As Natasha approaches the end of her time at CALO I find myself feeling proud to be able to say that we are part of the CALO family and I can tell you that you will have two advocates should we discover another family who is looking for help for a child struggling with attachment issues. You really are building a much needed, quality program.
It seems like after every parent retreat that I attend I feel a need to drop you a line. This retreat is no different except that most of the comments I want to share have nothing to do with the retreat (even though it was another powerful, wonderful experience for Natasha and I), but with all the events and activities that I got to participate in while being on campus Wednesday. I wanted to tell you that I was so impressed with what I saw while being able to observe a student council meeting. I can’t believe that I was fortunate enough to be at CALO during one of these meetings and then to be allowed to attend as Natasha’s parent. Natasha does not share much detail of her daily life with me and even when I ask specifically about student council, she struggles to come up with much to share. I was so pleased to experience the level of respect that filled the conference room during the meeting. I know I should not have been surprised by this because high levels of respect have always flowed from the top down throughout all CALO activities that I have been lucky enough to attend. I found it hard to keep my composure while the students discussed the self-harm recommendation. This issue is one that is close to my heart and to hear the kids really think through the issue and be willing to share their personal experience was powerful for me. I will be curious to see what decisions are made on this recommendation down the road. I just really wanted to thank CALO once again for offering a real student council experience to our kids and frankly, at least some of the issues that are discussed in the CALO student council are far bigger than those of a regular student council like what should be the homecoming theme or what colors should be used for the prom. I know that Natasha never would have been elected to student council at her high school and if she had been elected earlier to the CALO student council, she never would have spoken up and shared her thoughts. I was so proud to see her speak up on several occasions. She seemed to speak for herself at some points and as the Robin’s girl’s team representative at other points. From a parent’s perspective, that was wonderful. I know that she can now speak up because all the staff in attendance have treated her with care and respect over the long haul and she has now experienced that she will not be shot down just for sharing her ideas. What a gift to a child who still, after all this time struggles to believe that she has value as a human being! Thank you to all involved. Just by a fluke of timing, you were able to gift a proud mom too! Very soon now, another student will be able to represent the Robin’s girl’s team and I hope their experience will be as positive as Natasha’s has been.
Wednesday was quite the day for me because I had no idea that I would also be on campus to witness the ground breaking ceremony for the new gym, school and canine facilities. I was so tickled to see the kids get to participate in the event by doing the fly ball competition and I again, had a hard time keeping my composure as I listened to the kids share their stories. It is wonderful to see CALO moving in this direction and I know that Natasha would have loved to have regular access to a real gym during her time at CALO. Perhaps somewhere down the road Natasha and I will be able to return to CALO to see how this new facility and the added living quarters turned out. These are exciting times for you and the other CALO founders as you see your dream really take flight and grow, but these are also exiting times for the CALO family at large and I am so pleased to be part of that family. As Natasha approaches the end of her time at CALO I find myself feeling proud to be able to say that we are part of the CALO family and I can tell you that you will have two advocates should we discover another family who is looking for help for a child struggling with attachment issues. You really are building a much needed, quality program.
April 28, 2010 02:04 by Ken
A few weeks ago one of our current residential coaches got an email from a former coach--Kyle is his name. The current coach asked Kyle about his new job at a different residential treatment facilty. Kyle's response gives interesting insight into working in a level-based, behavior modification residential program. I won't name the new residential program where Kyle works but that facility operates much differently than CALO. I am copying and pasting Kyle's email here, unedited except for names. I (Ken Huey) am glad I work at CALO and can pay more attention to relationships than behavior. Here you go, Kyle writes:
I have been going back in forth on what to email you in regards to the differences with CALO and where I am currently employed. I have thought long and hard as to what to write about. More...
