It’s hard to capture the energy of a room full of therapists focused on one thing: Finding how to make therapeutic services more effective. Along with myself (an American attending from Australia), professionals from Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Chile, and America travelled to Chicago for a three-day advanced intensive training attempting to answer this very question.
Facilitated by psychologist Scott Miller PhD, the training focused on implementing the internationally recognised Feedback-Informed Treatment, or FIT. For those that have worked with me individually in Adelaide or attended one of our adventure therapy expeditions, you are familiar with the process and the measures we use to make sure our services are working. We have also written in the past about how we use this feedback from you for tailoring our services.
One of the biggest takeaways for me involved how we can go about improving our “Culture of Feedback”. That is, how to make sure that those we work with, both clients and colleagues, are comfortable voicing essential concerns that can make our collaborative work together ever more important for them.
At one point during the training, I found myself sitting in a circle with four colleagues. None spoke the same language. Being in the United States, we stuck with English. Just as in a therapy session, we had to communicate and problem-solve. It needed fine-tuning, however. I could not speak with my usual speed and they needed to sense whether they felt comfortable speaking in what may be their second, third, or fourth language. What an experience!
When I came across Scott’s work and research it immediately fit with the ethos and vision of True North Expeditions, which began with two important assumptions. The first acknowledging that it is not common for young people, adolescents in particular, to willingly seek and engage in a therapeutic service. More often than not, a parent or school will make initial contact with us. The second is that this should not concern us as we need them engaged to deliver a more effective service. We use a genuine and collaborative relationship to improve this engagement.
As we covered over 40 years of research during the first day of the training, we continued to come back to that one word: Engagement. No matter the reasons for a young person coming on our program, engagement is the key to long lasting, positive change. Feedback-Informed Treatment gives us one way to routinely assess engagement and ensure people are progressing in our services.
With that in mind, it was gratifying to sit with colleagues from all corners of the globe to talk engagement, relationship, and “leaning-in” towards the people we are looking to help most.
There has been no time for jet-lag as my day began with an 8:30am session and now I’m off to the hills for mountain bike ride.
Until next time, see you on the trail!
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.