interpersonally) of living in the outdoors and living in community provide amazing opportunities for clients to put their new clinical education to the test. How are they trying to cope emotionally with these new challenges? This is a perfect launching point to discuss their relationship with their coping mechanisms (see The 7 Challenges). And how can they make their situation better? Do they have to accept what is happening or can they change some aspect of it? Cue all their DBT Skills Development.

Academic Credits

As 13-17 year olds, our clients are without exception all students too. Their education is incredibly important, and for many families, the changes in their child’s grades served as a real warning to deeper underlying concerns that led them to seek help in the first place.

Although our primary goals are emotional, psychological, and interpersonal education, traditional education is always important. Our objective is to get all our clients back into real life feeling empowered to take on the next challenges, not feeling hopeless and behind. The reality is that most of our clients learn more and work harder in their short time with us than they have in the years leading up to their arrival at Elements. That is why we partnered with Dorius Academy (Accredited through North Central Accreditation) to help our clients gain academic credit for the work they are already doing here.  We offer up to 3.5 credits for clients who complete the Elements outdoor therapy program.

FAQ

Why can’t clients bring their own gear and equipment from home?

Do you use deprivation of food/water to “punish” clients?

Does your program philosophy or approach ever ascribe to or attempt to “break clients down”?

Do you ever force clients to hike?

Do you have any external oversight into your practices?

Does Elements force or encourage families to have their children transported to treatment?

Experience Elements

Join us at Elements and embark on a journey towards healing, growth, and resilience. To learn more about our program or to inquire about enrollment, please contact us today. We look forward to guiding you on your path to wellness and transformation.

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