SageWalk Introduces Specialized Treatment Groups for Girls in Recovery

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All-girls substance abuse group splits in two to provide more in-depth, individualized treatment to girls at every stage in the recovery process.

There are no supermarkets, drug stores, medicine cabinets, or drug dealers to turn to in times of desperation. Here, we have their full attention - and they have no choice but to address the real issues.

Girls attending SageWalk the Wilderness School are now receiving more specialized treatment for their drug and alcohol issues than ever before.

In order to better meet the needs of its female students, SageWalk is now dividing its girls' addiction group into two separate units: one for heavier users who exhibit more acute chemical dependency issues, and another for younger girls who primarily struggle with behavioral issues like defiance, low self-esteem, or depression, but may be experimenting with drugs and alcohol as a symptom of their underlying disorder.

"The new groupings will make wilderness therapy a more effective intervention for the entire community of girls," says Laurie Wilmot, LCSW, a therapist at SageWalk. "By separating the heavier users from the lighter users we can minimize the sharing of negative learned behaviors and take some pressure off the girls to 'fit in' and be 'cool.' In these specialized groups, the field instructors can focus on each student individually without having to divert their attention to girls with more pressing issues."

All of SageWalk's students take part in the school's wilderness and academic programs, but those struggling with drug or alcohol dependence receive traditional substance abuse treatment as well. For example, students are introduced to the 12-step philosophy, triggers for use, and Prochaska and DiClemente's stages of change model. They also read literature from Narcotics Anonymous and participate in regular NA meetings in the wilderness.

Under the guidance of a certified alcohol and drug counselor, the students explore why they use, the negative consequences of use, and the issues underlying their chemical dependency.

"Many of our students are using a wide range of substances - meth, heroin, marijuana, Oxycontin, DXM, and cocaine, to name a few - to self-medicate and avoid dealing with their underlying self-esteem, depression, or trauma issues," Wilmot explains. "Our substance abuse counselors take the focus away from the shame of abusing drugs, and redirect it to acknowledging the intensity of the problem and understanding how drugs and alcohol have affected the students' lives."

Students in SageWalk's recovery groups receive therapy at all different levels - they do processing work two days a week with their primary therapist, addiction counseling three days a week with their alcohol and drug counselor, and continuous educational lessons with the wilderness field staff.

"It is a coordinated effort with all of the counselors reinforcing each other," says Wilmot. "When students hear the same message from a range of authorities, they begin to understand their issues and accept the need for change."

The wilderness setting is an ideal place for teens to confront their issues with drug and alcohol addiction. They are far removed from their friends, their source of drugs, and the culture of drug abuse they created at home, and are closely supervised 24 hours a day. By staying active, eating right, and avoiding drugs and alcohol, students experience a natural detoxification process and get a head start on recovery.

"In the wilderness, it's clean and sober time," says Wilmot. "There are no supermarkets, drug stores, medicine cabinets, or drug dealers to turn to in times of desperation. Here, we have their full attention - and they have no choice but to address the real issues."

Since 1997, SageWalk the Wilderness School and its team of licensed clinical professionals, certified chemical dependency counselors, master's level educators, and highly trained wilderness-based instructors have been helping teens aged 13-17 address issues like depression, substance abuse, attention deficit, and anger management. SageWalk is licensed by the State of Oregon as an Outdoor Youth program and Private School, and as a Chemical Dependency Treatment program.

SageWalk is a proud member of Aspen Education Group, the nation's largest and most comprehensive network of therapeutic schools and programs. Aspen Education Group offers professionals and families the opportunity to choose from a variety of therapeutic settings in order to best meet a student's unique academic and emotional needs. Aspen Education Group has been profiled by major news and television organizations around the world, including U.S. News and World Report, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and People magazine, as well as on CNN, ABC's 20/20 and Good Morning America, NBC's The Today Show and Dateline NBC, National Public Radio, and the syndicated television show Dr. Phil. Aspen is a division of CRC Health Group, the nation's largest chemical dependency and related behavioral health organization. For more information about Aspen Education Group, visit or call (888) 972-7736. For more information about SageWalk and the benefits of wilderness therapy, please call (800) 877-1922 or visit


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Michael Bednarz
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