Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Labyrinth Canyon Canoe Trip

The desert can be an inhospitable home. However, when you learn to play by its rules, the grandeur it reveals is rarely rivaled by other environments. Fortunately our Adventure Learning crew has spent many starry nights and sweltering days wandering the deserts of Utah.
May is a great time to do just about any activity in Utah's desert country, but a river trip will often find its way to the top of the list. Our goal was to float Labyrinth Canyon on the Green River; a 68-mile journey starting in Green River, Utah and ending at Mineral Bottoms, the river-entrance to Canyonlands National Park. To complete this task we spent a lot of time in preparation; we monitored water flows, rented dependable canoes and drybags, weighed the pros and cons of clothing options, poured over mileages on maps, and made sure we'd have adequate water and food for the varying weather conditions that would affect our bodies. While our trip leader had been down this section multiple times, it is always good to treat the outdoors with respect and prepare for the worst even with confidence that the best will appear.
Our 6 a.m. launch time was met with rain showers that turned to blue skies within an hour. After 30 miles of floating, we reached our camp at Trin Alcove, or Three Canyons. Almost immediately after getting camp setup, 40mph+ wind gusts rolled through camp for nearly an hour and a half followed by heavy rains. When you are in a safe spot, watching rain accumulate over sandstone and cascade off the nearest cliff is a very memorable experience. From our perch above the river, and with 270ยบ of visible cliffs, we counted 25 significant waterfalls pouring off the rim of the canyon; it was a-once-in-a-lifetime type of experience. 
We didn’t have nearly as much intensity and excitement over the next few days as our first night, but we were never shorthanded on light hearted conversations, pleasant weather and beautiful scenery. In total we spent almost 25 hours lazily floating down the river, passing food around the boats, and taking cat naps while the river dictated our path. Being Memorial Day weekend there were a few other large parties on the river and we ensured we would get the camps we wanted by putting on the river by 6 a.m. Not only did this give us a head start on the day when the temperatures were cool, but we also got to enjoy the symphony the local bird populations produced in the growing light.
This was a very memorable trip for us and we believe our attending students will also look back on this trip with fondness. A few of them even mentioned how they would enjoy taking their parents down this stretch of river. Overall, we really couldn’t have asked for better conditions. The heat and bugs were quite manageable, the race to lay claim to premier camp spots was uncompetitive, and the surprise thunderstorms ended up being a great reward rather than a detriment. There is something special about rivers and we hope we gave our students a strong chance at experiencing that for themselves.
 Mike Bodrero, Adventure Learning

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to Respond Effectively to Problems

Recently my 9 year old daughter came to me with a problem. 

“Some girls at school are picking on me,” she said.  She proceeded to describe in detail the challenges she was facing and expressed a fair amount of emotion as she did so.  Me being the wonderful father and therapist I am, proceeded to quickly work out the solution to her problem and noticed my typical calm and collected demeanor quickly escalate as I thought of my, of course, perfect and innocent daughter :) being accosted by these dissolute, villainous, and malicious hooligans (also 9 year old girls). 

In the heat of the moment I had forgotten the invaluable tools I frequently try to teach to parents I work with in therapy regarding validating, reframing, and allowing a child to own their problems and the subsequent solutions.  As a result I felt it would be beneficial for me, as well as those who may read this, to yet again relearn those wonderful tools and recommit to using them.  These tools are discussed at length in the book “The Parallel Process,” written by Krissy Pozatek, LICSW.
  1. Listen & attune to the underlying emotion.  I started out well with this, but once I couldn’t handle the emotion my daughter was describing I quickly jumped into “solve it” mode.
  2.  Underlying emotion and tone is more important than content.  Again, I initially did well with this, but then got caught up in the content (my poor daughter is being bullied and I can’t stand for that!).  When we get caught up in the content we can be drawn in too far as parents, which may prevent the child from working through the albeit challenging issues.
  3. Mirror and reflect back underlying emotion.  My daughter was hurting, and rather than empathizing and reflecting this, I got caught in my own emotional response and disregarded what she was going through and trying to express.
  4. Validate.  I remember this ALL the time as a therapist.  It is so simple to let a client know, “Wow, that must really suck.”  But as a father, I was way too busy working through the ways I would fix this and make sure those horrible little bullies would pay for their nefarious ways!
  5. Keep yourself out of the problem.  The whole point of this tool is to help the child be empowered by owning their problem and owning the solution to the problem.  Far too often as a parent I jump to the “let me help” principle that, while good in some ways, can also send the inadvertent message “you can’t handle this, so let me do it.”  So with the best of intentions, I essentially tell my daughter she needs to come to me with any and every problem because clearly she can’t handle it.
  6. Place the problem back on the child.  I eventually came to my senses and did some of this.  It is okay at times to offer suggestions, but it is imperative to send the message “you are capable and can work through this.”  We wonderful parents are far too often the problem solvers, and far too infrequently the people on the sidelines loving and cheering our children on while allowing them to be the ones playing the game. 
  7. If child continues to push, then set a boundary.  It never reached this point with my daughter, but as parents of students here at LRA, I would imagine it has at times with you and your child.  If your child continually complains about life’s inequities and we find that they never seem to abandon this, we would do well to ask ourselves “am I perpetuating this in some way?  Do I need to set a boundary with my child and tell them, YOU are capable and YOU can solve this?”.

So whether it be with your child here at Logan River Academy or Maple Rise, or if it is with my 9-year-old daughter in her 3rd grade class, the tools above can help us navigate the many tumultuous waters parents and children are forced to navigate.  Hopefully we can all apply them more fully.  Good Luck to us all!

Krys Oyler, LCSW

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Marijuana Use and Abuse

Marijuana use and abuse is often reported by students admitted to Logan River Academy. While the frequency and intensity of students’ use varies significantly, their reasoning is usually the same: “it’s not a big deal”, “it helps me more than my meds do”, “it’s a plant, so it’s safe”, “if it’s so bad for me why are states legalizing it?”, or “you can’t be addicted to pot”. As therapists, we all know that marijuana use and abuse is dangerous for the adolescent brain, and we’ve seen the variety of consequences it can have on our students.

Research into the effect of marijuana use on the neurodevelopment of adolescents is giving us some more concrete answers when students press “what’s so bad about pot?”. This story from NPR’s Morning Edition is a well done introduction into some of the neurological effects of marijuana use. The accompanying review article, while fairly research dense, provides a comprehensive overview of research on this subject. While they were clear that further research needs to be conducted, I found it interesting and it gave me better understanding of the effect of marijuana on our students’ brain development.

Sarah Hazelton, LCSW