Ironwood Maine Web Update

Ironwood Maine Web Update

March in Maine is synonymous with maple sugaring season.  At latest count, our residents have tapped more than 100 trees.  The ideal conditions for maximum sap production are cold evenings and warm days. We have the cold evenings taken care of . . . a few more warm days would be greatly appreciated! A lot of work goes into making maple syrup: wood has been gathered to fuel the evaporator; buckets have been brought down, cleaned out, hung on the taps and covered. Both the Farmhouse and Frye residents have been helping to tap all the trees and will learn about the workings of the sugar shack next week. 

In addition to the beautiful natural setting of Ironwood, which our residents come to appreciate for its peaceful and healing qualities, our campus also abounds with animals.  On any given day, there are at least 10 dogs on campus, which bring comfort and delight to our residents and staff alike.  More than one resident has been observed sitting on reflection, with a dog by their side, and frequently our new residents express relief that there is a dog with whom they can play in the absence of their own.  Our residents learn about relationships, responsibility and more, as they interact with and care for the dogs, horses, etc. on a daily basis.  

Thursday marked another graduation and the emotional departure for a young woman who experienced tremendous growth and change in her time at Ironwood. From the slideshow, to the speeches, hugs and pictures, graduation days are very inspiring to the residents looking forward to their own graduations one day.  While one resident was leaving for home, two new residents begin their IW journey, this week. For us, there is promise and hope that we see in all residents. 

Family Weekend is fast approaching and all at Ironwood are working hard preparing for this important time of reunification and family healing.  The anticipation is present every day as we go about our Ironwood routines and we hope to see many of you very soon.

Thank you for making your child part of our lives and have a great weekend.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” 

Audre Lorde

This week, students at Ironwood explored the internal vision, while also finding new appreciation for the little things around them. 

​The Frye girls’ group is in a comfortable place that feels welcoming and mutuallyunderstanding. They expressed and exemplified compassion to the mini horses and other animals at the Frye barn. Even with Nappy testing their patience with a bout of unruliness, the students empathetically responded; “He is just misunderstood.” 

​In experiential group at the Farmhouse, student had the task of drawing a bigger version of a small picture with only two colors each. This practiced effective communication, while also having a bit of fun throughout the process. At Frye, the girls enjoyed the snow in art, by using food coloring to decorate their own hand-crafted ice sculptures! This creative form of expression was enriching as well as entertaining. 

On Sunday, the Farmhouse went on a spontaneous adventure to Monroe Falls. It was extra spectacular because it was mostly still frozen, creating a really unique waterfall icicle. It was beautiful to see the water falling through the ice forming lots of different formations. In music class, the Farmhouse prepared for the Family Weekend concert. Secure your tickets now, as word around campus is that it might be a packed house!

With spring right around the corner, students are staying hopeful and looking forward to the next chapter in their lives. Dare to be powerful, you will reach your vision. Have a good weekend and enjoy the warm weather!

*This update was created by a level 4 Farmhouse resident.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

George Bernard Shaw

At Frye, motivation is mainly external. Things that motivate people are often material, and not intimately personal. After acceptance of the program and moving up to the Farmhouse, a resident will often become more internally motivated and invested in their success. 

​This week at the Farmhouse, the groups are working on team cohesiveness and leadership. On Sunday, we went ice skating. This was loved by some, and others, not so much. In girls’ group with Alicia, we had a conversation about group dynamics and what we as a team could improve on. Each of us committed to doing something that would make positive impact on our peers. This shows motivation from the individuals in our group to get us functioning as a unit and working together. 

​At Frye, playing soccer during enrichment blocks was enjoyed by many residents. In culinary group, the residents used mills to make homemade applesauce! The group dynamic is improving and residents are learning to be cooperative, showing greater empathy for one another. This week, art really inspired a lot of us. We are learning several techniques of painting. This incentive motivates us to get our daily chores completed early so we have extra time to work on out art projects. 

​I sat down with Emmet, one of our direct care staff to talk to him about motivation:

Q: In working with us (the residents) how do you see shifts in motivation?

A: At Frye, residents aren’t able to see the end of the journey. They have to accept the program and once they accept it, they can often find motivation to move forward. Then, once they progress to the Farmhouse, going home starts to look more realistic, which is also motivating. 

Q: What motivates you while working at Ironwood?

