Welcome to February's edition of Words From the Woods. This month, we are excited to focus on the Phoenix Outdoor, our dual diagnosis program track for 14-17 year old male adolescent students.  By providing a profile of the staff working as part of the treatment team, examining the daily life of students in the treatment milieu, and offering a glimpse into some of the modalities offered, we hope to familiarize each reader with the Phoenix program. Some exciting new additions to the SUWS family are listed in the staff spotlight... We hope you will join us in welcoming some new faces to the crew! There are also opportunities to register for a free workshop hosted by SUWS of the Carolinas and John Huie and Associates on Friday, March 4th at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce,3 CEU credits will be available for each participant. Onward!

photo: Phoenix Outdoor on expedition; appreciating the pristine water of Wilson's Creek, Pisgah National Forest.

Phoenix Outdoor: "Who are We and What do we Do?"
One of the first questions parents have when calling our admissions line is, "Is the Phoenix program in Arizona, or North Carolina?" It's easy to see the confusion, but rest assured that Phoenix Outdoor is located in the heart of the Pisgah National Forest. The basecamp is located just East of the Continental Divide a t 363 Graphite Road in Old Fort, NC. The Wolf Creek facility, just two miles away serves as the primary hub for the students enrolled in Phoenix Outdoor. Similar to SUWS programming in many respects, Phoenix does have key differentiating factors, which make the program one of the most unique in the industry. The program is designed to provide a reflective, meaningful experience with the added benefit of a 12 step immersion combined with neuro-psychological education. Phoenix serves 14-17 year old males who may struggle with: depression, anxiety, defiant behavior, family conflict, attention deficits, family conflict, negative peer relationships, and the pervasive theme, drug and/or alcohol abuse.
While the wilderness is the forefront of treatment, a 12-step structure is infused into the daily activities for each student. Exposure to the 12 steps puts many tools in a student's toolbox, and provides an outlet to continue the work with an accessible positive peer group long after graduation from the program. Along with motivational enhancement, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, neuro- feedback, and supplemental activities such as equine assisted therapy, yoga, mindfulness and meditation practices, we hope to provide as many opportunities for students to find what works for them, and keep moving in a positive direction. Like any wilderness program, Phoenix places a strong emphasis on "transference", or the ability to take the lessons and skills learned in the treatment setting and applying them to daily life. Recovery support provides a guide for translating daily wilderness skills at SUWS into a 12-step recovery process so that when they leave the program, students have already been forming the habits of a 12-step lifestyle. We also want to support and reinforce each student's ability to build and cultivate positive peer relationships. The groups at Phoenix  foster a culture of support, positivity, and vulnerability among the students, and because we have a rolling admission format, students join a group that has already established a culture, and members of the group who have tenure are available to lend a helping hand in welcoming a new member of the group as he arrives. In turn, this process of "giving back" will come full circle as time progresses and the student who sought mentorship will learn to teach and provide guidance when they are close to their graduation date. Ultimately, students are given the opportunity to take time for reflection and set goals for their life both short term and long term. They have the chance to acknowledge their own emotions and examine the different options they have to deal with them as they come up. Throughout this process, counselors provide guidance and help students see a solution to their internal and external struggles through the framework of the 12-step program.  Clinical Director, Daniel Fishburn puts things in perspective succinctly with the following quote: "I am fully confident that Phoenix Outdoor is a leader in providing a wilderness therapy experience that sets our students up for successful recovery. Our approach is to provide an empowering experience, recognizing the reality of the student's situation while presenting alternatives that make sense."
While moving through the program students celebrate milestones and move through phases toward graduation. SELF-ACCEPTANCE is the first phase of the program,and students are invited to take action and learn how to effectively and appropriately advocate for their needs.  This occurs through learning acceptance of an unfamiliar environment, and the new challenges posed there-in.  Reflection and journaling are tools utilized in order to help promote the skills needed to move through this phase.  COURAGE to put the skills to use in daily life and to dive deeper into the rooted causes of certain behaviors is the next phase of the program. One faces the causes and conditions of using substances and recognizes resulting negative behaviors.   Wilderness skills such as making fire, building traps and hiking pose challenges for each student and pushing through the adversity of a tough hike, or building a fire on a windy day can reinforce the lessons learned through the Courage phase, and staff are there with the kids every step of the way to pose well timed questions meant to create transference from the successes in the field, and how they relate to daily life at home. Emotions that arise during these tasks (e.g. frustration, anger, sadness), are processed with peers, instructors, therapists and family members as each student  becomes an active member of his community and group. WISDOM phase comes next and usually students are preparing to graduate during this phase.  Here one starts to incorporate habits developed and prepares for how they will be carried to outside lives. The 12-step principle of Giving Back is a focus. The Phoenix student is becoming a leader of his group, is mentoring new members of the community, and is facilitating evening meetings and daily activities with field instructors. He continues to build character and focuses on service to others.

