San Juan Wilderness - Counseling and Discipline
Each group consists of nine students and two separate teams of three counselors, a therapist and a teacher. Wilderness counselors maintain sight-and-sound supervision of our students at all times and maintain regular communication with the home office. Groups must have a WFR (Wilderness First Responder) or EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) present at all times. Logistical support and emergency procedures are planned out well in advance. There has not been a single injury requiring treatment beyond standard first aid in the history of the program!
Wilderness counselors offer involvement, feedback, and teach better ways of meeting one’s needs. We are not a boot camp and do not aggressively enforce structure at any cost. Corporal punishment is not part of the program!
Supervised by licensed therapists, individual and group counseling is provided to each student by wilderness counselors who integrate teaching, coaching, and mentoring. Wilderness counselors teach accountability and responsibility, coping and social skills, conflict resolution, problem solving, relaxation and stress management, healthy lifestyles, and journaling.
Counselors also facilitate our achievement-based level system which correlates attitudes and effort to metaphors and analogies with nature. Students receive daily feedback in nightly fireside meetings. Additional group sessions, with therapists, field counselors and students present, are conducted to evaluate the behavior, attitudes, effort and progress of each student and this information is relayed to parents weekly.
Expectations for student behavior are straightforward: be honest, cooperative and respectful, get an early start and use time wisely to accomplish goals and stay on schedule, complete chores and assignments, and maintain a positive attitude. Above and beyond these expectations, students often develop a supportive attitude towards their peers, developing leadership and a sense of community along the way.
Discipline of students is constructive or educational in nature and may include talking with the child about the problem situation, praise for appropriate behavior, diversion, separation from the problem situation, and withholding of special privileges.
Discipline policies are explained to all students, parent(s), guardian(s), staff, and placing agencies. These policies include and emphasize reinforcing/rewarding responses to the student's appropriate behavior and constructive/proactive responses to inappropriate behavior. This is a strength-based program where residents are regularly reassured and shown evidence that they have the capability to succeed in the program and in life. Staff and peers point out effective behaviors, wise decision making, and examples of residents' best efforts. Punishment is not the objective. We strive to teach self-discipline and a gut-level sense of personal responsibility.
San Juan Wilderness
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