At this ranch treatment facility, the staff has found that nature may be the best medicine around.
By Tim Smith
There are no big city distractions at this quiet setting where a low number of patients allows therapists to provide individual attention to each client.
“It’s in the middle of the country. I have clients who come on the first day and say, ‘I hate it.’ But that doesn’t last too long,’’ said Dr. Robert Weiss, Senior Vice President of Clinical Development for Elements Behavioral Health, which owns Recovery Ranch.
At Recovery Ranch, participants may get treatment in a group or individual sessions, and therapists use a variety of methods to support patients, who may find themselves jumping off a dam over the Pine River, zip-lining, or simply building a relationship with a horse. “Part of what has happened in trauma work is we don’t care how we get there to treat the issues,’’ Weiss said. “We’re not just sitting in rooms and talking only now. We spend a lot of time outside, moving, and doing things.’’
Weiss believes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder falls into two categories: simple PTSD and complex trauma. Simple PTSD could be a military veteran or someone who has gone through an experience like 9/11. Life was relatively stable before they experienced the trauma of war or a life-changing tragedy. Complex trauma involves people who have suffered profound abuse or neglect before experiencing a traumatic experience. Weiss added most clients at the Recovery Ranch with PTSD are dealing with problems such as alcoholism and drug abuse. “Many don’t have the resources to go to private facilities,” he said. As for veterans, the government offers treatment programs through the Veterans Administration.
The Recovery Ranch therapists’ philosophy is to strike a balance between the exploratory and containment. “Often people say I know what happened to me, but now I need to know how to contain it,” Weiss said. “We work hard with coping skills. We want to help them tolerate the issue and get through life with the issue.’’
That is what separates the Recovery Ranch from other traditional rehabilitation centers. According to Weiss, the model of treating clients individually but always in a group setting is unique. The average length of stay for treatment at the Recovery Ranch is 45–50 days. The facility only houses 110 patients at a time, and each lives with 8–12 other participants who are being treated with similar care. A stay for 28 days could cost $15,000 to $28,000 depending on whether or not a patient has insurance coverage.
“It’s a social learning model. We believe that healing occurs between clients, bringing them together to live and work together,’’ Weiss said. “It’s not a place where you’re in a cafeteria line with several other people dealing with different issues. Each group that is dealing with a particular issue never encounters people from other groups. So, there’s a real sense of family.’’
Recreating a family environment is essential to the staff at Recovery Ranch. Participants are encouraged to talk through their experiences, and the staff makes sure participants have people nearby to nurture them.
“It’s a repairable experience where you can be heard and supported,’’ Weiss said.