Daily Life 

     Like SUWS programs, Phoenix Outdoor is an expeditionary wilderness program, meaning, students spend some time trekking in the back-country, and some time back at the basecamp. Of course, if hazardous weather or conditions, pose a threat, we always have the option to transport the group back to a cabin. 
     Typical days in the field would start with a yoga session and meditation before breakfast. During breakfast students and staff circle up around a fire and talk about their intentions for the day, setting goals and assigning roles for the members of the group are also topics of discussion. Each student is given a daily "check-off" which consists of set tasks and objectives for each student to achieve throughout each day. Check-off will vary from student to student, but one could expect to see, a two page journal topic assigned by the therapist, emotional skill work and communication skill work tailored to the individual by the therapist, wilderness skills work, and assignments from the program manual for each student to complete. Hikes will typically range from three to seven miles and taking a lunch break near a mountaintop is always a highlight of the day.
      Once the group reaches a new campsite, the group works quickly to set up tents and establish designated areas for eating sleeping etc. The rest of the daylight hours are generally spent completing check-off. Once dinner is prepared, it's time to replenish the many calories spent during the day's activity. Finally, the group will once again meet around the campfire to recap the highs and lows of the day, and focus on specific topics as deemed appropriate by the therapist. Students are exposed to 12 step recovery methodology and meetings can be held and led by group members who choose to participate as well. Phoenix Outdoor's ability to expose students to traditional recovery models as well as insight oriented therapy allows the individual to tap into a supportive community where recovery can take root, and take a deeper look inward in order to ask the deeper questions so important to teenage boys, like "Who am I"  and "What kind of son, brother, friend, partner, or community member  do I want to be?" After final topics are discussed and general hygiene taken care of, the guys settle in for a night's rest in the four season tents until morning. 
     The routine will remain similar until Tuesday and Wednesday when the therapists come into the group for the regularly scheduled therapy sessions. Group sessions and individual meetings take place on the layover days, and valuable communication between parent and child is exchanged in the form of letters.  Letters are exchanged weekly, and often include information from home, or themes shared from the conversations each family is having with the therapists while the group is on expedition. The reprieve from hiking on these days allows the group to reflect and set goals for the next week.
     After a week on expedition, it's time to transition back to the basecamp for showers, laundry, and a nice warm cabin. Base weeks look very different in delivery, and the difference of schedule opens many opportunities for conversation about transitions and what challenges lie ahead after graduation from Phoenix Outdoor. Students will begin and end each day in similar fashion while on base, but instead of hiking from site to site, there are any number of intentional activities the therapists have scheduled for the day. Activities such as equine assisted therapy sessions occur on a regular basis. Students may find themselves suspended 70 feet in the air ready for the dramatic zip line dismount from our ropes course as well. 
     One of the added benefits of students spending time on base is the accessibility to plug in, for neuro feedback sessions. 
