Steve's mother called True North Expeditions during her lunch break to learn more about their programs and if they could help her struggling son. She had been growing more and more concerned about Steve's attitude and behaviour and was hoping there was something that could help to break this cycle. Steve had before been really interested in sports and hobbies like music and art but had seemed to become more and more disinterested in doing these things.
At 16 years old, Steve's school performance had begun to drop and she had noticed that he was smoking and drinking more often and not coming home at night. He was not engaging at home and it seemed that he thought of home as only a place to eat, sleep and shower. If his mother tried to talk with him, he would become angry and loud and sometimes slam doors or punch a wall.
Steve's mother told the team at True North that she felt like this program was the right thing to do but was certain that he would hate her for it. The team assured her that this was a very normal feeling and that they would take care of helping Steve feel welcomed to the program despite him not wanting to attend. After a conversation at home, mum told Steve that there was an adventure program that he would be attending in the coming weeks. Steve was angry about the idea but his mother insisted that he attend as she knew that it was normal for teenagers to not want to engage in a therapeutic service.
Finally the day came for Steve to attend his 14-day adventure therapy program. He did not know what to expect and probably just wanted to get it out of the way. He really did not think there was much that he needed to change or deal with. Instead, he just wanted to get his parents and school off his back.
During the first day he felt a little bit homesick and missed life at home but still noticed that True North's program leaders were actually kind of cool adults that we kind of fun. He talked with the head guide and said that he wasn't sure if he was going to enjoy the program or even finish it. The guide insured him that they would be able to get through it and that them getting to know each other was just the thing that is most important right now.
After the first week Steve noticed that he had not really been thinking about home as often as he was in the beginning. The time was actually starting to move really fast and although he did not want to admit it, he really liked the program leaders and felt as though they understood him and what he had been going through. He had been writing letters with his mother throughout the adventure and was beginning to realise how hard she was trying to help him. He was not sure what to do when he would get home but he had some vision of what life would be like. He told the program leaders that he wanted things to be calmer and less chaotic at home. He did not want to be so angry anymore.
During the final days of the trip, spent relaxing at a beach house on Yorkes Peninsula, Steve worked with the head guide to create a list of some of the things he was hoping to make happen upon returning home. He knew he had goals for himself but he also felt there were people he probably should not hang out with anymore and things he should do when he feels nervous or stressed.
Upon returning home Steve and his mother felt a much stronger connection than before. She noticed a brightness in his eyes that she hadn't since she couldn't remember. Maybe when he was playing soccer or guitar. She noticed that he communicated his experience with her and that he loved the experience. He felt successful learning to light a fire without matches and setting up a shelter with just a sheet of plastic. He learned how to navigate and wrote in his journal everyday about all the things he had been thinking. He said that the program leaders were very funny and goofy but also demonstrated that they cared about what he was going through and challenged him to be the best person he could be. He said that they treated him like a man.
After a few weeks of things going really well Steve had a slip. He got caught up with some of his negative peers on a Friday night and decided to drink with them. The next day he told his mum and they schedule a time for Steve to talk with the program leaders about it. The staff that Steve had trusted let him know that a slip backwards would not be called slip if there was no progress previously. Steve knew that he had done really well but didn't want it all to be nothing. He felt motivated again and felt back on track.
Steve's grades have improved and his mother notices that whenever Steve is angry or frustrated that she is able to help him through it quicker with a positive outcome. Steve has some new friends on his sports team and is actually planning to return to True North this year as a mentor in order to help other teenagers that are going on the program for the first time. He thinks that he can offer his own story and positivity as something to help motivate them to make their own life changes as well.
True North Expeditions, Inc. provides adventure therapy programs and services for children and teenagers in Australia. Based in Adelaide, the TNE team writes about child and adolescent psychology, family dynamics and how adventure therapy programs can connect with struggling adolescents.