Oregon Wilderness Therapy Program Celebrates Ten Years of Helping Teens

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SageWalk therapeutic wilderness camps expect this summer to be their busiest in the history of the troubled teen program.

Today we are proud to be a key contributor in the wilderness therapy industry and we hope to continue this tradition as we celebrate our tenth anniversary.

SageWalk, a therapeutic school and wilderness therapy program for troubled teens, celebrates its tenth anniversary this month.

SageWalk began in 1997 in Redmond, Oregon, as a wilderness therapy program for children ages 13 to 17 years. At that time, wilderness therapy was a new concept as a treatment model. The idea was to separate troubled teens from negative influences such as destructive peer groups and place them in safe outdoor environments with trained therapists. The healing forces of nature and constant interactions with healthy adults would help teens struggling with substance abuse, anger management and other problems to gain a new outlook on life.

"We began with a vision," said Larry Solie, executive director of SageWalk. "But today we can demonstrate proven results."

The original SageWalk summer camp had only nine students. Today the program operates eight summer programs and a yearlong school with rolling admissions and an enrollment of over 300 teenagers. SageWalk is licensed by the state of Oregon and accredited by the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools. Until recently, SageWalk was the only wilderness therapy program that provided licensed drug and alcohol treatment and accredited academic services. The Chemical Dependency Recovery program, administered by licensed counselors, provides advanced assessment, education and treatment to each student as well as an after-care program.

SageWalk therapists, who must hold at least a master's degree, work with students on a twenty-four hour basis to encourage and reinforce personal growth and positive change. There is one staff member for every three students. Each child receives therapeutic intervention upon arrival and has his or her own Individual Achievement Plan with personalized goals and strategies. There is a follow-up program after the child leaves SageWalk. If problems reoccur, the child can enroll again at a nominal fee. SageWalk is one of the few programs with a psychologist as clinical director and a licensed professional counselor as its field director. In 2005, SageWalk was featured on the ABC television show "Brat Camp."

In its ten years of operation, the SageWalk program has helped hundreds of children ages 13 to 17 years deal with emotional problems such as issues surrounding adoption and abandonment, anger management and school failure as well as neurological disorders such as Asperger Syndrome, ADD and ADHD, anxiety, and oppositional defiant disorder. The staff has seen many teens go through life-changing experiences that enabled them to turn their young lives around.

Working with teens on such an intensive level can also be a life-changing experience for staff members. Most staff members have very high job satisfaction rate and stay with the program for years. Tony Randazzo, a field director and counselor, said that his five years with SageWalk were a time of personal growth that "I owe to both the program and the great people who make up the SageWalk team. It has been a pleasure being a part of the amazing new developments and changes within SageWalk."

A new member of the SageWalk team, Sarah Casson, said that the job is rewarding because ,"I am able to help families and at-risk youth get a second chance. Bringing laughter and love into a home is a success that doesn't match words."

Solie said that one of his greatest accomplishments was to acquire extraordinary people like Casson and Randazzo to assist him in carrying out his vision for SageWalk.

"Ten years ago, the vision for SageWalk was to enter the little known field of wilderness therapy," Solie said. "Today we are proud to be a key contributor in the wilderness therapy industry and we hope to continue this tradition as we celebrate our tenth anniversary."

To learn more about the SageWalk wilderness program visit http://www.sagewalk.com/sagewalk_10_years or call 800.877.1922.


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