March 12, 2010 18:36 by Ken
I am asked every so often about the canines at CALO and why we work with them. I have presented at conferences and with other groups about some of the reasons that animals in therapy make sense. I have made the case that dogs and horses are the best for a number of reasons. I have explained why dogs are best for our setting. Generally I am able to help those who ask to understand our reasoning behind our canine program. From now on I may just refer those who ask to an email that came across my virtual desk this morning. One of our staff, Ben, sent a concise description of what makes our Golden Retrievers such powerful change agents in our program. I am including his email below and have edited it to remove identifying information. He describes an interaction between a student and a Golden and thanks our Canine Program Manager, Jeanna Osborn, for her great work. Here is the email:
From: Walton, Ben
Sent: Thursday, March 11, 2010 11:02 PM
To: Osborn, Jeanna
Subject: Alisa and Miles the dog
Today I discovered why we have the canine program at CALO. I am not sure if you have read shift notes on Alisa for tonight, but it details some of her struggles and difficulties. Alisa was escorted due to self harming--working with her for about an hour and a half. During this time Tony and myself were using every effort in the book that we had to get her to open up. We tried being playful, curious, role-playing. We were intense with her, we were gentle with her, and none of it worked. Alisa still would/could not open up. After about an hour and a half a student was walking by and had Miles. Alisa was sitting at this time and Miles came up to her and lay down on her lap. Alisa immediately broke down and started to weep on Miles. Alisa hugged him, and gave him love, and he returned it to her. After this Alisa opened up. She talked about how she was feeling like a disappointment and a failure, and our conversation took off from that point. Alisa was open, vulnerable, and honest. It was everything you could want in a therapeutic conversation. After Tony and I had tried our hardest for almost two hours, Miles came and did what we could not.
Thank you, Jeanna, for your work with our dogs. The impact that Miles had on Alisa tonight cannot be measured. I’m sure you know this happens often at CALO but never has it been so clear to me how unique the comfort from a canine is. All your work tirelessly and patiently working with canines and students often goes unnoticed. I notice. Thank you.
November 24, 2009 00:00 by Ken
A short while ago I had a colleague send me an interesting article from the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing (2007, 20, 1; p. 27-39). In it, Lyons Hardy tackles attachment theory and Reactive Attachment Disorder and some implications for treatment in a residential setting. In particular, Hardy makes a clear case for the need to move away from behavior modification interventions and makes a case for a longer-term residential relationship model.
“An attachment-based approach would thus not rely on behavioral modification techniques or punitive approaches to change behaviors. Behaviors would be interpreted in terms of their underlying meaning, and interventions would be designed to address the child’s need for emotional closeness, consistency, acceptance, and stability. A short-term residential treatment facility would be an undesirable location for treatment, because it involves frequent changes in both caregivers and peers and would discourage the formation of long-term bonds.”
Periodically, we become aware of this type of research or theoretical work that supports what we do at CALO. When I see such evidence I like to find a place to share it and our blog made some sense. Let me add some other quotes that support what we do at CALO if I may.
Hardy is clear that therapy per se, sitting and talking, is not the most important factor in creating change. We could not agree more at CALO. To quote Hardy, “…the therapeutic milieu is seen as the most important factor in successful treatment of attachment disorders.” The milieu is where our students get to practice all the relationship changes they are making. That environment coupled with experiential therapies and inventive interventions that tackle maladaptive emotional responses are foundational to good residential treatment from an attachment perspective. “Treatment seeks to remediate the negative working model using experiential methods; modeling healthy attachment cycles, reducing shame, safe and nurturing physical contact, re-experiencing the affect associated with the trauma in order to integrate the experience and not dissociate.”
I recognize that this research language is hard to wade through for those not in the field of psychology. Still, for some of you who read our blog I am hopeful that Hardy’s work resonates.
August 11, 2009 05:48 by Landon
Throughout the residential treatment world, including CALO, one of the top concerns of parents and administrative staff is managing, and, when possible, slowing down staff turnover. Justifiably, this reality is frustrating to parents, students, and fellow staff yet it remains a fact of life when working in an intense helping profession such as ours.
So that frustration regarding staff turnover may swing to understanding, I would like to explain a few of the reasons it occurs (in no particular order):
Front Line – In any company, not just in the helping professions, front-end staff experience high turnover. Most of the turnover at CALO is in fact with our front-line/residential coaching position staff. In fact, CALO has had very little turnover in administration, clinical, and academic departments.
Burnout – Front-line or direct care staff usually experience the highest rates of burn-out or “compassion fatique” More...