Susie attended our camp in September of last year. Her school counsellor had grown more concerned about Susie’s self-harming behaviours, the older boyfriend who lured her away from school and the relentless power struggle at home. She was unsure of what to expect as this was her first extended period away from home. Regularly, she broke down into tears when she thought of home and struggled to keep up with the rest of the group. The staff team worked with Susie daily and helped dissect the letters written back and forth between her and her parents. Susie told them about her enjoyment of poetry, reading and listening to music. She drew regularly in her journal and wrote extensively when given her daily journal topic.
Toward the end of the first week, the team gave Susie a therapeutic Scavenger Hunt. Listed in her journal, the team wrote thirty tasks for Susie to complete before the end of the program. Many of these were various journaling topics such as writing song lyrics about her journey out of depression, writing about where she sees herself in five years and discussing her feelings each day without judgement or defensiveness. Tasks also included helping other members of the group in ways they could not find out and to report back to staff how this felt. Susie’s conduct changed over the next week, as she became a vocal leader with the team. She felt hopeful and confident about her abilities and shared her poems of hope with the group.
Susie’s mother wrote a letter to Susie’s trip leaders mentioning that “worlds had shifted” since she returned home. Susie continued journaling each day and was given time during the school day to create positive goals for herself. She wrote about her experience in the school newsletter and continues to have improved performance in school. She is no longer self-harming and has been using positive coping skills to deal with difficult emotions.
Susie’s experience with us was a tale of two very different weeks. Our team was patient in building a strong relationship with Susie before providing her with specific tasks to help her build insight. In recognising her literacy abilities, we were able to use her unique character strengths to our advantage.
Our camps are centred around a collaborative approach that assesses each child based on their individual story and key strengths. In having this strong relationship with Susie, she was able to return home to rebuild stronger relationships with her family and begin to help others.
Susie is now finishing Year 12 and hopes to become a psychologist or social worker in order to help others that are struggling with self-harming behaviours. She continues to work with our team monthly to make sure that she is staying on a strong and positive path.
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.