also known as
Intermountain Children's Home
and formerly known as
Intermountain Deaconess Home For Children, Inc.
FamilyLight sm:Successor to "Bridge to Understanding sm"
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Intermountain, formerly known as Intermountain Children's Home, and before that, Intermountain Deaconess Home For Children, Inc., is a facility that FamilyLight sm holds in the highest regard. In fact, if we were forced to designate one program we like best of all, Intermountain would be a highly probable candidate.  We see it as a prime candidate for a "Positive Intervention" designation. 

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FamilyLightsm is an educational consulting firm specializing in work with families with a young person with behavioral, emotional or psychological difficulties.  We offer in-depth personal guidance to families on a fee basis and free guidance on the internet. FamilyLightsm attempts to be fully objective and accepts no advertising nor referral fees.

Intermountain is a treatment center for  children, primarily preadolescent children (although they will consider accepting children up to age 13 at time of admission), with significant emotional and psychiatric problems.  It has  intensive services in a very warm and nurturing environment.  It is possibly the most nurturing environment we have encountered.  Many programs speak of being relationship based. Many of them do a fine job of implementing a relationship based approach. Intermountain establishes the goal others work to achieve in terms of having a relationship based approach.

We believe this is an appropriate setting for the most complex and hard to diagnose children with psychiatric, behavioral, and emotional problems.  

Intermountain has the unusual asset of being extremely creative and original while staying rigorously within appropriate formalized boundaries.  This is a difficult balance to achieve.  On the one hand, Intermountain is consistently rigorous about diagnostic evaluations contributing to a treatment planning approach that we understand to be the model for all other treatment programs to emulate.  On the other hand every child is understood far more broadly than the DSM IV or other standard mental health approaches suggest.   For example, they consider the child in full context of family and all other influences that impact the child's functioning, once they thoroughly exhaust the more standard diagnostic categories.  This alone makes Intermountain superior to many other venues, but the importance of it is eclipsed by the love and nurture that pervades the treatment center and its culture. 

It is difficult to write a review that communicates the excellence of this facility because it does not include highly unusual programmatic add-ons.  What sets Intermountain apart is not glitzy service components but the people who are Intermountain.  As a corporate body, Intermountain invests in people.  The people they invest in are invested in children.  At least at the leadership level, but probably at all levels, the people they invest in are creative.  The people are nurturing.  They are caring.  They are well educated and use the best methods of conventional psychological and psychiatric service as a foundation, but then take a step beyond that as they apply their depth of experience and creativity to take mental health intervention to a deeper level.   They recognize that the people who serve the residents of Intermountain are the program. By valuing them, they establish an ethic wherein staff in every role value the children who are the residents. 

We applaud Intermountain for the stability in its staffing and for its recognition of  the important role of the front line workers who are with the children hour after hour.  We have been particularly impressed by the fact that a particular staff member's hours might be altered to accommodate a need of a child to connect with that staff member in a situation of some sensitivity. 

The physical plant is clean, modern, warm, and functional.  Living units are small homey physically detached cottages.  There is no sense of overwhelming numbers or buildings  or people reminiscent of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."  

Schooling is provided in a setting and with methodologies that reflect the creativity and combination of flexibility and structure that one might expect in such a special place -- but might not expect to find in most other treatment settings.  There is a true classroom setting for students who are ready to handle that -- with high expectations for students up to the challenge. At the same time there are high quality school alternatives for students who are not ready to settle into a classroom setting. Much is expected of students able to meet high expectations;  much is offered to students needing very significant special support, including when they cannot be expected to conform to the expectations of a normal classroom. 

We would be remiss if we did not speak to the particular excellence and creativity of Dr. Elizabeth Kohlstaedt, Clinical Director.  She is the public face of the nurture and creativity that define Intermountain.  We would do an injustice to the many other people who make up Intermountain if we were to give her all the credit for the excellence of Intermountain, but at least those of you who hear her speak in public may have confidence that what she represents about Intermountain is genuine. 

We will leave most of the details of what the program looks like and how things are done to the Intermountain website.    

Intermountain offers four things that we believe make it absolutely unique: 

  • The first thing to set this program apart is the absolute emphasis on relationships and nurture.  Some of the salient features are an absolute ban on isolation, a practice of going toward the youngster who is acting out rather than timing him/ her out or isolating him/ her.  (A youngster who expresses a need for some time away from others will likely be given that opportunity). 

  • Intermountain puts great emphasis on the therapeutic importance of the people who would be called "techs" or "child care workers" in most facilities.  These people are highly trained, are respected members of the treatment team, and are supported in a compensation structure and work environment that assures consistency and diminishes turnover.  The principle is that the staff will take responsibility for keeping the kids emotionally and physically safe. 

  • Extremely nurturing care with children living in cottages that are staffed by the most stable of child care staffs, in a true family like environment. We are aware of other facilities that could properly make a similar claim, but we are not aware of any that offer a comparable degree of nurture through a comparably stable staff.

  • The most creative clinical approach we have encountered.  We have experienced this creativity in our dealings with Dr. Elizabeth Kohlstaedt, Clinical Director.  Perhaps this level of creativity is just because of her. Perhaps it is the whole clinical team for which she is spokesperson. We frankly don't care why. We simply note an extreme case of thinking outside the box where others tend to overuse the diagnostic manuals as a rigid "how-to" treatment guide -- and too often as an excuse to go no farther in understanding a child than to go by "the book." One thing that stands out is the willingness of the clinical team to recognize situations in which a child's apparent pathology is actually a relatively healthy reaction to a pathological environment. In approaching these cases, the clinical team follows the official diagnostic criteria as stated in the official diagnostic manuals.  But in treatment planning they think outside the boxes those manuals create. 

Intermountain maintains some of the traditions of what were once known as "attachment model facilities," but has its own unique personality.  While maintaining similar traditions, these facilities have tended to de-emphasize that terminology, presumably because it led some to believe incorrectly that these programs were designed only to treat reactive attachment disorder, and the fact that some methods to treat attachment issues commonly used by some (but not these facilities) had fallen into disrepute.  At risk of gross over-simplification, "attachment model" is largely about a nurturing approach that involves going "toward" a child in crisis with the people the child knows best, never isolating a child as an incentive to change behavior (although allowing "space" when that is more comfortable for the child) and putting primary responsibility for healing on quality relationships.  There is little if any resemblance between methodology at Intermountain and "rage reduction therapy" which has been associated with the word "attachment."

We fully expect Intermountain to be a Positive Intervention sm facility when we receive their questionnaire response. 

Official web site of Intermountain

Intermountain Search Post  (Members' Area)

FamilyLight Search Function

Comments on Intermountain from Dr. Art Ulene.  

Visit Report at Woodbury Reports

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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  3-27-2010; links added 12-15-2013

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