A: I moved to Maine and started a family. I needed a career that could help me support them and happened to hear about Ironwood. Initially I was nervous because I was unsure if I would enjoy this work, or if I would be successful in this role. Later, I realized that in order to be good at something, all you really have to do is care. I really enjoy being a mentor to the residents, sharing my own passions and skills with each of you, especially how to cook. 

I took time later in the week to speak to the Frye Girls group and asked how they find motivation. A common theme was that they found motivation in thinking about the future and being with family. Others found motivation through progressing to be more of their true selves and thinking about the things they are grateful for. 

Last, I spoke with of our Senior residents, a Level 4, about how her motives have shifted throughout her time at Ironwood:

Q: How have you noticed a shift in your motivation during your time at Ironwood?

A: At the Farmhouse you are closer to going home. This makes it easier to get motivated because you can start to see it as more of a reality. Also, at Frye the atmosphere is very different, and more tense. At the Farmhouse the community is much more cohesive. 

Q: Has the natural shift from external motivation to internal motivation helped you to find yourself, and if so, how?

A: At Frye, change wasn’t realistic, but at the Farmhouse, seeing my family, going home, and change all seemed do-able. This made it easier to focus and commit to change. 

All in all, motivation is being found in big and small ways all over campus. As residents begin to change how they think, they start to feel capable and confident which helps to become motivated. The first step in finding motivation starts from within.

*This weekend’s update was written by one of our level four residents, who has made great strides during her Ironwood journey.  We are grateful to share her thoughts with you and hope that you have a great weekend.  Spring is getting close and so is our next Family Weekend.  Be well!

Ironwood Maine Web Update



​In the dictionary, personal success is defined as achieving what you want and being happy. However, at Ironwood, personal success can look very different. For some it is moving up a level in the program and for others it is just being able to have a day in which they are happy and productive. This week I will be touching on different successes from different people. 

​​The Frye girls group said that they have improved on efficiency and thoroughness in barn chores and responsibilities. Several of the Frye girls were also recognized by receiving their purples. One Frye resident said that she has finally become comfortable with the mini horse, which is definitely a personal success in her eyes. 

​​One Farmhouse resident described that she has been planning her future and Ironwood has taught her many skills to become successful. Another Farmhouse student said that the Recovery therapy group helped her see the successes within the entire group, as people who have become honest and truer to themselves. Another said that DBT helped them see new perspectives for situations that might occur when they graduate Ironwood and transition home. 

​​One staff enrichment block that seems to be really appreciated this week was the CPR/First Aid training. A resident noted that it has inspired her to work towards becoming a nurse. 

As people grow and change throughout their Ironwood program, so do their views on success and failure. They begin to see even the small things as big successes. They also begin to see failures as good learning opportunities. 

                *We are pleased to share that this weekend update has been written by one of our senior level residents.  We hope that all is well back home and we wish you all a peaceful weekend.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

This week’s update will be about how each of the Ironwood students are encouraged to realize the importance behind being true to one’s self, despite the environment.  

The students participated in groups to build bonds, while still having their own ideas. Each of the students have had opportunities to learn to work together and share ideas that benefit both themselves and others. The farmhouse students went swimming at the local YMCA, which gave them the chance to be confident with who they are no matter who is around. Not to mention, it was great to spend some time swimming in a warm pool despite the conditions outside. 

This week’s DBT group ran by therapist Nan, revolved around the topic of love and kindness by way of guided meditation. This was intended to teach how to share compassion and kindness to the people you care about and the people that challenge you to become the best version of yourself. After the meditation, the students made valentines day cards to one family member and one Ironwood Staff. This activity gave us a new perspective of our own life and gave thanks to those we care about.

This week’s art class had a tremendous impact on the students. It gave them a creative outlook and a chance to express themselves through different types of painting. Students took every opportunity to be spontaneous and unique given an open platform to create a new painting style. This relates to the theme because the students were able to choose what appealed to them rather than what their peers had chosen to do. 

In conclusion, the students are learning to find a balance within themselves while still making connections with their present, furture, and past. The hope is for all of us, to be happy and confident as our truest version of ourselves. 

*This update was produced by one of our level 4 residents, who will soon be heading home!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Ironwood Maine Web Update

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Viktor Frankle

Throughout the week here at Ironwood, we have had plenty of opportunities to grow through change. One of those opportunities came with a change in our weekly schedule. Despite the alteration to our learned routines, we have all been able to be resilient. Change offers gratitude and sense of respect for alternative perspective and approaches, and how to adapt to situations as they present.  