Cameron Allen, neuro-feedback and qEEG specialist will often bring his equipment for neuro feedback sessions with the boys. Many students have commented on the impact of these sessions, often taking note that they felt "in control" of abusing substances until they saw the physiological effects on the brian. The qEEg readings provide a before and after "map" of the brain, and students can actually see neuro synapses and pathways opening as a result of the time spent away from substances. One student recently spoke about learning how to work with his addicted brain and how it's a process. Clearly, the neuro feedback process has the ability to tie one's thoughts to the physiological impact made by abusing substances. However, as one student quotes "We are more than our addiction". So simply addressing addiction is not enough, therapist Kevin Waller utilizes the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy model to encourage psychological flexibility as well. "We want our students to be able to identify emotions as neither positive nor negative. Identifying each emotion, acknowledging them and feeling them, then knowing what to do with them in each moment is certainly a goal" states Waller. 
Many of you may have attended Kevin's recent webinar "Psychological Flexibility: Utilizing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy with Dual Diagnosis Adolescents" 
The Acceptance and Commitment Therapy model is hardly new to the substance abuse treatment world, and there is compelling evidence that ACT is highly effective in addressing the dual diagnosis population. In the 2010 study conducted by: Smout, M., Longo, M., Harrison, S., Minniti, R., Wickes, W., & White, J. "Psychosocial treatment for methamphetamine use disorders: A preliminary randomized controlled trial of cognitive behavior therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy." The researchers stated the following:" The objective of this study was to test whether ACT would increase treatment attendance and reduce methamphetamine use and related harms compared to cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). One hundred and four treatment-seeking adults with methamphetamine abuse or dependence were randomly assigned to receive 12 weekly 60- minute individual sessions of ACT or CBT. Attrition was 70% at 12 weeks and 86% at 24 weeks postentry. Per intention-to-treat analysis, there were no significant differences between the treatment groups in treatment attendance (median 3 sessions), and methamphetamine-related outcomes; however, methamphetamine use (toxicology-assessed and self-reported), negative consequences, and dependence severity significantly improved over time in both groups. Although ACT did not improve treatment outcomes or attendance compared to CBT, it may be a viable alternative to CBT for methamphetamine use disorders." While here at Phoenix we do not rule out the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Models, and in fact utilize them when appropriate, we hope to expose each student to an approach that they can utilize and become passionate about treatment.  Further evidence suggest a similar outcome in a follow up study to Smout, Longo, Harrison, Minniti, Wickes, and White's. Zgierska, A., & Marcus, M. T. (2010). Mindfulness-based therapies for substance use disorders: Part 2. States the following:" This is the second of Special Issues of Substance Abuse devoted to mindfulness meditation-based interventions for substance use disorders (SUDs) and their spectrum. This second Special Issue further adds to the mindfulness literature by presenting results of 5 additional studies that evaluated effects of mindfulness-based interventions in a range of substance-abusing client populations. Papers in this issue illustrate the ways in which mindfulness practice has been combined with other behavioral treatments and/or adapted to meet the needs of specific client populations. One of the articles in this issue describe an innovative method to measure self-change in participants in a therapeutic community who received Mindfulness-Based Therapeutic Community (MBTC) versus treatment as usual. Other articles in this issue found that mindfulness practice was associated with improved sleep, psychological health, and reduced substance use. They also found that although Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) did not improve treatment outcomes or attendance compared to cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), it may be a viable therapeutic alternative for methamphetamine use disorders. Noted high rates of intervention acceptability, and positive changes in outcomes relevant to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention and recovery from addiction. Although conclusive data for mindfulness meditation-based interventions as therapies for SUDs are lacking, the preliminary evidence reported in these and prior studies suggests their efficacy" . 
To view Kevin's webinar  click here

