We know how difficult it can be to find the right program for your child and understanding the processes involved can help you know if True North is right for your child. What we recommend is that you get in contact with us for a discussion about what is currently happening at home and how True North could help. In this entry I've written some highlights of our program that may help you understand more about our expeditions and services.
If your child is accepted on one of our expeditions they are taking a place in a group of 4 to 8 other participants. Our staff ratio is 1:2 and we have found that these small groups have the biggest impacts. While having small groups you can be certain that your child will join other teenagers going through similar life circumstances and challenges. It is during the admissions process that your child will be put into the best group for their experience.
Getting your child to go
Your child does not need to be excited about going on the trip. In our research we are releasing later this year we have asked all our students how they felt about the trip before and after. They report that they felt nervous or angry about attending at first but leave the trip feeling as though it was an important and amazing experience. These feelings are all very normal. We cannot force anyone to attend our programs but we can help you with some techniques that have worked with other parents. If we decide that True North is right for your child, we will be happy to discuss some techniques for getting them there. Note: Two weeks away from school is a good start :)
Boot Camp or Brat Camp or What is it?
Our camps are designed with a clear focus and evidence base. Although our trip is fun and exciting, there is a purpose to everything that we do. We believe in everyone's strengths and treat them how good they should be not changing that depending on the behaviours they demonstrate throughout the trip. There is no force or punishments but instead we use a caring and compassionate approach based on how well we can build genuine relationships with each child. Adolescents respond well to people that are real and genuine with them and these relationships are why our program is so powerful.
Why does it work?
True North Expeditions works on a variety of levels. The adventure experience helps break some of the negative thinking and coping patterns that have caused difficulties at home. In beginning to live with resilience and insight our students start to believe they can overcome more obstacles than before. Each day we work with our students individually. Although they have had time for reflection and have been journalling throughout the experience, we sit with each child to discuss life at home and what goals we can set. These sessions help our students to build insight into their feelings and actions so they can be more aware of their decision making in the future.
We hope that this information paints more of a picture into why we are so passionate about True North. Feel free to contact us at anytime so we can help determine if our programs are right for your teen!
See you on the trail...
Clinical Social Worker
True North Expeditions
In the lead up to True North Expeditions’ July Boys Expedition I had met each of the students attending and was excited to see their interactions despite considerable differences. I was also a strong believer in Adventure Therapy from what I had read and was very interested to see its application.
The first four days of the trip were beautifully pleasant with the students all showing genuine enthusiasm about learning new skills such as the ability to make a fire without the use of matches and the construction of their own shelters to sleep under. The group would walk for much of the day with breaks for lunch or a drink but to also engage with their journals and curriculum before arriving at the night’s camp in the mid afternoon. The novelty of seeing kangaroos gliding through the bush or up a mountain, emu’s running madly and the chorus of local bird life was not lost on the staff or participants.
Whilst the physical aspect of the trip could be trying for the students at times, the sheer beauty of the location and the teamwork within the group proved a successful combination for applying therapeutic skills. These elements helped the students speak openly and break down the barriers of communication that seem so prevalent in everyday settings. My belief in the application of Adventure Therapy was growing each day with the children’s willingness to participate as group members and their understanding of individual responsibilities.
This would be tested on day 4 when after arriving at camp we were informed of ‘impending snow fall and extreme cold’. As night fell we found ourselves huddled around a fire for warmth. Our fearless leader returned to base camp to collect the car and return us to the safety of a gas oven and reverse cycle air conditioning. The next two days were spent at base doing group activities, going on day hikes and continuing to build relationships within the group. Once we believed the worst of the cold had passed we returned to the bush and immediately relished being back in the wilderness. This was short lived however, with the group facing the elements and sleeping outside on the coldest August night in over 120 years...-6 degrees!! This could have proven disastrous for the mindset of the group but instead proved resolute with the tough conditions further unifying the resilience our group.
After this record breaking night the temperatures became increasingly warmer and the students were embracing their time in a foreign environment. Towards the end of the walking and camping part of the trip it was amazing to see the students offering each other help unconditionally and understanding the importance of community participation. The trip to date was building up to ‘SOLO’, a part of the trip that, before witnessing, I was sceptical as to its success.
Each student was allocated their own camp for approximately 30hrs. Although no camp was more than 30 metres from the worker’s camp, each student was left to prepare their own fire and shelter and reflect on their trip so far and how life might be on their return to home. This was a very powerful experience to witness and each student seemed to take out an insight they felt could help them in their future lives.
The remaining two days were spent in a beautiful cabin on the property enjoying warm showers, real beds, digital television and the satisfaction that each person had achieved something that they had never done before.
As I near the end of my Social Work degree and begin life as a professional, I could not help but feel the satisfaction of helping these students achieve such a demanding and satisfying endeavour. This experience reinforces my belief in Adventure Therapy and the work done with children in natural settings but also the facilitation of True North Expeditions and the power that ‘perceived risk’ engages children, fosters strong relationships and helps deliver positive outcomes for its participants.
Andrew Bach, Social Work Student
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.