Second Nature Blue Ridge    




Second Nature's Blue Ridge Program is situated in the mountains in the northeast corner of Georgia.  Headquarters are located in a building on the edge of Clayton, GA, hidden from view from the main highway. Field operations are mostly in the mountains and forests north and northeast of the town. The terrain is steep in some places and crisscrossed with mountain streams and gravel roads.  Unless on one of the roads, it is usually possible to see only a short distance ahead because of the density of the forest. It is a great setting for a wilderness program. 

Unlike the other Second Nature locations, the regular adolescent groups at Blue Ridge can accommodate students who have turned 18. (The only other Second Nature location that can accommodate students who have passed their 18th birthday is Entrada; there the students over 18 are in special "Young Adult" groups.)  We encourage families to consider using specialized groups for people over 18 in this situation, and we think the admission staff at Second Nature.  In that situation, the entire experience of the people in that group can be focused on the special circumstances of that age group. There is a very special skill required for staff dealing with  the fact that 18 year olds have the legal privilege of walking out at any time.  They need to be supported in learning to exercise well their decision-making rights that go with their age with being accountable to their parents.  Having a peer group made up exclusively of people in that situation further supports that process. 

Some parents of eighteen year-olds want their sons and daughters with a younger group, thinking their own eighteen year-old is immature and should not be with an "older" group.  However most of the young people in these programs are immature for their chronological age.  It would be highly unusual for an eighteen year-old to benefit from being placed with the younger people.  We are not opposed to considering Blue Ridge for eighteens, but we think Entrada should always be considered as an alternative to Blue Ridge for eighteen year-olds. 

Second Nature Wilderness programs are what we call "full immersion" wilderness programs. Parents who have no idea what happens in a full immersion wilderness program might read Shouting at the Sky by Gary Ferguson. The base line program at all Second Nature Wilderness plocations is roughly similar to what is in this book. Second Nature was initially patterned after the wilderness program Gary Ferguson wrote about (which was not a Second Nature program). When several people left the program described in Shouting at the Sky to create the Second Nature organization, their principal innovation was to create a clinically driven program.

By "clinically driven" we mean two things.  First, the intervention with the student in wilderness is individually directed by a licensed clinician.   Second, while the customary procedures in day-to-day programming at Second Nature adolescent programs are quite similar to what is depicted in Shouting at the Sky, the therapists have the authority to overrule almost any routine of the program for an individual student if to do so is in the interest of that student and does not harm other students.  This was not true in the program depicted in Shouting at the Sky. There, the program traditions could not be violated. We prefer the flexibility that occurs with a clinician having such wide latitude.

Examples: Full immersion wilderness programs usually do not allow the student to see or ride in vehicles, make phone calls, or leave the assigned group for any reason.  At a Second Nature program students might be given an opportunity to speak to parents by (satellite) phone. They might be allowed to leave their own group and participate in group therapy in a different group, especially if they have a prior relationship with a person in the other group,  just as two examples.  One of our FamilyLightsm clients in the young adult program at Second Nature Entrada was allowed to leave the group to go to and interview for his next program, then return.   

We will not list the names of therapists at Second Nature who have served our clients well for fear of accidentally leaving someone out, but we believe that the quality standards of therapists at Second Nature programs are the highest we have experienced consistently in a multi-program organization.

Second Nature programming fares well with respect to our guidelines.  We would like to see better attention to our guidelines on Spiritual Life and Religion and on Outcomes. (We do not mean that we believe their outcomes are substandard, but we would like to see more outcome research.)  Most programs fall short on both of these issues.  We would like to see much more attention to these issues both at Second Nature and throughout the industry.  Because Second Nature Wilderness programs are short term wilderness programs (usually 6-8 weeks) they make no claim to prepare most of the clients who go there to return home immediately after the program; some of our guidelines do not apply.  

Second Nature shows particular strength with family participation, staffing, safety and marketing and promotion, as we compare Second Nature with our guidelines.  They put tremendous energy into keeping parents in close communication with what is happening with their son or daughter. In the fall of 2007 and the spring of 2008, Second Nature intensified its already excellent family services by adding access to parent mentors and and a series of parent webinars every two weeks conducted by Brad Reedy.  This is in addition to the intensive communication between therapists and parents back home that is characteristic of wilderness programs.  Parents are strongly urged to come to the program at some point -- usually just as their son or daughter is getting ready to leave -- and stay overnight in the field with their son or daughter. 

Second Nature puts great emphasis on quality relationships between students and frontline (field) staff, guided by each client's therapist, consistent with our Staffing Guideline.  We are completely unaware of any examples of objectionable marketing and promotion. We are particularly pleased on the issue of safety that all field groups carry satellite phones, the most reliable means of communication.  (They also have two way radios with repeaters connecting them to base, which is monitored 24-7). This provides two communications systems which render unlikely a situation in which both would fail at the same time. 

Over-all we believe that the Second Nature organization provides the highest consistent quality of any chain of wilderness programs and Entrada very much exemplifies those high standards.  There are also individual wilderness programs we believe are just as strong (including a few that are parts of chains but stand out for quality beyond the rest of the chains they are part of) but we affirm Second Nature as the highest consistent quality wilderness chain. 

We particularly like the Blue Ridge location for the physical setting.

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Disclaimer: No  program review, no matter how positive, is a blanket endorsement. No criticism is a blanket condemnation.  When we express our level of confidence in a school or program, that is our subjective opinion with which others might reasonably disagree.  When we assert something as fact, we have done our best to be accurate, but we cannot guarantee that all of our information is accurate and up to date. When we address compliance with our guidelines, you need to remember that these are only OUR guidelines -- not guidelines from an official source.  We have also set the bar very high, and do not expect any school or program to be in total compliance.  It is not appropriate to draw a conclusion of impropriety (or even failure to live up to conventional wisdom) from our lack of confidence in a school or program or from less than perfect conformity to our guidelines.  Some will say we expect too much. Readers are responsible for verifying accuracy of information supplied here prior to acting upon it. We are not responsible for inaccuracies.


Last updated 7-27-08; Minor edit 8-06-08


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