Silverado Boys' Ranch
FamilyLight sm: Successor to Bridge to Understanding sm"
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Silverado is now closed.
Family Light sm is proud to present a guest review from an old friend of many educational consultants, Jodi Tuttle. We are grateful for her assistance.
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Silverado Academy is a creation of founder Kreg Gilman, who after years of experience in various residential programs, and has been known to mend programs in the past, decided to put his program knowledge together to create Silverado Academy. Kreg brought together a team of administrators who have a combined 250 years of experience in residential programs to run this unique owner-operated program where employees have a vested interest in the program. Begun as Silverado Boys Ranch, realization of the comprehensiveness of the program brought forth Silverado Academy to work with boys in one facility and a new program for girls in a nearby setting.
Silverado Academy is a therapeutic boarding school for adolescents ages 13 through 17. The academy is specifically designed to integrate real world skills and enhance self-esteem through a combination of experiential therapy, academics, and healthy relationships. The program core principles: work, love, and play—are integrated throughout the program.
The nearby facilities are each located on ranches in lovely Southern Utah in close proximity to Bryce and Zion National Parks and Lake Powell. This setting allows doctoral and master’s level clinicians to work with adolescents in a variety of settings in a relationship based experiential program model. Therapy occurs, not only in the office, but in all aspects of the work, love, and play environment. The positive peer environment assists students in the development of supportive social interaction through teamwork and shared responsibility to promote emotional growth.
Students are focused on the core principles of the program and have coaches who are actively involved in guiding the students through the daily structure of the program. In addition to helping students learn daily living skills and in supporting the treatment goals, the coaches challenge the students to learn and grow as much as possible while at the ranch boosting self esteem and personal competency.
I found the substance abuse program refreshing in that it meets twice a week and is run by a woman who has over thirty years of sobriety and uses the Charlotte Sophia Kasl, Ph.D. empowerment model known as the "16-Steps." This model provides a holistic approach to overcoming addiction that focuses on the wholeness of mind, body, and spirit.
This model assists individuals in the understanding that addiction is a complex web of social factors, physical, predisposition and personal history. Individuals are encouraged to develop their own internal belief system based on their perceptions and experiences. They learn to acknowledge the power of addiction while affirming their own power to take charge of their lives and overcome addiction. While not focusing on a right way to overcome addiction, people are encouraged to develop one’s passion, find their life purpose, bond with others and become involved in social change to help move through their addiction. In other words, one learns to find one’s own voice.
The therapeutic piece of the program uses a relationship program model with experiential therapy. Both individual therapy and family phone therapy are offered once a week along with the experiential outings and recreational therapy occurring on Fridays each week. Since therapy is not reserved for the office, it is considered an ongoing process and can occur anytime and anyplace within the program. With a focus on interrupting negative behavior patterns and removing unnecessary distractions, healing can occur in a continuously flowing process.
The academic portion of the program provides classes Monday through Thursday from 8:35 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon. Each class is 55 minutes in length allowing students to have 6.5 hours of classroom instruction and a study hall period. Additional time is given in the evening for homework and tutoring if needed. Since students are at the Academy on a year-round basis, they attend three semesters in a year, allowing a student the possibility of earning one and one/half year’s credit in 12 months.
Work with the entire family includes site visits, phone calls, letter writing, and family workshops. The family workshops take place quarterly so that change not only occurs with the student, but the whole family also benefits. These workshops take place with multi-family groups where the core principles help families focus on communication, honesty, and trust.
I saw the Silverado Academy girl’s facility, but I arrived before the program officially started. I loved the facility and believe it will be a wonderful place for young women to find healing and to bring forth their hidden beautiful gifts. The boy’s facility has a masculine, western feel to it, but also seems to carry a tender healing feeling where a young man can genuinely evolve his own character.
Many of the students with whom I visited had experienced a wilderness program before arriving on the Silverado campus. It appeared that most of the students had either arrived by professional referral or by word of mouth giving me them impression that the program is looked upon favorably by the professionals in the educational business.
As an educator, I liked the fact that the school day is similar to what students will see when they return home, thus they can become accustomed to being successful in school and not have a drastic change when returning home. Also, I liked the way the clinical piece is spread throughout the program so that a battle for a student’s time doesn’t need to ensue between the clinical department and the academic department. The program philosophy of work, love, and play does seem to permeate throughout the program.
From Tom Croke at FamilyLight sm: I have not visited Silverado Academy, although I have admired Kreg Gillman and have a positive outlook about Silverado Academy. For that reason I am deeply appreciative to Jodi Tuttle for providing for publication. I have one concern. The “16 steps” is entirely new to us. Usually when we come across something that is created as an alternative to 12 step work we get quick access to at least published information on the rationale for it and at least clinical experience in applying it, if not outcome research. We have not been able to find that in this case.
To all appearances, this is a 12 step look-alike that attempts to circumvent the common objections to the word “powerless” in the first step and to separate the language of spirituality from the language associated with Protestant Christianity.
My experience suggests that the power of 12 step work lies not in the words of the 12 steps but in the fellowship among people recovering in 12-step groups. Programs that teach the 12-step language but do not immerse the students in community 12-step meetings lie outside FamilyLight sm guidelines. So I am dubious about a parallel step program that does not have pervasive meetings and a widely accessible recovery community associated with it. I have less urgent concerns about the change of language, taking the emphasis of the concept of “powerless,” but some concern there as well. Clearly the “powerless” concept is disincentive to many people, especially young people in accepting 12 step work. So the 16 step work would be more attractive and acceptable to more people. That is clearly an advantage to the 16 step approach. But recent brain research tends to confirm that a true addict – which does not include all adolescents with some history of drug abuse – are likely to experience being powerless against the addiction.
I unconditionally applaud the more neutral spiritual language. This is a change I would like to see the officialdom of AA and NA introduce into the 12 steps. This would, of course, run into serious opposition. Religious groups have faced similar problems, but have addressed it by introducing modernized authorized language while continuing to authorize the traditional language. That kind of thing could be done and I wish it would be done.
I want to look into this and further assess the value of this resource and the appropriateness of Silverado relying upon it with its student. I have the concerns noted for the reasons noted. I also understand the advantages that Jodi ascribes to it. Meanwhile, we encourage people exploring this program to investigate this aspect of the program closely.
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 8-6-2012
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