Archive for April 2018

Ironwood Maine Web Update

As I visited campus this week I noticed a considerable difference from what I experienced just a few months ago. We’ve been able to add to our incredibly talented and passionate staffing team. We’ve welcomed the pursuit of growth with several new students. We’ve managed good byes and celebrated success in Graduations. We’ve added a new horse to the heard and closed the sugar shack for the season. Most excitingly, students have just put away their flannel lined pants for the season!

In addition to each of these events, there was something else that was different. I didn’t notice anything significant at first. A tractor passing by in the morning or students playing volleyball in the afternoon. Riding lessons in the outside arena and Construction work on the garden area. Groups raking away snow plow piles and a new student’s bombardment of questions and excitement. Groups walking around campus smiling and laughing or a thunderous clapping session for our latest graduate. There is so much going on, it is noisy out there!



This realization of noise made me aware of how much of a positive impact it has for our students to be outside, engaged, and active. Whether it be the morning exercise, walking to school, campus beautification, collecting materials for fire, or enjoying a meal outdoors, our students spend much of their day collecting Vitamin D. One highlight of the week was the students first hike of the season. Frye students took an afternoon to climb the mountain that is the namesake of their campus. They reveled in an opportunity to splash their face in a cool spring and enjoyed the expansive views. The farmhouse students went off campus and spent a day hiking Hogback Mountain where the trail meanders through a beech forest, past a 30 foot cliff with tiny waterfalls, and a summit view of the Georges River.
Through my observations over the past few months, it is obvious the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors has made a positive impact on our community. But I wouldn’t expect you to just take my word for it;

1.Being outside helps with mental health.
A research at Stanford University found that people who walk for 90 minutes per day “showed decrease activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression”

2. Activity and time outdoor correlates to better academic performance
A study on Finnish students found that physical activity directly correlated to better reading fluency, reading comprehension, and arithmetic skills.

3. Nature helps reduce stress levels
David Strayer, a psychologist at the University of Utah, has studied natures calming effect on human stress levels. He has been quoted noting that “Our brains aren’t tireless three-pound machines; they’re easily fatigued. When we slow down, stop the busywork, and take in natural surroundings, not only do we feel restored, but our mental performance improves too.” You can find correlating information in several studies, such as this one labeled, Forest Therapy.

Here’s to packing up our winter cloths, breaking out the sunscreen, longer days, spring time breezes and all the noise that comes with it.

Press Release: Ironwood Maine Introduces QNRT to its Teen Therapeutic Treatment Program

Ironwood Maine, a licensed and accredited therapeutic boarding school for troubled teens in Maine, introduces Quantum Neurological Reset Therapy (QNRT) to its proven struggling teen treatment program. The QNRT treatment program at Ironwood Maine is administered by the only Board certified QNRT therapist in the state of Maine: Katharine Davis, N.D. QNRT is a unique therapy based on the knowledge that unresolved emotional, physical and sexual trauma, shocks, and negative life patterns leads to imbalances in life, eventually causing anything from distorted relationships to major disease.

Read the Full Press Release Here

Thoughts From Ironwood Maine

Last month, Phoebe modelled an attitude that we hope to see in all humans who are connected to Ironwood. Full focus and attention, full effort for whatever task is at hand and a positive attitude (tail wagging) when things don’t go as well as you had planned.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

Earth Day Poster from 1970

Earth Day Poster from 1970

This Sunday, and every other April 22nd since 1970 has been a worldwide celebration to demonstrate support for environmental protection, increased community awareness, and a stage for collaboration. Earth Day.

The poster to our left was the first published image for Earth Day back in 1970 and contains a comic book character named POGO, a politically charged Possum explaining the real problem at hand, “US”. On Earth Day 2016, the landmark Paris Agreement was signed by 120 countries around the world officially coming together on the plan to implement a change for environmental progress.

This week on campus I was constantly impressed by our students’ willingness to collaborate, compromise, create cohesiveness, and contribute to something bigger than their own day.

Here on campus, each of our students are delegated a variety of responsibilities. Some are designated to barn chores, others take lead on household responsibilities. One student manages the care of campus pets, and others prepare the meals for the day. All throughout the day there are students that are walking with a purpose to accomplish a task for the greater good of the community. It is a schedule so complex even the most comprehensive color coordinated excel document couldn’t come close to being complete. Students also had a chance to carve wood spoons, repair wheelbarrows, be trained in a new veterinarian skill (horse yoga), prep for the campus garden, and complete some post-winter clean-up. All things considered, a huge amount of effort all for the benefit of the community. (Don’t worry, they still made time for school as well).

