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Solstice is a Residential Treatment Center for teenage girls in Layton, Utah.  It is independently owned and operated.   FamilyLight sm  has the highest confidence in this program.  

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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.

For program details that we do not cover, please see the Solstice website, which we believe represents the program accurately and thoroughly except for the section on Equine Therapy, which currently (April 23, 2010) shows simply an "Under Construction" notice. We do not intend to dwell on issues Solstice explains well for itself. 

This program comes as close to meeting our guidelines, without exception or variation, as any we know.  This accounts for our enthusiasm.  (If a reader discovers an inconsistency with our guidelines, please point it out)

Overall, this is a balanced approach in which there are very strong therapeutic and academic resources in a pleasant, warm, and nurturing setting.  All disciplines work together as a team.  While Solstice accepts young ladies with a variety of issues, they are increasingly putting emphasis on young women who have been deeply affected by trauma, loss, attachment, and/or addiction

At FamilyLight sm, we believe quality relationships are the most important ingredient of any healing community.  Quality relationships between staff are the building blocks of this high quality treatment program.  Quality relationships between staff and residents, more than any other factor, promote healing among the residents.  Quality relationships between the residents are both an outcome and a source of reinforcement of the healing process. 

This was best demonstrated by the girls at Solstice when our consultant, Tom Croke, visited there and spoke with several of them.  They showed unanimous enthusiasm for their experience at Solstice and for their relationships with each other.  This does not happen in a program where students feel they are not cared for and respected in a context of physical and emotional security. 

The "Hero's Journey" concept is the signature of the Solstice approach healing.  FamilyLight sm is not a fan of levels systems.  We particularly dislike them when they are part of a "carrot and stick" approach to motivating students that many programs use.  However, Solstices "Hero's Journey" approach with a phase system built around the very steps that heroes in literature have followed, seems quite constructive to us.  This is not a "carrot and stick" system but a recognition of genuine therapeutic progress.   We understand and support the appropriateness of this approach.  More than that, we think it is a particularly creative way to define their approach.

Treatment is planned and executed appropriately, applying a balance of state of the art therapeutic and academic resources that appears to us to be evidence based and employing a depth chart of best practice approaches.  This includes but is not limited to traditional clinical approaches (medication if needed, group and individual psychotherapy, etc.), Equine Assisted Therapy, DBT, EMDR, therapeutic physical activity, attention to diet, and focus on the mind body connection. More important than those building blocks of the program, is the attention to quality relationships between all participants in the Solstice community.  

Solstice's approach to Equine Therapy is also a bit out of the mainstream. They claim that theirs is better and we suspect that it is.  Where most equine therapy programs we are familiar with follow the EAGALA program, Solstice follows NAHRA.  Solstice uses an off-site provider of Equine Therapy services  that has an all weather covered riding area.  

NAHRA and EAGALA are both organizations dedicated to use of horses for therapeutic purposes.  EAGALA appears to us to focus mostly on the the kinds of mental health issues we encounter in schools and programs of interest to FamilyLight smNAHRA targets a much broader range of applications of horses to rehabilitative processes and assigns the kinds of services at issue here to a subsidiary group, EFMHA.

According to Kyle Gillette, co-owner of Solstice, NAHRA "is much more focused [than EAGALA] on the personal relationship between the individual and the horse.  There is a strong focus on understanding nuances of non-verbal communication exhibited by the horse, and learning how to establish a trusting relationship with the horse. " 

One of the most appealing offerings at Solstice is their increased emphasis on EMDR therapy.  This is an evidence based treatment for trauma.   Briefly, it simulates the restorative effects of "rapid eye movement sleep" or "REM sleep."  For more information see our note on EMDR.   In the context of Solstice, EMDR has some direct therapeutic benefit.  In addition to the the healing effect of the EMDR process itself, EMDR is likely to bring issues to the surface to be addressed in talk therapy, which might not have been discovered without the use of EMDR.

DBT, also in use at Solstice, is a structured therapeutic process that is used to help improve self control.  It is an evidence based treatment of choice for people with borderline personality disorder and is widely used for a much wider range of issues, including self harm, other personality disorders, and addictions.

We mention art at this point because some programs base build their entire approach around artistic expression (we think of King George School and La Europa).  Solstice does not build its program about the arts, but Solstice students have extensive opportunities to use art as a medium in their process of change. Again, per Kyle Gillette, Solstice offers the following:

1.       Weekly Art Therapy specialty group that includes a wide range of artistic expression including art medium such as painting, drawing, mask making, mandala creation, psychodrama, dance, movement, music, etc.

2.       Art classes available as academic electives including such classes as: art history, art appreciation, calligraphy, italic handwriting, drawing, intro to commercial art, and photography.

3.      Phase system includes many experiential assignments that can be completed through any medium of art (i.e., painting, dance, music, drama, etc.).

Solstice generally focuses on addictive behaviors broadly as opposed to singling out substance abuse when it turns its attention to addiction.  This does not mean that they don't attend to substance abuse issues.  Solstice does not emphasize twelve step work but does support young woman in maintaining a twelve step approach when they have had prior positive experience with twelve step work.  We believe their approach is well described on their own webpage on this topic. FamilyLight sm respects the choices that Solstice has made in this area, but  would prefer closer to adherence to our Guidelines on Addiction and Substance Abuse. We acknowledge and appreciate that Solstice comes closer than most other schools and treatment programs.

The program is located in a rural area on the edge of Layton Utah that appears to be in the process of becoming more suburban.    The setting is attractive and pastoral.   The buildings are modern, clean comfortable, sufficiently spacious, and appropriate for their use. The physical plant projects warmth and nurture.  For more detail we refer you to Solstice's own description.  We believe the pictures represent their buildings fairly and  accurately.

This is a program we believe to be one of the finest. We hope they complete the steps to become a Positive Intervention provider, a designation for which we believe they can qualify.

Official web site of Solstice

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Feedback is invited. We will publish feedback in good taste, consistent with our standards.  Email

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.


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Last updated  1-16-2011

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