Aspen Ranch Residential Treatment Center for Teens Expands Family Program to Introduce Parents to Equine Therapy

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Aspen Ranch launched a two-day parent training to help parents learn communication and boundary-setting skills using equine therapy.

Working with the horses helps parents learn how to be responsible, effective leaders for their kids.

The teens at Aspen Ranch's residential treatment program already know the benefits of working with horses. They do it every week to build communication skills, trust, confidence and a sense of responsibility. Now Aspen Ranch is giving students' parents the opportunity to discover the benefits of equine therapy firsthand.

As part of its comprehensive family program, Aspen Ranch has always provided phone calls, letters, visits and family therapy. Also, four times a year parents have the opportunity to attend "Parent Week.".During this week-long educational training, parents participate in support groups, parent-teacher conferences and experiential activities with the adolescents.

To augment the current offerings to parents, the ranch recently launched a two-day training featuring an introduction to equine therapy for parents, where parents learn how to be more effective with their teens using horse relationships as their model.

Learning communication skills by working with horses - before adding the complexities of the parent-child relationship - is often more effective than working directly with a troubled teen. Parents practice new communication and boundary-setting skills with the horse and receive guidance in applying those skills to their child. Once parents grasp the concepts, they can be applied to other situations, making parents and teens more likely to relate with one another and less likely to revert to old patterns and habits.

"Horses are pure in their communication, and like teenagers, are always seeking leadership," said Brandon Burr, LCSW, the clinical director at Aspen Ranch. "Working with the horses helps parents learn how to be responsible, effective leaders for their kids."

In addition to being a fun, hands-on way to learn new skills, equine therapy allows parents to practice establishing and maintaining boundaries with their teen. Horses are intimidating, powerful animals that draw strong reactions from both parents and teens. When working with horses and using metaphor to apply what they learn to their teens, parents learn to pay attention to their own state of mind and the emotions and messages they're projecting to their children. They also grow more confident and learn better ways to approach and respond to their teenagers.

"When we hosted our first parent equine training last July, we didn't anticipate such outstanding results," said Kevin Knutson, LPC, NCC, ECP-B, the executive director at Aspen Ranch. "We stumbled across the idea, thinking the training would help the students, but what we found is that it also really helps the parents."

"After the training, there was a notable difference in parents' ability to set and hold boundaries with their child," added Burr. "When the teens realize that their parents are making the effort to change, they are able to more quickly make progress in the program."

Aspen Ranch is a co-ed residential treatment center for troubled teens between 13 and 17.6 years of age. Based on the core values of respect, responsibility, relationships and integrity, Aspen Ranch provides adolescents with a supportive structure and therapeutic activities that address specific developmental skill and knowledge deficits as well as emotional and behavioral problems. For more information about Aspen Ranch and the benefits of equine therapy, please call (877) 231-0734 or visit

Aspen Ranch is a proud member of CRC Health Group, which offers the most comprehensive network of specialized behavioral healthcare services in the nation. With the largest array of personalized treatment options, individuals, families and professionals can choose the most appropriate setting for their behavioral, addiction, weight management and therapeutic education needs. CRC Health Group is deeply committed to making its services widely and easily available to those in need, while maintaining a passion for delivering the most advanced treatment available. For more information about CRC Health Group, visit or call (877) 637-6237.


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Kevin Knutson
Aspen Ranch
(877) 231-0734
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