This focus on community involvement is proven to have a positive impact on youth. Past research shows that empowering youth and allowing them the opportunity to participate in the community supports the development of skills needed to be an effective leader. Those that are engaged show better problem solving and decision-making skills compared to youth who are not engaged. (Brennan and Barnett 2009)

In addition to building leadership skills, engaging youth in a community also creates a sense of belonging and purpose. They will increasingly become more comfortable and confident in their ability to contribute. This allows them to internalize the idea that they are making a meaningful contribution and in turn, feel needed. (Pearrow, 2008)

Ironwood could be called an education center, residential program, rural farm, organization, and a multitude of other adjectives but we are so much more than any one of those terms independently. We are a community that works together, supports one another, challenges our peers to better themselves, and hold the person next to us accountable. Given the effort each of our students have made to make their community here at Ironwood, and their family at home a better place, I’d say Pogo would probably be quite proud.

Video: Ironwood Maine Sugar Shack

Ironwood Maine Sugar Shack

Every ounce of maple syrup we make goes on top of the pancakes of these amazing residents and staff who helped to make it.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

This week at Ironwood was similar to most weeks for anyone. It included feelings of accomplishment, exhaustion, and disappointment for each of our residents. I have the opportunity to observe a unique perspective of the happenings from just outside the daily routine and it is truly inspiring to see each of our residents and staff members owning and utilizing these feelings throughout the week.

The days after Family Weekend are filled with a variety of responses. Some students settle back into their daily routine with a sense of relief after being exhausted from non-stop stimulation and an ever-present desire to make the most of the weekend. Other students are disappointed to accept the fact that they still have quite a bit of work to do. Several students are re-energized by a sense of pride with being able to experience how significant their progress has been, and what a positive difference it makes within their family.

As with any weekend, there is a Monday to surely follow, and life at Ironwood continued on with a wealth of experiences, challenges, and learning opportunities. The daily routines are undeniably effective and important. School, community responsibilities, and therapeutic sessions are an obvious pick for most impactful activities for our students, but I believe the opportunities to engage in a variety of extra-curricular activities are equally as important to our students’ development. To name a few, this week included painting, making homemade dough for hand tossed pizza, tarp shelter construction, and yoga.

Indoor Rock Climbing - Adventure Therapy

Indoor Rock Climbing – Adventure Therapy

This week our students were also able to attend the campus of Unity College for an experience with their Adventure Therapy students on an indoor rock climbing wall. Sure, we had tons of fun, made a few jokes, engaged in some competition, and thoroughly enjoyed the time off campus, but there was something else too. Rock climbing can have more of a positive impact that you may think.

Eva-Maria Stelzer, a psychologist at the University of Arizona, had a feeling climbing was more than just fun. Her and a team led a study with participants with varying mental health challenges. Stelzer and her colleagues found the social, mental and physical endurance of climbing could be successful psychotherapy for improving mental health. The team has since expanded the study to compare the climbing activities with cognitive behavior therapy. Stelzer explained that climbing has a number of other important characteristics that make it especially beneficial for the treatment of mental health challenges, namely that it helps boost self-efficacy and social interactions.

As I mentioned earlier, our week was busy. The difference is in our student’s willingness and ability to engage in their experiences, own and validate their emotions, and put themselves in challenging situations. While it may be scary to look up at the mountain that our students have to climb, breathe easier knowing that all of us here at Ironwood have them,On Belay.”

Ironwood Maine Web Update

Our campus is a community in which teens can learn how to take care of themselves and contribute within a group. It is a safe place that students can learn to feel comfortable emotionally and physically. To me, Ironwood is an extension of the family by way of support through challenging growth, accountability, and an ability to be happy.

This is Family Weekend, a time in which families will re-connect on campus with intentions to bridge the gap of life at Ironwood to life at home. It is an opportunity for students to share first hand all of the projects they have been working on. It offers a structured environment for families to navigate challenges together. It creates a space to rekindle affection and understanding.

During this event, our students will perform a musical concert with a multi-instrumental band. They have spent months learning a variety of musical techniques, practicing songs, and preparing to put on a show. Families will also group up for a baking session in which students can prove just how comfortable they are in the kitchen! Students will also be able to take their family on a tour of the farms working sugar shack, where we have been harvesting and producing our very own maple syrup.

For our newer students, this weekend offers the additional perspective of motivation. There is nothing more contagious than positive excitement and feeling a sense of pride on campus. While spending the weekend exploring the mountain, practicing wilderness skills, and playing group games, each of them leave the weekend with a drive to progress through the program in order to be prepared to share during the next Family Weekend.

While our campus is bustling with activity at this moment due to the family weekend events, be rest assured that our “new comer’s” are being well taken care of. We are very proud of, and have great confidence in all our employees, particularly, those staff who spend this time with group of residents who are in their contemplative stages of their journey.

While Ironwood will never be home for our students, we are proud to be a part of the family…for now. Thank you for putting your trust in Ironwood.

