Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Happy People

One common feature amongst us as human beings is the desire to be happy. Many search for happiness in all sorts of ways. Psychology researchers have attempted to figure out what really makes people happy.

Some researchers believe that sources of happiness are 50% genetic, 40% within our power to change, and 10% affected by life circumstances. Sometimes we work with students who blame the environment for their unhappiness despite a life long pattern of previous unhappiness. Most of our students come to the realization that Logan River Academy does not make them unhappy. Typically we see a gradual shift in personal ownership as our students figure out how to be genuinely happy.

One of our theories at Logan River Academy is that happiness is connected to living a principles based lifestyle. We use this model as our major theory of change. We focus on: Honesty, Respect, Accountability, Fairness, and Caring. We believe that as our students internalize these principles and live them more fully, they are much more likely to be happier people.

Happiness also has much to do with perspective. I attended a workshop many years ago where the instructor taught us a basic formula: E + R = O (Event + Response = Outcome). Events are often not under out control. How we respond to events in our lives directly affects what kinds of outcomes we are getting, including our happiness level. We are convinced that challenging negative thoughts and replacing them with more neutral or positive thoughts can bring wonderful results with one’s level of happiness. This is a skill that takes practice and awareness. Our perspective can be the single most influential determinant of our level of happiness.

Another key element to happiness in our opinion is when one lives in accordance with his/her defined value system. If this is not happening, we see unbalance, lack of life symmetry, and inner conflict. Identifying one’s value system and living according is key!

Lastly, we believe being able to find humor in day to day life is essential for happiness. Learning to laugh at ourselves and our mistakes helps. Otherwise, we may constantly feel insecure or under the spotlight. It’s important to slow down, pause, and laugh each day.

Matt Erickson, LCSW, Clinical Director

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Often times, many of the students we work with at Logan River Academy come to us with lofty goals and ideals which they want to aim to accomplish. Even we, as adults, continue to set our sights on things we want to obtain in life whether it’s accomplishments (getting a job promotion, graduating college, losing weight) or more physically tangible objects (buying that new boat or car you’ve had your eye on for a while). It’s a natural tendency to set goals for ourselves. Some people will even go so far as to make a “goal board” where they post pictures or sayings that pertain to the goal or item they want to achieve or obtain. The underlying problem is that often these goals end up falling by the wayside and not becoming the reality that we so eagerly strive for.

With our students at Logan River Academy, we as therapists challenge each of them to set behavioral goals that they can work towards and achieve so that they can return home and be met with success in all aspects of life. But as with so many goals, these can easily become yesterday’s fleeing thoughts as we either become caught up in other activities or feel overwhelmed by the stress of the actual work involved in achieving these goals.

We encourage each of our students to set S.M.A.R.T. Goals whether here at Logan River Academy or in other areas of life in order to help them be met with success. Each letter of the acronym S.M.A.R.T. acts as a guide to use in making any goal more practical and achievable. And, yes, even as adults, we can continue to use each of these skills as outlined below in order to outline a more plausible plan for ourselves to follow.

Specific – What exactly will I do? It’s important to almost adapt the attitude of an investigative reporter and answer these questions about your goal: Who is involved with the goal? What exactly do I want to accomplish? Where will it be done? Which requirements do I have that will help me achieve this? The more specific you can be in outlining your goal, the more realistic is will appear to be.

Measurable – Measurement is often used to gauge whether we’ve travelled an appropriate distance or have more of an item than when we started. Its how we tell if a difference is apparent and it is the same with regards to goals. Is my goal measurable?  How much, how many, or how will I know if my goal is accomplished? Can it be measured to estimate success? Good!

Achievable – It’s important to ask if there’s anything that can stop me from accomplishing my goal, including myself. Is the goal out of your reach or below your standard of performance? If so, it might be advisable to go back to the beginning and reevaluate the steps needed to achieve your goal.

Relevant – What about your goal makes it important to you? Is it a worthwhile goal? Does it meet your needs? Is it consistent with other goals you have or have had? One question I always ask my clients that most literature ignores but I feel is paramount is “Is it consistent with who you are as a person?” If I’m a person of pretty high caliber and moral fiber then it’s probably not consistent with who I am if I set a goal to start embezzling money.  

