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.
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.”