In our therapeutic experiential group, we participated in forming a square out of a long rope while blindfolded exercise. Each student took hold of the rope with two hands, lowered their blindfolds, and was given instructions to form a square as a group. This activity brought conflict and resolution. Students worked on problem-solving to find methods and strategies to solve the problem and create a perfect square. In a processing conversation following the group, students complimented each other on great team work and resilience. 

This week in character development, we explored the trait of compassion. By defining and detailing many examples of how to demonstrate this trait, students’ eyes were opened to a world that could be better if people had compassion for one another. I think one of the most powerful tools you can have to build a relationship with someone is compassion. 

Throughout our time at Ironwood, we can learn how to accept and embrace change that is both offered to us, and created by us. Change is scary, but inevitable…and necessary.

Ironwood Maine Web Update


Wayne, Direct Care Staff

This week, students have been experiencing a unique Maine winter with frigid temperatures in the first half and late spring weather in the end. We spent the weekend going cross-country skiing, and the later half enjoying the sunshine and warmth. Students at Frye spent their Sunday on a long hike and the evening with a meal cooked over a fire. I believe being away from all of the distractions and enjoying the outside makes it easier to reconnect with ourselves. 

Groups are continuing to grow and develop as well. This week I observed the Frye boys presenting as a dynamic and more cohesive unit. As a blue resident, I am very proud to see so many students progressing through the program. In addition to participating in this group, I also witness a great celebration for two new Farmhouse residents. The tradition for new residents entering level three starts with the students lugging all of their belongings up a rugged path called the grad trail. The trail winds through the woods from Frye up the mountain and to the Farmhouse. Students from both ends of the campuses cheer for them as they walk up. Once they emerge from the woods, their Farmhouse mentor (who is assigned to help them learn the routine) goes down and helps to carry their belongings. We all shake hands and offer them a warm welcome and congratulations. 

One reason that all of us students are so successful is all of the hard work from the direct care staff. This week, I took a few moments to sit down with Nate, one of the Farmhouse Supervisors. 

Q: What is your favorite part about being a FH supervisor?

​A: Processing and troubleshooting with students who are getting ready for their home visit and graduation. Also, I enjoy seeing their transformations as I often meet the students duringtheir intake and spend time with them throughout the duration of their growth through the program. 

Q: What are some of your responsibilities?

​A: Working closely with the rest of the staffing team to create a united FH program, as well as support the development of positive culture amongst both staff and residents. 

Q: In your opinion, what’s the difference at the FH that encourages growth and progressive change for the residents?

​A: It all starts at Frye where they learn to except their placement and address their behavioral, as well as internal conflicts. Then, once at the FH, we expect students to be ready to participate in self-discovery. The FH sets students up with more freedom, privileges, and additional responsibilities. We ask that through this, each student engages in being more self-driven, demonstrates internal motivation and validation with balancing their communication skills. At the FH we place importance on 1 on 1 processing on a regular basis with their assigned pod leader. We pay close attention to developing self and social awareness, as these characteristics help them to understand the impact that they have on those around them. It’s a hard concept to truly understand, but at Frye the students give up their freedoms in purpose to earn it all back. 

Q: What would you want to tell parents?

​A: That I stand behind Ironwood 100% and would personally recommend this program to others. I truly would not work at Ironwood if I didn’t believe in the program. I know this may sound cheesy, but after working here for over 5 years, I’ve experienced overwhelming examples of wonderful transformations. 

Q: Would you rather go sky diving or cave diving?

​A: Definitely cave diving! I also love spelunking. I would be very scared, but I know I’d love every second of it. 

A theme that seems important in this update is that although this program is tough, it is absolutely worth it, not just for the students, but also for everyone who is a part of it. In my opinion,I am very grateful for the internal changes that now show externally that I am proud of.

Ironwood Web Update

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Robert Frost

The aptly named poet creates visions of blistering winters with many a word. He offers words of advice wrapped in adventure, hope, fortitude and perseverance. Stories of hardship, the unknown, and personal challenges. This past week, under the shadow of Frye mountain, Ironwood could have easily been the scene of a classic Frost poem.  Even as I type, the wind sounds angry outside, whistling through the frozen branches of the nearby forest. An average “low” of 8 degrees with a wind chill topping out at -17 degrees offered plenty of our students to call on those same qualities that Mr. Frost characterized in his stories. Still, despite the unforgiving environ, the Ironwood campus and our students forged on ahead.