Timely – It’s extremely important to set a time limit for ourselves and our goals. When do you want to complete your goal? It does little good to set a goal of losing 30 lbs without a completion date to shoot for, right? “Oh… it’ll come off whenever I get to it”. Establishing a time limit establishes a sense of urgency and prompts better time management.

If you can ask your self if your goal meets these requirements and answer “Yes”, you’re well on your way to success. We encourage parents of our students to help engage them in continuing to set SMART goals once they return home and move to the next phase of their lives.

Brandon Bailey, ACMHC

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Speed of Change

One of my favorite times as a therapist working at LRA is parent visits. While parents have been talking weekly with their teens, it’s not nearly the same as finally getting to see them in person.  After the hugs and the tears, we settle into sessions to catch up and review plans for the family’s time together.  Invariably, conversation quickly comes around to appearance: “you look so much older”, “you’re taller than me now”, “you cut your hair”.  As parents absorb the teen sitting in front of them, they do often look quite different…students lose weight, start shaving, get taller.  They take better care of themselves; a shower, more tasteful make up, combed hair, less acne, clean clothes.  And predictably, the student is a little embarrassed, wishing away the attention being poured onto them.

At the end of visits, parents often share seeing a different kind of change: “he held the door for me”, “he asked what movie I wanted to watch”, “she went into the other aisle and I didn’t worry that she might be gone”, “he said thank you…a lot”.  These changes are the ones that are meaningful, they come with maturity and respect for others.  But students have such a hard time recognizing these changes in themselves.  They live the change in tiny bits, day by day.  This meaningful change doesn’t even always progress steadily forward.  The old adage “one step forward, two steps back” has truth to it; sometimes students need to do things very wrong to realize how to do them right.

In the life of a teenager, the idea of change is a peculiar topic.  Everybody’s telling them they need to do it, they should do it, they are doing it…but they are the ones that have the hardest time seeing it.  I spend time with my students talking about what change means: what to watch out for, how to measure it, and what other people will see when change is taking place.  Our students have a range of capacities when it comes to self-evaluation, perspective taking, and insight.  While they rarely admit it, most of them depend on people around them to be their mirror; to observe and reflect what they can’t see in themselves.  The day by day incremental change that our students undergo is easy for them to forget.  Sometimes, it’s only when their parents arrive that their growth and change becomes obvious.

Sarah Hazelton, LCSW 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

National Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is National Mental Health Awareness Week which aims to provide education and support for those struggling with mental illness. There is a societal stigma against mental illness and therapeutic intervention. I’m not sure how self-care was ever misconstrued to signify weakness, but it has been. Some of the most courageous people I’ve met in my life are those that I have talked to about their struggles with mental illness. The stigma is harmful and can be devastating to the millions of people who live with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, etc. The conversation surrounding mental illness needs to change in order to help the public understand that just like those with physical illnesses, those with mental illness may need help with their symptoms to prevent their condition from becoming worse. Click here to watch a video that I came across of people speaking out against the stigmas.

KJ Green, CSW

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

More on EMDR

EMDR is the leading model of therapy to address and resolve trauma and trauma related mental health conditions.  Our research has shown that the majority of our students have had some form of traumatic event in their lives.  At times, when the trauma is severe enough, a person might have symptoms of PTSD.  Many other times, there are not symptoms of PTSD but an increase in anxiety and depression along with a decrease in self-esteem.  Many times trauma will be stored in unhealthy ways in the brain and we begin to form negative thoughts and beliefs about ourselves and/or the situation.

EMDR helps to reprocess the traumatic or disturbing event and store the memory in a healthy way.  It also helps to change the negative self-belief and erroneous thought patterns on the path to healing.  

Some areas that EMDR can help are, but not limited to:

  • Dealing with a traumatic event
  • Sexual assault or molestation
  • Loss of loved one
  • Adoption
  • Issues from being bullied
  • Self-worth issues
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Painful memories

To learn more about EMDR visit

Testimonials from our Clients:

-      "Three months of EMDR at Maple Rise was more effective in my treatment than the previous two years of various other types of therapy."

-      " It is hard working through traumatic memories while doing EMDR, but it is such a relief to not feel so anxious all the time and to feel like I am past that stuff."

-       " EMDR has helped me resolve issues that I didn’t even realize were issues and I fell so much better about myself and life in general now."

      Sean Maynard, CMHC