Beth and John’s Testimonial
Beth and John’s son came to Ironwood withdrawn from life, without concern for himself, and with behavior that was spiraling out of control. Beth and John talk about the programs at Ironwood focusing on healthy living, school lessons, and an array of therapies. Read more…
Eight-months-ago, we were considering a youth wilderness program for Aaron, whose withdrawal from life, lack of concern for himself, and spiraling, out-of-control behavior combined with our inability as parents to get him effective help for increasing depression and anxiety led to a crisis situation in our home. We are so grateful that we found Ironwood’s website. A “course correction for good kids who are spiraling out-of-control” was just what we needed. Ironwood provided a home away from home with a healthy daily regimen that initially broke Aaron’s downward cycle of personal destruction.
We read about Ironwood’s solid program that incorporates healthy living with individual and family therapy, school lessons, and a variety of therapies including animal, equine, art, and music. Through lived experience, we have come to know how Ironwood’s committed staff works within this effective framework to enable a life-changing experience for residents and their families.
You have helped Aaron learn much more about himself, the way he thinks, and how to use healthy coping skills. Now, it is up to him to choose to continue in his personal growth and development. In the same way, as individuals and parents, we have learned much; and now, the hard work begins anew as we journey forward as a family.
Before we pushed the send button on Aaron’s application to Ironwood, it meant a lot of talk..addressing our concerns and being available to us during Aaron’s initial in-processing and as needed during his stay at Ironwood was so helpful.
In the midst of a scavenger-hunt-like adventure to gather items on the Ironwood approved clothing and supply list, Beth found Karen to be a valuable resource. Throughout Aaron’s stay at Ironwood, her friendly and calm demeanor whenever we called with a question or needed to contact another staff member was greatly appreciated. Sometimes when calling Ironwood, we would talk with Megan; we are glad we finally had the opportunity to meet her on the morning of Aaron’s graduation. Thank you for the bottle of Ironwood’s old “liquid gold.”
We really appreciated that Ronanne made sure she got in-contact with us that night to let us know how Aaron was doing, as well as during the rest of the weekend before we spoke with our assigned counselor.
Aaron’s first days/weeks at Ironwood were very emotion-filled and he sought out and found compassionate and supportive listeners in the night security staff. Paul, Bonnie, Rich, and John became familiar names.
It has been wonderful to work with Laura as Aaron’s therapist. Her patience, perseverance and caring, combined with her keen therapeutic insights and common sense were instrumental in Aaron’s progression in individual therapy and for assisting us in family therapy. Laura was a great sounding board and hand holder…especially during the first home visit. She was both supportive and enabling and we very much appreciated her observant feedback. We are also very grateful she hung-in there with us when the going got tough and tougher at times during family therapy.
During parent weekends, we enjoyed meeting the Frye and Farm House managers, assistant managers, and behavioral specialists who lived and worked with Aaron on a daily basis. Their availability and conscious presence to and for residents is a testament to their belief in the Ironwood process. While bearing the brunt of residents’ emotions, behaviors, and challenges, they also witness resident growth and changes on a daily basis. We thank you for your patience with and guidance you provided Aaron. You made it possible for Ironwood to be a home away from home. We appreciated very much Kellie’s unique ability, borne out of her own personal parenting experience, to both comfort and challenge Aaron. Additionally, Kellie’s parent-to-parent sharing was very helpful to us.
Aaron got back on his educational feet at Ironwood. With the help of Larry, Kathy, and Priscilla, Aaron made good use of courses in the Oak Meadow curriculum. Currently, he is in good standing to begin his senior year.
Libby’s suggestions related to medication dosage and further evaluation for Aaron proved to be pivotal in Aaron’s journey at Ironwood. Aaron learned a lot about himself through his testing with Dr. Bryant, as did we. Feedback from Dr. Bryant and Laura increased the value of testing. The information fortified our decision to make use of a second home visit, which turned out to be a very good choice.
Over the various parent weekends, we had the opportunity to be in group sessions with some of the other therapists. In January, we learned about DBT with Don and participated in an exercise involving origami, which made us more aware of how people can hear the same words, yet understand and interpret them differently…lots of folding, refolding, and laughing, which led to a good discussion among residents and their families. At the parents weekend in July, during a family session, Debora was able to foster an engaging session by asking conversation-starting questions that facilitated residents and family members sharing from their experiences. As was also the case in a family session with Robin, it was evident that therapists through the treatment team and personal interactions work hard to get to know all Ironwood residents. As the clinical director, Robin was accessible and helpful when problems arose contacting the Ironwood psychiatrist at the time. Robin provided good support to Laura and us, as we grappled with the decision to pursue a second home visit or not.