Meet the Staff:
Kevin Waller, LPC, LCASPhoenix Program Therapist:
Kevin began working with youth when he facilitated ropes courses and team building at a summer camp for five years. Here he realized his strength connecting with youth. Prior to entering graduate school, he worked as a field instructor for four years at a wilderness therapy program. Kevin has said that this is where he learned that ultimately all people want to get their needs met, and that behaviors have intentions and are a means of communication. He found that being in the wilderness allows individuals to slow down and identify their capabilities to make healthy choices.
While earning a master's degree in Community Counseling at Western Carolina University, Kevin worked with high-risk teenagers in a therapeutic, residential setting. He also developed and implemented a group therapy curriculum for middle school children. After graduation Kevin worked for two years at a therapeutic boarding school.
Kevin is currently a therapist for the Phoenix Program at SUWS of the Carolinas in which capacity he brings expertise working with at-risk youth and their families and with issues revolving around substance abuse. His clinical interests also include oppositional behavior, anxiety, family systems, ADHD, grief work and developing healthy coping strategies. His therapeutic approach includes empowerment, choice and reality therapy, emotional therapy, identity and awareness and grief work. Kevin believes that the foundation for empowering change is building relationships with congruency, empathy and unconditional positive regard. He is passionate about helping adolescent males to identify the strengths and choices they have and to have hope about their lives and future as young men.
Kevin lives in Asheville with his wife, whom he met while they both worked as field staff at a wilderness therapy program. As a former college baseball player, he continues this passion by playing on a local adult baseball team, and he plays on an indoor soccer team. He also likes to hike, swim and work on his house. 

Kevin is also accompanied in the field with his licensed therapy dog, Teddy.


Karyn Kaminski, MSW, LCSW-A
Phoenix Program Therapist
Karyn is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker Associate in the state of North Carolina. After earning her Bachelor of Science Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, and working as a digital journalist, Karyn's career path changed after working with youth at a ranch in New Mexico. Intending to stay one summer, she ended up working there for four years as a backpacking guide with adolescents. She then worked as a field staff for a wilderness therapy program for eight years. Karyn has said that unlike her early career path, the wilderness provided for a deeper level of connection with others and allowed her to make a difference in someone's life. This experience showed her the effectiveness of wilderness in promoting change and growth for adolescents. Karyn has found that eight weeks in the wilderness can be more effective than eight sessions in an outpatient clinic, and is a more thorough assessment of an individual's overall functioning.
Given her passions for the wilderness and working with adolescents, Karyn pursued a Master of Social Work degree and a Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy from The University of Georgia. During graduate school, Karyn worked as a therapeutic mentor in a wraparound program. Her experience also includes working with adults in an outpatient private therapeutic practice, with women in a domestic violence shelter, running a variety of specialty groups, and in DUI/drug court. She is pursuing her certification as a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist (LCAS).
At SUWS of the Carolinas, Karyn works with adolescents in the Phoenix Program who struggle with substance abuse, family conflict, and additional mental health issues. Karyn uses her expertise in family systems, dialectal behavior therapy (DBT), substance abuse and mindfulness to assist students in defining their identity in an environment free from distractions where "masks" are stripped away. She takes a relational approach with students in that she believes that adolescents require assistance in figuring out who they are in relation to others. Her therapeutic approach also draws from motivational interviewing, stages of change, choice theory, systems theory, narrative and mindfulness practices. She believes that the experiential element of wilderness therapy is a unique gift, and she incorporates metaphor and processing of experience into her therapy.
A native of Ohio, Karyn now lives in Asheville, NC. While she enjoys learning the current music culture from her clients, she can still be found listening to her own diverse playlist. She loves to travel, traversing the world from Hawaii, where she spent five weeks backpacking, to the cultural mecca of Spain. She loves to read and write, and enjoys hiking and spending outdoors in her spare time.