Ironwood Maine Art Update

Pysanka, a Ukrainian decorated egg

Pysanka, a Ukrainian decorated egg

The end of December, we took a field trip to ‘The Farnsworth Museum’ in Rockland to see a show of Louise Nevelson’s assemblages. She was a Russian immigrant whose family made Rockland their home. She was the first artist to create marvelous ‘assemblages’ from all the ‘stuff’ she found on the streets of NY. Her art was not recognized until she was in her 60’s, but gained a huge amount of notoriety in her later years.

She was the inspiration for assemblages created by the students using primarily wood scrapes of various shapes and sizes. (mostly from my husband’s shop) Other found objects were incorporated. Imagined 3D sculptures, some standing, some wall mounted were the result of this exploration. Painted in black, white or gold, colors taken from Louise’s palette,
some proved to be compelling art pieces.

We have made ‘paste’ papers, an old way of decorating paper using water, flour, glycerin, and paint. It forms a custard like texture which is placed on wet paper and manipulated into fascinating patterns with common objects: combs, plastic knives, forks, spoons, paper clips….the possibilities are endless. We took these papers and chose an animal ‘totem’, an animal which best fit our character, and made large paintings, collaging certain areas with our paste papers. Really interesting results.

We have just finished a gold scratch art project inspired by the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt. He used gold in many of his elaborate and decorative paintings, primarily of women. A painting many people are familiar with is Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’ a couple embracing wrapped in a magnificent quilt.
Students were able to chose any and all subject matter that inspired them, from faces, to animals, to landscapes and together with some aspect of a cut out magazine image, they ‘scratched’ out certain areas to create dramatic gold effects.

Every spring I introduce the students to the ancient ritual of the ‘Pysanka’, a Ukrainian decorated egg. This tradition was passed on to me from my Ukrainian mother and I now share it with many others. Designs are drawn on the egg with melted beeswax which flows through a tool called a ‘Kistka’. The eggs are then dipped in a series of dyes and the final pattern is revealed when the wax is removed.

It is a delight and kind of magical when the kids see their patterns at the end. Many smiles.

Happy Spring to All. It is a pleasure teaching these teens.

My Best,
Lesia Sochor

Press Release: Ironwood Maine Adds to Executive Team

Ironwood Maine, a licensed and New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accredited therapeutic boarding school for troubled teens in Maine’s mid-Coast area, has named Nikole Seeger as education director. As Ironwood Maine’s education director, Ms. Seeger will oversee the academic success of Ironwood Maine’s residents, maintain and further Ironwood Maine’s accreditation recommendations, and help residents transition to secondary schools and colleges.

Read the Full Release on PR Web

Ironwood Maine Op-Ed: Retail Outlets for Recreational Marijuana

I was recently asked by a close friend who works with youth in Duxbury, what I thought about the town bringing in retail outlets for recreational marijuana.  I’m sure she was surprised by how quickly I launched into my very strong opinion that nothing about this concept is good for Duxbury, or any other town.

My experience and perspective come from years of working with struggling teenagers.  As a psychotherapist and the Director of a residential therapeutic boarding school for teenagers, I can tell you that what I see today as significant mental health issues with teens, is far worse than even 3-5 years ago. Our current culture is creating a generation of isolated, depressed and anxious young men and women. Social media and gaming addiction is real and likely the original source of why these issues are so predominant in today’s teen world. However, the dual issue of substance abuse, especially with marijuana, is definitely adding insult to injury.

I talk to families from all over the country, in crisis, just about every day of my life.  The stories are similar.  The child that they once knew, usually within a year or two, has completely disengaged on every level, in some way: educationally, socially, physically and relationally. They are depressed and anxious. Evidence of self-harm or suicidal ideation usually co-exists, either with substance abuse (alcohol, marijuana and/or pills), cutting, and/or a pattern of habitual self-loathing has become a mindset.  Parents are typically the primary target of extreme disrespect, defiance and/or complete emotional cut-off and disconnection by their adolescent.  The household is “walking on eggshells”. I know I’m not the first person to say that there is an epidemic emerging.  Our families are struggling, internally, the system is breaking from within.

When I think about parents using recreational marijuana in front of their children or retail outlets emerging in small town America, essentially condoning its use, I know it will only makes things worse.  Teens already believe this drug is the great panacea of all things difficult in life, now their role models will be confirming it. The negative, long term effects of marijuana on the teenage brain are well documented.  It isn’t just about that, for me, it’s about communication and connection within the family, it’s about being awake and aware as a parent, and it’s about recognizing and preventing loneliness and isolation in our children.

The issues we see everyday in the media: mass school shootings, overdose victims and teen suicide all begin with a lonely, isolated, disconnected child. How can normalizing the use of a drug that disconnects people, further, possibly contribute to anything positive in our world?

Susan Horton, LMFT

Ironwood Maine