Aaron enjoyed his time with Allyson, Frances, and their fleet of furry, wet-nosed “therapists.” From his letters, we knew he wasn’t too sure about the horses at first, but the photos of him riding exhibited a trust and confidence that, hopefully, is laying the foundation for growing trust in people. He is making a case for a dog of his own, and in the meantime, volunteering at a local animal no-kill shelter (where, we are sure, he is scoring out possible adoption options…).
Art and music, so important and often the bottom of the school district budget, are well and alive at Ironwood under the tutelage of Lesia and Travis. Aaron spoke of his living with depression as wearing many masks, so actually making a mask as part of art therapy was pretty symbolic. We were so glad that Aaron wanted to take his violin to Ironwood with him. Aaron thrived in music group and the authentic, positive feedback he received from peers and staff was heartening and affirming to him. Travis provided the right amount of group direction, while allowing Aaron to experiment musically. We enjoyed when the residents played and sang together for parents weekend.
Logistically, we want to thank Persephone, who does a great job keeping the mail flowing to residents, getting packages approved, providing transportation, AND meeting with everyone who wants/needs to get into resident inventory over parents weekends. She does all this in an easy-going, approachable manner.
Yesterday, we celebrated Aaron’s Ironwood graduation with peers and staff. It was the culmination of a group effort and the personal send-off with words of encouragement and challenge that was meaningful and powerful for Aaron and us. It is a new beginning for our family. We know well that the road ahead will be wrought with challenges, accomplishments, joy, sadness, good choices, and not-so-good choices, but as Bonnie likes to point out: “failure is not falling down, but staying down (Mary Pickford).” Aaron and we will have our bad moments/days, but our faith will continue to support our commitment to using what we have learned at Ironwood to keeping getting back up.
Julie recalls her anguish over her son’s emotional decline and suicide attempt, then shares the pain of leaving him at Ironwood. Julie then discusses the happiness she feels now that her son is smiling and experiencing joy in his life once again. Read more…
I can’t say enough about Ironwood. Ironwood gave me my son back. My wonderful happy go lucky son was gone and in his place was a kid having a very difficult time with school, friends, family, and adolescence. Somehow we had lost him and I wasn’t really sure why or how. He began hanging with the wrong crowd. He stopped loving life and became, angry, defiant and someone we didn’t know.
My husband and I struggled to help him overcome whatever it was that was happening but he shut us out. He was angry and depressed and decided he wanted to end his life. On the ride to the hospital in the ambulance, after the attempted suicide, I felt so helpless. I knew we needed to do something but I didn’t know what. I never imagined we’d be in this situation. We are a loving family, not separated and so involved in our children’s lives I kept asking myself what did I do wrong, what did we do wrong?
We sent my son back to school but he was hostile, angry, confrontational and still associating with the wrong kids. My husband became so angry I saw everything falling apart and escalating into violence. When I called Ironwood, they were empathetic, caring and that somehow made me feel comforted. I felt like it was okay to send my son away for 7 months, even though it was such a long time, because they understood my pain and understood my son.
My son has been home for 4 months. Visits to Ironwood were very difficult because we wanted so much to bring him home. We somehow found the strength to leave him at Ironwood and cried the whole way home, (so painful but necessary). Looking back Ironwood was the best gift we could have given our son. He isn’t the same person that we sent to Ironwood. He has better self esteem; he is self motivated and seems to know what he has to do to succeed in life now. Before he went he was totally lost. He didn’t have any direction and didn’t know how to go on. Each day was a struggle.
We owe everything to the staff at Ironwood and to the program. The weekly Skype sessions with Robin were painful but I knew he was in good hands and that Robin was supporting him in every possible way (In every way that we couldn’t because we were not with him). The dogs and the horses seemed to draw my son out of himself. He enjoyed interacting with the animals and he has brought that home with him. I can’t tell you the joy I feel when I see him smile and laugh because he had forgotten how to smile and laugh, Ironwood gave that back to him.
Life isn’t perfect but we have so much hope now and I can see how he has changed and is set up to succeed in life. He is on the right path and is happy and is making better choices, that is all that matters to us. THANK YOU IRONWOOD AND THANK YOU TO ALL THE WONDERFUL CARING STAFF!!! WE OWE YOU ALL SO MUCH.
Everyone who works at Ironwood should feel so proud of what they do. From the first phone call to the day we said goodbye everyone was so dedicated and caring. You are all truly doing such an important job saving our kids from the struggles of adolescence.
