West Ridge Academy Philosophy
We believe that happiness is the product of a shared experience. Joy and happiness do not come in isolation. It is in sharing the good in life that we find meaning. Connections with family, good friends, and God form the foundation for a fulfilling life. Accordingly, we strive to help our students find these connections. While we do not proselyte to our students, we encourage them to bring the best from their beliefs about God and seek out a meaningful relationship with that God. A connection with Deity can be life-changing for the students we serve.
We also believe that family relationships share central importance in a child's life. Those relationships often need significant repair when a student is placed at West Ridge. Students are placed at West Ridge not simply because there is something wrong exclusively with them. Each student comes from a family that has likely participated with him/her in maladaptive patterns. The family needs treatment too. Family members need to work on interpersonal issues, if only to learn how to help support progress the student is making in our program. Through the years, we have found that it is imperative to involve a student's parents/guardian in family therapy in addition to the individual counseling the student receives. In addition to personal and group sessions, each student placed in our program will have regular family therapy sessions to work with and strengthen the family.
While at the Academy, your child will live in a cottage with mentoring adults. Each student is placed in a nurturing home where trained home parents will provide an atmosphere of learning and accountability. Our model, utilizing home parents and an unmarried live-in who make up the home staff, is meant to partially resemble the family environment of home.
The students who enter our program typically lack some understanding relative to honesty and integrity. We know that for them to function in society it will be necessary for them to have a commitment to honesty in all their dealings. We teach our students honesty through a method called the agreement process. Put simply, the agreement process is the process of making and keeping agreements in all aspects of daily life and interpersonal interaction. Students are taught how to make agreements and encouraged to keep them. The agreement process coupled with natural and logical consequences helps our students move toward integrity. Natural and logical consequences, whether positive or negative, become teachers for our students. Students make choices, see what happens with their choices, and then learn if they made good choices or negative choices. It is a beautiful and simple method of instruction that helps our students gain insight, take responsibility, and grow.
What to Expect the First Month
The first three to four weeks after a student is placed are critical to both the student's treatment goals and the parents' understanding of the program. It is during this period that both the student and family get accustomed to the program, have questions answered, and begin the therapeutic process.
Parents can get defensive when therapists ask them to look at their own issues. Here are some common defensive behaviors parents may want to assess in themselves:
- Blaming the child for everything and not looking at parental contribution to the problem.
- Blaming the therapist for not being a miracle worker.
- Projecting parental issues on others, including Academy staff.
- Playing the victim, "everybody is against me."
- Letting fears rule. Trusting others with the care of a child can often produce a great deal of anxiety. We understand and want to help parents through these feelings. Trust takes communication, patience, and loyalty. As a parent, you must learn to take any concerns you have to your therapist and be willing to accept feedback. We are here to help, but sometimes solutions may come in a surprising package. That is part of therapy. Please be ready for new interventions and new information.
If you find yourself confused and questioning, please talk to your therapist. It is usually normal to go through a stage of confusion. Please express concerns or fears only to your therapist and never to your child. Expressing them to your child can undermine the united front we want to present.
What Your Child May Do
Typically your child will be uncomfortable or in denial as to the reasons he/she is here. He/she may try several types of manipulation to get your attention and to help himself/herself cope. Usually, these are the same manipulative or coping behaviors he/she used with you in the past. It is our goal to change those negative behaviors so your child can function appropriately in society. You may see the following attempts at manipulation:
- Deathbed Repentance. Examples include "I see the errors of my ways." "I have changed and you can take me home now." "I will be good."
It may feel good to not be the bad guy and be in the position to rescue your child. Or you may be in pain yourself and want to have your child at home. Don't fall for this manipulation. Beware of believing that your child has the capacity to change this quickly, or that he/she is sincerely repentant. Nearly all of our students attempt this manipulation in some form, yet not a single one has the skills needed to successfully return home at this point. They will relapse and resume their bad behaviors.
- Negotiation. Example: "If you take me out of here, I will be good forever!"
