July 26, 2018
Celebrating 20 Years
In 1997 I started working at the Aspen Achievement Academy and was mesmerized by the intensity and peace of the wilderness and it's therapeutic impact. I knew I wanted to work with adolescents during graduate school and have always loved their energy and potential. Wilderness family therapy felt close to treatment perfection. Although I relished my experience at Aspen, I was always aware of the potential for improvement. We debated the merits of providing students more time for group therapy, increasing the amount of food, and the luxury of a backpack (instead of survival pack). There was speculation that seeing a psychologist for testing, or even seeing too many vehicles, would somehow set back progress. A family therapy phone call or family therapy field visit was never considered back then.
When we started Second Nature in 1998, we wanted to bring more clinical sophistication to the wilderness, re-imagining how to best utilize the nomadic wilderness model to instill resiliency and self-efficacy. We realized that there was already substantial challenge in simply being away from home and in such a unique environment and program. We also wanted the therapist to direct the treatment team and much of the programming. We have come a long way since those early days. We knew that bringing a stronger clinical presence into the wilderness would be appreciated and eventually replicated. We were eager to help families develop and reconnect.
We also built the program on trust and stability. We know our families come to us in crisis and we don’t take that lightly. We know they need a steady hand and team to guide them. We also know that the inherent turbulence of adolescence can give way to incredible self-discovery and growth. Being a part of that process is a gift and something that generates gratitude in our team. Our job is beyond intense at times and is also beyond rewarding.
Our team today has weathered many personal and professional storms. We are better and stronger for it. We are resilient. We have the most seasoned team in the industry and are proud of what we contribute. We don’t seek innovation. We aren’t a tech company pumping out the latest thing. We believe that our primary is to offer stability and reconnection to families in need and it has been a privilege to do so for thousands of families over the past two decades.
The changes we brought in the early days were simply, common sense family therapy components. We added increased clinical sophistication and family contact. Today we offer the only equivalent of family psychological testing available (the Family Dynamics Assessment) with a dedicated parent coach (joining us in September) and a full program for parents that mirrors the student experience (The Parent Journey). We do this so that families can grow together and ultimately reconnect. We are grateful for the trust of so many professionals and the opportunity to work with families from all over the country. We are grateful to be a part of the change process and have positive influence with our families. We will continue to evolve and be informed by new treatments and interventions, while relying on the consistency that has been our hallmark for 20 years.
We won’t be throwing ourselves a party or asking you to throw one for us. We will only ask for the continued opportunity to earn trust and do what we love. We will be offering 20 (much deeper than usual) scholarships in honor of our 20th anniversary.
Thank you so very much for the support and trust through the years. We are grateful for your support and connection.