Jon was “at the end of his rope” and describes the process of watching his daughter’s life deteriorate, the agonizing steps they took to find help for her, and her long road back to the energetic and fun child she once was. “But there is hope,” Jon offers for parents facing a similar decision. “Ironwood has given us our daughter back.” Read more…
Most parents have a pretty good sense of who their child is developing to be by the time they are eight or nine years old. Sure, they still have a lot to learn, and their interests will evolve, but their basic personality is pretty well established.
Somewhere along the way, around age ten or eleven, our daughter’s path took a sharp turn toward a dark and frightening future. She had always been bright, extroverted and funny, and she loved doing anything that involved being outdoors. But then she stopped doing her schoolwork, refused to participate in her normal activities, and became cynical and somber.
At first we wrote it off to a “phase,” something she would simply grow out of on her own. But she continued to spiral downward. We discovered she had started cutting herself, and got her into therapy. But while the local therapist was able to help somewhat, the fundamental course of her life was not changed. She was severely oppositional and defiant, and extremely passive-aggressive with us. We also learned of other dangerous and self-destructive behaviors.
We were doing everything we could think of to help (and a few things that clearly didn’t help), and we were at our wits’ end. The bottom line was that we were failing our daughter, regardless of how hard we tried to help. It wasn’t working.
A close relative of ours sent her son, who had been using a lot of drugs and getting mixed up with dangerous people, into a residential program somewhere in West Virginia. Her reaction some months later: “they gave me my son back!” She knew of our struggles with our daughter, and advocated for us to do the same. We looked into that program, but it didn’t seem like a good match for our daughter and her situation and interests. So we kept doing what we were doing… even though it wasn’t working.
The situation continued to deteriorate.
Finally, we found Ironwood. The website was helpful, and we contacted the staff. They seemed to really understand “where we were” as a family. They sent us a packet of information, including letters like this one from parents of children who had been through the program. The horse and dog training programs were a perfect fit to our daughter’s interests, and the structure and discipline of the place seemed designed to restore a connection between cause and effect — something our daughter had long since abandoned, preferring fatalism to accountability.
For us, the decision to send our daughter to Ironwood was absolutely the result of being out of options. From my point of view, this was an “all in” moment: either it would work as we hoped and prayed, or we would lose any chance of an ongoing relationship with our daughter in the future. There seemed little room for anything in between. But it was also clear that she was heading toward a miserable life if we did nothing. So what choice did we have, really?
Each person in the family had written our daughter a letter, explaining that we loved her, and why we believed this step was necessary. She read these letters on the trip to Maine.
We had been warned to expect all five stages of grief coming from her:
- Denial (“This isn’t happening to me!”)
- Anger (“How could you do this to me? I hate you!”)
- Bargaining (“I promise I’ll be good. I get it now. Please bring me home!”)
- Depression (“My life sucks. And now it’s only getting worse.”)
- Acceptance (“Okay, my life DID suck, and that’s why I needed this.”)
From our perspective, the goal for Ironwood is to get the residents through the first four stages as quickly as possible, since the real growth can only start happening once the child has accepted that they need the help, and takes responsibility for moving his or her life in a positive direction.
Hearing those first four stages was tough, but easier than seeing her life continuing on the path it had been on. We made it clear that we had to rely on the professionals at Ironwood to help us decide when she was ready to come home. We’d rather bring her home two weeks late than ten minutes too soon. In our view, we had to get this thing right the first time. The stakes were too high.
We have been to three Parents’ Weekends since she started. Even at the first one, when she was still in purple (Level 2), it was clear that the process was working, even though there was still much work to be done. We talked about some extremely difficult matters that weekend, things we had never been able to discuss openly with her. She was heading back to the personality that we would have expected from that energetic and fun nine-year-old girl she had been, and was turning into the wonderful woman she will be. The terrible detour was over.
Our daughter is still at Ironwood as I write this, mentoring some of the kids at Frye, and getting ready to come home herself. The improvements in self-esteem and confidence are absolutely remarkable. Her sense of humor is back, along with a lightness of being that we thought we would never see again. She has still been through some terrible experiences, something we cannot change. But she seems to have processed those experiences and learned from them, rather than simply suppressing them and letting them eat at her from the inside out. Those experiences could easily have destroyed her but, with Ironwood’s help, they have made her stronger.
Best of all, she hugs us when we see her, and she talks to us about anything and everything that is important to her. In fact, she will probably be teaching us how to communicate more effectively about difficult subjects. Before Ironwood, she had suicidal thoughts and wanted nothing to do with us. She even talked about legal emancipation to get away from us. Thanks to Ironwood, she now wants us to be an important part of her life, and is looking forward to coming home to be with us. All this change happened in a matter of some months.
