Archive for September 2018

Ironwood Maine Web Update

Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” – Unknown


As the season begins to change, I can’t help but to reminisce on stories my grandparents used to tell me about the “good ol’ days”. The legendary tales of courageous journeys just to get to and from school. The epic struggles of contribution to the family chores before the sun rose. The inhumane circumstances of the summer time jobs working in the fields. These stories of grit, and fortitude are proud patches of character that my grandparents share with a sense of pride.

While observing the daily routines of our students on campus this week, some of these same inspirational character qualities are easy to admire in your children, as well. In a way, they can likely relate more to the character defining actions of my grandparents, than most of society today.

On Sunday, the Farmhouse had to opportunity to volunteer at one of Maines most popular cultural affairs. The Common Ground Country Fair is a long-time gathering and grand celebration for organic farmers,spinners and weavers; woodworkers, jewelry-makers; drovers of oxen, horses and mules; and sheep herders and their dogs. Not to forget the many poets and fiddlers, reflexologists and herbalists, solar and wind power gurus, seed savers and worm-keepers…our students made their contribution to supporting this event by supervising the recycling stations. Sorting through what would be land-fill destined compostable materials to process appropriately. If this doesn’t earn them some pride later in life, in not sure what will? After their volunteer shift, each student had the opportunity to enjoy the fairs varied activities and events.

This week also offered several moments of necessary courage for our residents. Two that stand out to me are an initial arrival on our campus for a new student and a recent promotion from Frye to the Farmhouse. In both accounts, these students are being uplifted out of their comfort zones and placed into unknown territory with a different set of expectations and responsibilities. Both of these students are making the conscious decision to courageously accept a change of environment and trying to adapt to their new surroundings. While they are equally supported by peers, staff, and family, these students are ultimatelymoving through struggle and taking new steps toward the unknown with the hopeful outcome of greater internal peace, strength and independence.

Both campuses have been making efforts to prepare for the coming of fall and winter. In the grazing fields, students have been taking turns picking out the large pastures to collect manure. These ground scores are collected and transported to what is affectionately known as “the Pit of Despair” where it will decompose and eventually turn into compost for future use. Frye students are also chipping into the preparation efforts on campus. One group of students took to refinishing our wooden tables by replacing rotten boards, sanding, and staining while another took time to build little winter sheds for our mini blueberry orchard.

All of our program activities support the development of character qualities that I am sure any grandparent would honor. From consistent morning exercise and community chores, to the practice ofputting one’s self in a vulnerable space during therapeutic groups, each student is defining who they will be as adults. While they may sometimes complain of share frustration, one day we expect that they will be able to look back on this experience and talk about “their good ol’ days”.

We hope you have a nice weekend and thank you for placing your trust in Ironwood.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

“We have almost forgotten how strange a thing it is that so huge and powerful and intelligent an animal as a horse should allow another, and far more feeble animal, to ride upon its back.” – Peter Gray

Upon arrival to campus this week, it was quickly noticeable that there were several residents who were in the midst of “struggle”.  Family weekend is now 2 weeks behind us and there is a little wearing off of the family euphoria that many of your sons/daughters experienced during their time of reconnection.  Perhaps this is part of human nature after all…we elect to coast in times of comfort, or when things come easily to us.  Many of our residents learned not long ago that despite the prior struggles back home, they are still loved and needed…to great relief.  For others, while this is obvious and known, there was the reckoning that issues still remain to be dealt with.  The post Family Weekend honeymoon is over and it’s time to get back to the important work ahead.

The Frye campus is very “orange” this week, as Ironwood has sent a reminder to pay attention to our campus standards.  Remain mindful of your actions, show your leadership qualities to others that you work alongside, demonstrate greater integrity in your day…GROW FORWARD.  Despite short term setbacks, I must say that the energy on this campus remains positive and accepting, perhaps representing the acknowledgement of accountability and ownership?

The Farmhouse campus is contemplative, with struggle also present.  The girl’s group has presented some discontent with one another, with some gossip and undermining taking precedence over cooperation and support.  We humans let our thoughts get the best of us sometimes and we create conflicts from our doubts…our fears…our insecurities.  Such has been the case this week and staff are bringing attention to all on how valuable face to face conversation can be to settle minds and fears.  Today, a conversation took place on the impact that this same group could experience if just a few would lead productive conversation based in the genuine desire to reconcile and move forward with authenticity.  “Yes we are flawed…all of us…how can we better help one another to gain strength in the group to complete our personal missions and return home to those we love?”  We are a team…residents, staff and family and we need to stay focused on what really matters.

