• Residential Treatment Program for Teens 14-18

Therapeutic Approach

Adventure and Self-Discovery

Adventure and Self-Discovery 1200 800 The Solstice Team
Michael Sanders - Director of Adventure Programming - Solstice RTC

Michael Sanders – Adventure Director

Michael Sanders, Adventure Director here at Solstice, was recently interviewed on our approach to adventure therapy. We wanted to share with you some key takeaways from his conversation.

At the heart of our program is a philosophy that celebrates the profound impact of nature and adventure experiences on healing. We look to support Excellence in four main areas of personal and relational growth here at Solstice: Relationship, Influence, Character, and Health. As we see it, adventure-based and experiential therapeutic activities support growth and reflection in each of these areas.

 

Adventure and Self-Discovery

Michael reflected that “facing something uncomfortable is actually part of why adventure programming works so well and why it’s so important as part of their therapeutic process. They identify what makes them uncomfortable, confront those things, and then build the skills to overcome them.” Our method effectively integrates adventure programming into the therapeutic framework because it mirrors real-life challenges.

Through our adventure programming, students are learning transferable skills in an environment that doesn’t feel clinical. They’re becoming self-aware, empowered, and enlivened. They come out of these experiences with lessons they’re able to apply to new situations, or with insights they can use to reflect on their past.

Challenge by Choice: We empower our students to engage in activities at their comfort level, promoting personal growth and willing engagement over compulsion. We don’t want students to participate because an adult told them to, but because it’s something they’re choosing for themselves. This gives each activity a more personal connection and allows them to find their power in that decision.

We incorporate an array of adventure activities such as skiing, snowboarding, equine, rock climbing, Jiu-Jitsu, and more. Each is carefully selected to teach new skills, learn transferable risk management, and promote both physical and mental wellness.

What are the changes we look for at Solstice?

“Often what people think we are looking for is a change in behavior, which is compliance, but in my mind, that is a by-product of something else that is happening, which is their hearts changing…”, Michael remarked, “When they make changes or somehow find their own humanity and the humanity of others around them, there’s something that starts to light up inside them. I think nature does this really well. It helps them recover the light that’s inside them, and when they recover that light, it shines through their eyes and their actions and into the lives of everyone they meet.”

Solstice itself embodies this change of light, as the winter and summer solstices mark the darkest and brightest times of year. This essential quality of change and transition really permeates our community on campus.

Our unique blend of adventure therapy and community support encourages a “change of heart” — a change that transcends rudimentary compliance. Michael emphasizes that what we strive for is not just a change in behavior but a brightening of each individual’s inner light: “When I’m saying there’s a light that shines through them, it sounds like I’m speaking in metaphor, but I’m not. They get brighter. We’re looking for that brightness and the reclamation of that inner light.”

At Solstice, we don’t hold them back from adventures if they aren’t working on their therapy or academic assignments, because we don’t see our adventure activities as leisure, but as a critical part of our therapeutic process.

Outside of complex skill building, boosting self-esteem, and taking the ever-needed time to have fun, our adventures are a time for relationship-building and peer-to-peer coaching. We believe relationships support a foundation for true transformation, and have built our programming to ensure a sense of community is fostered on campus.

In closing, Michael shared: “I know everyone complains about Gen Z, this rising generation, but I have five of my own in this range. We have to see that they are astonishing people. They have gifts and talents that are largely untapped, so to give them the space to rise up and figure out their lives is a really great lesson. I feel really honored to work with them. “

Clinical Philosophy

Clinical Philosophy 1500 780 TJ Rowden

Our philosophy at Solstice West asks students and their families to be the architects, and the recipients, of their own profound success stories.

It’s a mindset that permeates our entire program — triumph over adversity — where every challenge faced by our students and families marks the beginning of a compelling success story.

Perfection isn’t the goal; it’s about establishing a confident, prepared next step. This principle serves as the bedrock of our therapeutic approach. We aim to do “hard times better,” a sentiment echoed by the countless families who’ve found solace and strength within our community thanks to the Solstice team’s dedicated efforts.

I am fiercely passionate about our EnRICH mission, focusing on developing Excellence in Relationships, Influence, Character, and Health. As the Solstice West Clinical Director, I see clearly our two-fold opportunity. One is to reclaim and renew our timeless mission (EnRICH), and the other is to innovate and improve our clinical and programmatic approach in an evolving industry.

Solstice West’s EnRICH mission is not an alphabet soup of therapeutic jargon; it’s a directive to tangibly measure the growth and well-being of those it serves. It’s also a philosophy we live by as a team. The details and skills involved in our mission are taught top-down at Solstice, from staff to students.

As Clinical Director, I am dedicated to making our mission a tangible reality, both for the therapeutic field’s evolution and for the students at Solstice.

The power of family dynamics in therapy is not something we overlook. Magic happens when families work together, not just in individual sessions. The real transformation and change occurs in the space in-between: when families and students are thinking about, integrating, and actualizing the therapeutic lessons they are learning.

This is where it all comes together.