Creating Effective, Neurologically Based Psychotherapies with Preteens in Wilderness.

Let me start by making three assumptions: The first being that there are really good intermediate level care therapy programs for adolescent boys and girls throughout the country. Secondly, there are fewer programs available to assist pre-teen boys and girls. Lastly, this underserved population is in need of more resources.

Here at NVW we take great pride in helping preteen boys and girls of this underserved population in healing from stress and trauma. The Northwoods program, located in Wisconsin, provides year round services for these youth and families by offering evidence-based therapies geared toward working with this younger population. Neurological and experientially based therapies are designed to engage preteens at their development level in a nurturing, highly structured environment.

But how is this done?

Traditional therapies often encompass the idea of meeting with a provider at a scheduled date and for a certain amount of time. These 60 minute therapy sessions at 3:00pm simply don’t work. By our therapist being out immersed in their groups for 3-4 days a week, opportunities and space are created for intense therapy processes to happen on the client’s terms . . . and not the therapists. My experience working with this population is that effective therapy happens when the client and therapist work together to co-create the space needed to heal.

So what does this look like?

Instead of one 60 minute therapy session, why not three 30 minute impact sessions throughout the day? These frequent, age appropriate sessions keep youth engaged. Creating opportunity for these impact sessions before and after a 90 minute Brainspotting (neurologically based therapy) allows for processes to be integrated. This approach is crucial in meeting the client where they are at and is the hallmark of individualized care.

Instead of sitting down to discuss defense mechanisms, why not spend our time building a symbolic fort in the woods?

Instead of scheduling time to practice coping skills, why not play a group sport and every disappointing play we’ll pause the game and practice this skill together?

The possibilities are endless. NVW’s approach to individualized trauma informed care provides the framework for change to happen, but the work that we do together is the masterpiece.

Wesley Bruce, MA - Field Therapist New Vision Wilderness

Author: Wesley Bruce, MA – Field Therapist – New Vision Wilderness – Wisconsin

Wesley started working with youth in 2009 as a residential caseworker at a group home for at-risk youth. Wesley studied at the Adler University in Chicago, IL where he obtained his MA Counseling Psychology along with a certificate in Advanced Adlerian Psychotherapy. Before joining the New Vision Wilderness team Wesley worked as a school therapist (Chicago, IL) and as a program clinician (Boston, MA) at a twelve bed residential treatment where he focused on utilizing Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) with teens and families. Since joining the New Vision Wilderness team Wesley has focused in therapy practice on utilizing both trauma and relational models, and utilizing various therapy approaches including brainspotting, trauma sensitive yoga, along with traditional therapy approaches.

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