The east coast has been soaked this week due to Hurricane Florence and even Ironwood received some fringe downpours on Tuesday evening.  We experienced some power loss and internet troubles but overall this property is holding steady.  The gardens are still producing, therapeutic groups are on schedule, school is “in session” each day and our ovens are producing some “pretty tasty” dinners.

And finally, this week we welcomed two new equines to our stable.  “Shanghaied” and “Hugh and Me” are two retired thoroughbred geldings who are on a short-term trial for compatibility to our stable, herd and riding program.  First impressions are positive and the Farmhouse residents are excited to have these new additions in our barn and pastures.  They are showing us that they are curious, friendly and always hungry for our pasture’s green grass!  Some Shanghaied trivia:  his sire (father), Big Drama (FL), was a champion sprinter who earned $2.7M in his career, highlighted by a first-place finish in The Breeders Cup Sprint, 2010, at Churchill Downs (see picture below):

With struggle, comes growth and there is plenty of struggle and growth on the Ironwood campus this week.  Thank you for placing your trust in Ironwood…have a great weekend and stay safe!

Ironwood Maine Web Update

“Let him who would move the world first move himself.” – Socrates

It is the week after Family Weekend and our campus is back to running at full throttle. Students have re-engaged in their academics, clinical groups, therapy sessions, and daily chores. As each of you have likely had a few days to recuperate from the traveling and emotions that make up a Family Weekend, our students on campus seem to have not missed a beat. A sense of relief can almost be felt as some of our students share that after a weekend with family, they are reminded why they are putting in the effort to develop and challenge themselves to become healthier “and better” family members. Several students sharethat it becomes obvious during a Family Weekend that they haveprogressed, that they are changing for the better, and that makes jumping right back into the program so much easier.

For me, this understanding made me think about our staff and how much emphasis Ironwood, as an organization, places on growth and development. It is truly remarkable the amount of time and energy that is placed on continuing education, specific to our ability to provide quality programming to those we serve. In recent weeks, there have been several opportunities for our team to come together to learn new concepts and skills that will ultimately positively impact your children for the better.

This week, Ironwood has begun the process of providing a crisis prevention certification that will be provided to all direct care staff. This is a full day of a behavioral safety training that provides competencies necessary to effectively prevent, minimize, and manage behavioral challenges with dignity and cooperation. This program will provide our staff with additional strategies for the prevention and management of behavioral challenges and will result in a more positive reinforcement-based approach and fewer instances of crisis management.

In the most recent monthly staff meeting, our clinical team provided a two-part training to our direct care staff on DBT. The first section of the training was designed to allow staff to gain a deeper understanding of this type of therapy that is so significant our students. The second stage of the training focused on a practical approach of implementation and delivery of DBT skills in the milieu. With this, our residential team will be able to provide a complimenting approach that will align with our clinical team as we collectively support students with challenging behaviors.

Not long ago, our clinical team participated in a workshop training welcoming a nationally renowned, licensed psychotherapist, Gary Chapin. Mr. Chapin is a board-certified hypnotherapist with more than 30 years of experience in the therapeutic and social services setting. What is Hypnotherapy? It uses therapeutic imagery and suggestion to achieve an alert and highly receptive state of mind that is compatible with your goals. Hypnotic approaches have been widely recognized as effective methods for treating trauma, depression, and PTSD as well as for pain control and pain relief.  We are considering the benefits of offering this treatment in the future.

As you can see, our staff also runs at full throttle! Thank you for placing your trust in Ironwood and we wish you a very pleasant September weekend.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

Wow! The first day of Family Weekend is a tremendous whirlwind of activity. Launched by a family orientation meeting at the Farmhouse School, the day is then set in motion with reunifications, smiles, laughs and yes, tears. All of the emotions you could imagine after not seeing your child for 10 weeks, or more. After that, the families head off for a day of family therapies, experientials and some quiet time together.

The Level III, and Level IV residents enjoy a much deserved and looked forward to trip off campus beginning after lunch. All Level III’s get to stay off campus on Saturday night. A Level III with their second family weekend get to stay off campus Sunday night as well. Level IV’s will enjoy a complete 3 night family weekend with a return on Monday. Level II residents, while enjoying a great day with family are not allowed off campus for the overnight.

This always leaves the question as to what happens to the Level I residents who’ve not yet been here long enough to enjoy a Family Weekend. Well, staff take great care of our Level I’s, by planning a good mix of activities, school lessons, exercise and time to converse with peers and staff. Today saw them in school for the regular amount of time, followed by a delicious lunch cooked outside, then some R&R with fellow residents and the Frye mini horses. Late summer is a great time for exploration and they will be seeing a lot of the area hiking, reading, and writing…never a dull moment.

Thanks for allowing your child to be part of our lives and we wish you a pleasant and restful weekend.