A core value at True North is the importance of family. In support of our values, we are committed to family inclusion, especially when it comes to working together with the parents and guardians of our students. We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback through the years related to the work that parents at True North have invested in, alongside their children, in a parallel process of self-discovery and deepening connection. As parents participate in the family interventions structured into our parent program, insight, confidence and clarity have become hallmarks of how parents describe the benefits of participating in this process.
At True North, the whole family is our client. This philosophical orientation allows us to remove the traditional pathology of an “identified patient” so that the child may be encouraged toward positive growth, and empowered to establish personal responsibility and maturity rather than focusing on internalized messages of fault, blame or needing to somehow be “fixed.” As a result of focusing on the family as a unit, the goals of our work are centered around building and deepening connection and relational bonds, and working together as a team toward health for all family members. This is the purpose that informs the participation in a parent workshop.
Our workshops are two days of intensive therapy with one or two students and their parents. The treatment team at True North collaborate on the most effective outcomes possible through one or two-family workshops. The benefit of a two-family workshop comes from being witness to another’s process. This can be especially comforting for parents, having their experiences normalized, getting to know another family, and observing many familiar patterns, often having similar issues that brought them together on a journey in search of healthier connection. In other instances, one family will participate in a workshop, a different, but no less valuable and intense experience of learning how to listen and reflect, engage around sometimes challenging content, and building connection through understanding. With one or two families, the central goal of the workshop remains: family connection.
The first day of our workshop includes participation from the student(s), and the second day is organized with the parents. Typically, workshops are scheduled on a Friday and a Saturday or a Sunday and a Monday. Parents travel to lovely Waitsfield, Vermont to participate in a day of experiential and supported interaction with their child. This is often an emotionally exhausting, yet deeply satisfying day for both students and their parents. The workshop can be an opportunity to witness the maturity and growth of a child after having been at True North for several weeks, a chance to work through conversations that may have been difficult to navigate at home, and a critical setting to establish clarity and cohesion around family values and priorities. Families are encouraged to work on mindfulness, taking it slow and practicing kindness and respect. Parents and students alike enter the workshop with the goal of listening and understanding one another, the building blocks for empathy and the foundation of connection.
The second day of the workshop is a half day, and an opportunity for parents to debrief and reflect. Together with their parent therapist, parents will assess the relational gains made in the previous day’s session, and articulating goals for moving forward. This process is incredibly helpful as parents begin to consider what their child might need after True North. Having had the opportunity to see for themselves the kind of growth their child is experiencing and to better understand the challenges at play, parents are able to make more informed decisions about what will be the best environment for supporting the momentum gained through this wilderness experience. Many parents are witness to great strides, and gain more understanding about the potential for continued growth. With the input of the treatment team, parents are supported toward putting the appropriate structures and expectations in place to follow successful completion of the program.
The parent workshop is an experience long remembered by both students and their families as the beginning of a deepening bond with their family through a healthier approach to communication built on transparency, openness, vulnerability and connection.
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