This week’s experiential group got “lost” in the woods and were encouraged to clear their minds and focus on observations, sight, sounds, smells, touch and taste, as they wandered through the woods. Some residents reported feeling low energy and sad before the walk and then reported feeling more energetic and calmer toward the end of the walk. The group made several observations about the sounds of footsteps, the many animal tracks found and feeling of the cold air/snow on their skin.

This week in “Character Development” we covered Compassion.  Compassion, like all of the traits discussed in this class, is important for our students to better understand and work on, internally.  While dissecting the definition and matching it up with real life role models, student will hopefully internalize the value in their own developing and unique “characters”.  As Maya Angelou would say…”My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.” 

On Thursday, we reopened the Lakehouse, following a few months of renovations and licensing.  This was a big project for our leadership team and we are excited to have this resource available for many families who have the need.  Four upper level residents moved over from the Farmhouse this week and they are enjoying new responsibilities (and liberties), as they enter the next phase of young adulthood.

The week after family weekend is always emotional, for one reason or another. Students are exhausted, but inspired. They are hopeful, yet anxious still. It is obviously a whirlwind of emotions for everyone; however, the comraderie and the support of staff helps each resident remain focused on the future. One would think that given the post-family weekend and winter “blues,” that many would stall out…that hasn’t been the case for this group. It’s humbling to consistently see signs at Ironwood, that your sons and daughters are intrigued to investigate their “road less traveled.”

Have a nice weekend and enjoy the Super Bowl!

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. 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 trip off campus beginning in the mid-afternoon. 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.  Even in the winter months, our campus is ripe for adventurous exploration and the students will participate in snow showing, construction of igloos, and an epic fire building competition. 

One of our residents offered a quote during this powerful time. “Remember, you can’t change your Family Destination overnight, but you can change your direction. 

Have a nice weekend!

Ironwood Maine Web Update

As we enter in to the second half of January, Ironwood remains fully enrolled and our campus bustles every single day.  40+ teenage residents, 60 staff, contractors, and dozens of animals (domestic and wild), make for a vibrant campus and community.  And let’s not forget family members back home…hundreds more, when parents, siblings and key extended members are considered.  At first glance, Ironwood presents as a tiny institution, but if it were much bigger than it is today, we would start to struggle to remember everyone’s name and story.

“Knowing” the group is an important element of the work that takes place on our campus.  Understanding the struggle and history, appreciating the layered perspectives behind every resident and becoming a part of the growth and future goals, is what sets up our team for success.  We are still (and just barely) an intimate environment where residents can feel known and understood, as they figure out their next moves towards a better and healthier life.

Family Weekend will be upon us next week and it never ceases to amaze us how quickly time passes from one Family Weekend to the next.  Ten weeks here, feel like half of that, always, and we all know the reason behind the rapid passing of time…we are busy, engaged and YES, we are also having some fun.  Earlier this week, I was talking to a new resident who was lamenting over his perceived “one year Ironwood sentence” and we discussed the many hundreds of residents who came before him.  Sitting in his same seat, these prior resident impressions very similar to his, on how to deal with being in Maine for many months…only then to look back at graduation in wonder, on how quickly the time had passed.  A motivated teenager can experience radical change during this period of time, when inspired by the right combination of education, structure and understanding here at Ironwood, combined with thoughtful love and support “back home”.  We see positive transformations taking place at Ironwood, often and it never ceases to inspire our days.

We have received below average snowfall this winter but things are about to change.  A large weekend storm is heading our way and we are making plans to receive it with gratitude, as a Maine winter is always better with fresh powder.  Residents and staff will respond with shovels and plows first, then sleds second.  This was being discussed at dinner last night and the group was looking forward to this change of scenery.  As for those of you visiting next week, please keep these Maine weather conditions in mind.  January is one of our roughest months to endure and personal planning goes a long way.  Vehicle choice (4WD when possible), dressing casually and in layers, winter footwear/hats/ gloves, and VERY CAUTIOUS step taking will all set you up for the most positive experience possible.  There have been fender benders, slips and falls at prior January gatherings and we want everyone heading home at the end of this weekend feeling optimistic and in excellent physical condition.  

The emotions of your sons and daughters this week are comprehensive, to say the least.  Some are excited, hopeful and encouraged while others are anxious, cautious and even angry.  Many are feeling both positive and negative emotions and you likely already have a good read on how you child is feeling, these days.  Our goal (as staff), is to help you to navigate through your current family struggles towards a better future, together.  We tell your kids that they are loved back home and that there is great reward in remaining hopeful, considerate and honest…especially with your family.

We wish you a very pleasant weekend and if you’re joining us next week, travel safe!