Our trip to Utah is totally packed with program visits, as usual! We visited New Roads Treatment Center in Provo, Utah. They have 3 distinct programs within their residential treatment program: one for men with primary substance and co-occurring mental illness issues called “Path”, one for men with more of a mental health diagnosis but with some substance use called “North”, and one for women with dual diagnosis and personality orders called “Worth”. We have always felt that this program is able to handle very acute, complicated young adults. It was great to see some of the refinements they have made in the program since the last time we visited. They have a master trained therapist for DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) as well as therapists who specialize in EMDR/trauma therapy and a psychiatrist on staff who is an Addictionologist. The men’s programs share meals together, but all three programs are independent in treatment and groups. They have an optional step-down process to transitional living and then intensive outpatient. One nice feature is that they can be very flexible and customize their approach to each client.
The next program we visited was Telos U. It is an outgrowth of an adolescent program called Telos, which means “goal” in Greek. The new building, open two years now, is incredible and has individual apartments for the residents, with a full gym, weight lifting room, basketball court and game room. The most unusual feature of the physical building is a “spaceship” simulation area created by Dr. Ryan Anderson. He told us that he had experimented early on in his career with students doing simulations and learned that students engaged differently and learned differently while doing a simulation. He is able to observe executive functioning issues and help students to learn while in a simulation and he is also able to see how well students learn leadership skills. Often a group will be in conflict or bullying one member and with the simulation, Dr. Anderson can help them see how these patterns are destructive in a way that uniquely and profoundly delivers the feedback. Scott Downs, clinical director, helped us understand what kinds of types of students fit at Telos U. They can take males and female students on the autism spectrum and they can take neurotypical students who are often showing signs of avoidance and are acting “in” and not “out”. They do not take students with a primary substance issue.
After Telos, we visited Arise Society. It is a young adult program located in apartments that are literally adjacent to Utah Valley University. They can take a small cohort of both male and female young adults who have struggled in college settings. Vaughn Heath, formerly a therapist at Second Nature Wilderness, envisioned this program and created the model about 4 years ago. The idea is that students work through a peer group to understand and give each other feedback around the issues of the content, process, effectiveness, and meaning. Students see a therapist and the content of the work they do to learn adaptive social skills is built around being able to be successful in a college setting. We toured the UVU campus and were most impressed with all of the service offered to students.
The last visit of the day was to a new program that will soon be opening called New Focus Academy. It was high on top of a mountain with incredible views. The team assembled there has a great deal of experience with what they call “neurodiverse” students. Dr. Brandon Park is the founder of the program and has many innovative ideas for helping students who struggle with social skills. For instance, one of his ideas is to install mirrors in the main living area. Students can practice social skills and facial expressions out while looking in the mirror. They also have sensory “nooks” all throughout the large house that are small cubbies, so that if students get sensory overload during the day, they can go get in one of these small inviting cubbies and yet still be in eyesight of the staff. It allows them to regroup and learn to self-soothe. Their client will be an adolescent males and females with some spectrum disorder characteristics and the educational curriculum will include many life skills and a vocational emphasis.
Lastly, we had a great dinner with the CEO of Aspiro and many of the leaders within Aspiro Wilderness. We appreciate the excellent work they consistently do with both adolescent and young adult clients with their adventure based model.