James Skelton, LCDCPhoenix 
Program Recovery Support Specialist
James' interest in helping others through their struggles with addiction started by taking a summer job in a residential treatment center, while he was waiting for an electrician's apprenticeship program to begin.   He quickly realized that counseling others and seeing people grow was far more interesting to him than avoiding being shocked by electrical lines!
Once the summer job ended, he re-enrolled in the Lone Star College System in Houston, Texas, and began working towards becoming a substance abuse counselor there.   James obtained an Associates of Applied Science with a focus on Human Services, a certificate in Chemical Dependency Counseling with Distinction, and a certificate in Human Services.   He is a fully-licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor in Texas, where he has worked the last 4 years in an outpatient setting with teens and their families who have struggled with substance abuse.  While there, he began to infuse the 12-step program on wilderness trips and other activities.  From his first wilderness experience, James knew that wilderness therapy was his calling.  He believes in the transformative power of a natural environment.
As the SUWS Recovery Support Specialist, James brings his experience in helping teens and parents engage in a 12 Step program to recover from addictive behaviors and codependency issues. He is described as enthusiastic, humorous and insightful.  He believes that all people are capable of healing and growth.  In his spare time he enjoys hiking, mountain biking, snuggling with his puppy, Maya, and he can be considered a connoisseur of fine coffees.


Cameron Allen
Neuro-feedback Specialist
With 10 years of experience in the study of neuroimaging and the practice of neurofeedback, Cameron Allen has worked as both a research assistant and lead researcher in several studies evaluating brain-based interventions for addictions.  His work has been published in the Journal of Post Graduate Medicine and other trade journals.  Currently, Cameron is a neurofeedback and qEEG specialist with a private practice in Asheville NC. Cameron also works with SUWS of the Carolinas Phoenix Program in Old Fort, NC providing neuroimaging and neuro-cognitive interventions for adolescents in the substance abuse population. Cameron is passionate about  integrating his interest in neuropsychology with brain based interventions and mindfulness to help individuals better understand their motivations, behavior, and capacity for self efficacy.


Staff Spotlight:
Sara Baicich MA ATR-BC
Experiental Support Specialist
Please welcome Sara Baicich as the newest member of our clinical team. Sara has already been a valuable member of the SUWS family serving as a field instructor, and logistical staff. However, her skills and expertise as a Board Certified Art Therapist will benefit us as she takes over the Experiential Specialist role for groups Luna and Bravo.
Sarah was kind enough to share a short biography with us for this post:

Sara's drive to work in healing and helping professions stems from a family question her grandmother always used to ask, "But, is it good for society?" Sara's upbringing emphasized the responsibility we all have in creating goodness in the world around us. This, as well as a passion for art, directed Sara to Philadelphia where she completed a Masters in Art Therapy at Drexel University. Here she learned the therapeutic and illuminating capacity in art making. After graduation, she worked at multiple inpatient psychiatry facilities in the Philly area, honing her skills in group facilitation by providing talk therapy, art therapy, psychoeducation, and recreation groups. Sara is now a Registered, Nationally Board Certified Art Therapist.
As she spent numerous years working in the hospital setting, Sara felt disconcerted by the separation her patients had from nature. They were often unable to ever go outside, and Sara felt there had to be a link between their separation from nature and the challenges her patients felt in healing and finding growth and progress in the hospital. 
In 2014, Sara took a job as a field instructor here at SUWS, knowing that the best way to learn how nature is used in the process of healing was in the field and "on the ground" as an instructor. After a year in the field, she became a Logistics Coordinator, supporting the SUWS students and staff from behind the scenes. 
Now, as Experiential Specialist, Sara supports groups Luna and Bravo through group facilitation and program enhancements, emphasizing 12-step recovery, mindfulness, art activities, art therapy, psychoeducation, yoga, and lots of fun. She loves that she gets to return to the wilderness and support the students, providing more avenues for them to create their own path towards healing and growth. 
Sara is originally from Maryland, near Washington DC, and lived in Philadelphia for six years. She moved to Asheville when she joined SUWS. If she's not on her porch ready a book, then she's probably sitting by a waterfall sipping tea and enjoying the birds. In her spare time Sara enjoys hiking, drawing, painting, weaving, yoga, and dancing. She loves to travel and prides herself on needing extra pages in her passport because she ran out of room for more stamps.