Your child is not in the position to negotiate. His/her integrity has not been developed and change will take time. Your child will not have the inner resources to maintain any lasting change at all.
- Hostage Taking. Example: "If you leave me at West Ridge, I will hate you forever." "If you leave me here, I will run away or hurt myself."
Your child is using your love for him/her against you. Your child knows this is the ace that will get your attention by making you feel guilty. Your child is hoping that you will back off and not insist that he/she change.
- Triangulation/Splitting. Example: Your child gets you alone and tells you about the mean things staff members are saying to him/her.
This is where your child will try to split one parent against the therapist or the other parent to get his/her way. The child's goal is to dismantle those who are holding him/her accountable for his/her actions. Your child may even say, "Don't tell the therapist because I will get into trouble." The more united we are, the more effective the treatment and program will be.
- Fear Factor. Example: "All my roommates are drug addicts or gay." "I am not as bad as everyone else here." "The staff beats up the students." "The food isn't nutritious." "The school isn't very good." This is probably the most subtle and commonly used tool. If your child uses this technique, his/her goal is to split us. Your child is playing upon your fears to attempt to change the outcome. Your child wants West Ridge Academy to become the bad guy. If you have concerns, please check them out with your therapist in a way that continues to support the therapy we are doing. Fears are normal but usually based on false evidence. Never let your child see you challenge staff or West Ridge as a whole. Always bring your concerns to us outside of your child's presence.
We understand that placing a son or daughter at West Ridge Academy is most likely one of the most difficult decisions you have made as a parent. To help ease the fear and anxiety that comes from entrusting your child's safety and well-being to others, we are committed to having open, honest, and consistent communication with you and your family. This section will address how we will achieve this. Our goal is to make the placement of your child as easy as possible through consistent communication.
What Communication to Expect During the First Few Weeks
The first few weeks are often the most difficult. The student is adjusting to his/her new environment and new way of life. Students will often attempt to manipulate their parents into taking them home if given the chance; because of this your child will not be able to call home for at least the first two weeks. You should expect to receive a phone call from your child's therapist the day your son or daughter is brought to West Ridge. If your child arrives during the weekend, the weekend supervisor will call you. This phone call is an opportunity for the therapist to introduce himself/herself to you, to let you know your child has arrived safely, to let you know how your child is doing, and to answer any questions you may have. Within 48 hours of your first call, we will call again to give you another update. Shortly after these calls, weekly family sessions will begin.
As noted, parents or legal guardians can expect to receive an initial call within 24 hours of a student's placement. A second call will be made within 48 business hours of placement by the student's assigned therapist. A third call will come from the therapist within one week of placement, and then once per week from that time forward. This weekly communication may be in the form of family therapy or a simple update. Parents will also receive a short phone call from the student's assigned home staff within one week of placement on campus, and weekly thereafter.
There will be frequent communication between the staff and family during the student's first few weeks. However, parents should not expect any contact with children during the first two to four weeks of placement. Your therapist will be in frequent contact with your child and will be giving you updates on your child's behavior and progress. These first few weeks without family contact will help to reduce your child's anger and give him/her time to get acquainted with the program and develop a therapeutic relationship with staff. Letters from family will be handled on a case-by-case basis, and parents should discuss with the therapist when mail is allowed to be sent and received by their child.
Your Main Contact Person
Your therapist coordinates your child's treatment at West Ridge and will know the most about what is going on with your child. If you have clinical concerns or questions regarding your child's progress, your therapist is the person you should talk to. The therapist works closely with the home, school, and recreational staff and will be able to answer any questions regarding your child's care. Therapists typically work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you call and your therapist is not available, please leave a voice message and he/she will return your call as soon as possible. Your therapist will give you his/her phone number during your initial phone call. If you lose your therapist's number, please call our main number (1-800-262-1000) and our receptionist will transfer your call.
Other concerns such as school supplies, hygiene needs, and doctor appointments should be discussed and handled through the home staff. Check with your therapist in your initial session to find out how to handle this. The therapist can also give you a phone number to your child's home.