Kelly Dunbar, MA
Director of Business Development
With 28 years of professional experience in assisting families and students in residential settings, Kelly brings a wealth of knowledge, both administratively and clinically to the SUWS family.  She earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology and her Master of Arts in Human Behavior and was a founding member of Carlbrook School where she served as the Dean of Admissions for many years.  Before joining the Admissions team her experience included direct work with families through counseling, advising students, group facilitation, and facilitating parent workshops. In 2013, she joined an educational consulting firm as a lead consultant specializing in educational and therapeutic placements. In 2014, Kelly returned to Virginia after her first grandchild was born and had the privilege of working for an outdoor therapy program in Georgia. 
Kelly is excited about the opportunity of spreading the word about SUWS as the Director of Business Development.  Her relationship with SUWS really began is 2002 when Carlbook opened it's doors and their first six students arrived from SUWS of the Carolinas.  She holds SUWS in high esteem and feels grateful to be a part of such a long-standing program.
In her spare time, Kelly reads, walks her dogs (Max and Aladdin), spends time with friends and most importantly spoils her grandson, Sawyer.  She is especially excited to welcome her second grandbaby in August.


 Upcoming Events
Join SUWS of the Carolinas therapist, Blake Smith and John Huie and Associates for a FREE, hands-on workshop that explores non-traditional therapies and the continuum of care. Attendees will receive a combination of lecture-style instruction and will participate in experiential activities and group processing opportunities. Lunch will be provided and 3 NBCC clock hours will be awarded for full participation.
Learning Objectives:
1. Participants will explore experiential and non-traditional therapies along the contiuum of care.
2. Participants will explore the role of an education consultant in relation to navigating treatment options.
3. Participants will engage in wilderness skills practice, process groups and other experiential activities.
To register: click here
SUWS of the Carolinas is an NBCC-Approved Continuing Education Provider (ACEP) and may offer NBCC-approved clock hours for events that meet NBCC requirements. The ACEP solely is responsible for all aspects of the program. ACE Provider #6617

Join SUWS of the Carolinas and Brightstone Transitions f or the 2nd Ann ual Southeast Conference on Autism, with speaker Dr. Lauren Kentworthy, Director of the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Children's National Medical Center in Washington D.C.
This full-day presentation--appropriate for professionals, parents and graduate students--is designed to equip attendees with the latest research-based information on Spectrum Disorders as well as provide simple, real-world strategies to promote coginitive and behavioral flexibility with students on the Autism Spectrum.

When Tuesday April 12, 2016 from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM EDT
Add to Calendar 

Where Crowne Plaza Tennis & Golf Resort
1 Resort Dr.
Asheville, NC 28806

Conference Schedule:  
Tuesday, April 12th
8:00AM     Registration & Breakfast
8:45AM     Opening Remarks
9:00AM      Dr. Lauren Kentworthy (part 1)
12:00PM    Lunch
1:00PM      Dr. Lauren Kentworthy (part 2)
3:00PM     Conference ends

Professionals:  $100 (Six Clock Hours through NBCC awarded for full attendance)
Parents/Students: $25                                                                              
limited space available; dball@suwscarolinas.com
SUWS of the Carolinas is an NBCC-Approved Continuing Education Provider (ACEP) and may offer NBCC-approved clock hours for events that meet NBCC requirements. The ACEP solely is responsible for all aspects of the program. ACE Provider #6617

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Phoenix Outdoor
SUWS of the Carolinas is a therapeutic wilderness program in Old Fort, NC. It is an integrated strengths based program that addresses the biological, psychological and social needs of adolescents with mental health, substance abuse and behavioral challenges.  Learn More