I am certain that we will all suffer occasional challenges going forward. Life won’t suddenly become easy. But Ironwood has given us our daughter back, and given us the tools we need as a family to keep moving in a positive direction, even when life deals up some surprises.
I cannot recommend Ironwood highly enough. The program is amazingly comprehensive, the staff is remarkably talented and committed to the residents, and the facilities are simply stunning in their beauty and function. Even the relative isolation of “the middle of nowhere, Maine” is a huge benefit: it forces some quiet space on the kids and gives them room to do the thinking they need to do, without the distractions they would prefer to have.
For us, choosing Ironwood was an act of desperation. Close friends portray us as “brave” for taking this path with our child, but bravery simply didn’t figure into it. We were at the end of our rope. We had no other options remaining. It was Ironwood, or giving up on our daughter and her future.
If anyone reading this letter is considering Ironwood for his or her child, I encourage you to call Ironwood to get my contact information. While I don’t want to post my name and number on the internet, I would very much like to talk to anyone who feels they may be at the end of their own rope. I know the feeling.
There is hope. These are good people. They know what they are doing. They care about your kids.
They saved ours.
A thankful parent discusses the three years of struggles she endured with her son and the realization that she needed to take action quickly before he turned 18. “Our son is thankful we sent him, that gives you the best feedback ever.” Read more…
I understand the way you are all feeling right now. I was there not so long ago, November 2009 going through all the parents´ testimonials posted on the web. Maybe some of you got to Ironwood as I did too, through internet searching.
The minute I saw the school I felt it was something different, I had tapped into something really good, like finding a treasure or an oasis in the middle of the rough desert we were at with our family situation.
Our struggle with our son had been going on for 3 years. He was out of control at many times, and sometimes he was just in a latent stage of apparently nothing happening at all, but it was just a matter of days or hours before he would get himself back into trouble.
This meant: not obeying curfew, stealing the car, marijuana and alcohol abuse, skipping school, kicked out of school a few weeks prior to finishing, arguments at home and school, police encounters, some smuggling, and gang talk.
When it was worse, he would get violent, breaking things around the house, insults, screaming, getting lost for 3 days without letting us know where he was, hanging out with the not very convenient crowd.
It was a very hard decision to make because you don’t want to fully acknowledge that you have a problem at home, and taking these steps first uncovers the truth and you come face to face with this painful reality. But there is nothing to feel ashamed of, the only important thing right now is that you feel you need to do something for your son and your family, and you have been guided to what I believe is the best treatment program in the country.
Ironwood for me is: a place of deep healing, of finding balance, of nurture, lots of love, common sense, professionalism, commitment, respect. Ironwood staff knows very well what they are doing. I don’t know how they have been able to do it this way? How to be strict and firm but at the same time nurturing and loving. For me is the perfect balance, something I didn’t know how to do myself.
The program is designed to meet every teenager’s and families’ needs. They have found the perfect balance between the group activities and the focus on the personal issues each family and kid have to deal with.
As parents you will feel you have good company walking by your side throughout the entire program, you will feel aided, supported, informed and this will help to bring back your self-esteem as a parent, since you get back the lost respect and authority. Your child acknowledges it too, since you made this decision for them because as a parent of a minor you have the responsibility and the power to do something like this. That was one of our biggest concerns, our son was 17 years old and if we didn’t do it now, it would be hardly possible to do it when he turned 18.
The hardest stage is just making the decision and following through. Calling a transport service just seems like the cruelest thing you can be doing to your son or daughter. At the beginning I was much stronger with the decision but right the day before I had cold feet, I was scared that my son would think that I betrayed him, maybe I was overreacting and we could find a better solution, all of these things crossed my mind. Now I can tell you, that I feel we made the best decision. Our son is thankful that we sent him, that gives you the best feedback ever.
We are still walking the walk, but it already seems like a totally different reality.
Wishing that you might find peace, love and unity again in your family circle.
Lisa and Bob’s Testimonial
Frightened parents whose fears were calmed by compassionate Ironwood staff. Read more…
Where do we begin? 13 months ago my husband and I took a “leap of faith” when we began looking into Ironwood for our 16 year old son. Our son had been very angry, defiant and our home life had become a battle ground. I had been trying to find something that might help him and then I stumbled on Ironwood’s web site, after much deliberation and checking we made the phone call that we believe had changed our entire family’s life.
The first phone call was one of the hardest yet…my husband and I agreed we needed to proceed.
This program has literally given us our son back, and that happened only with the kindness and caring of the Ironwood staff. When we say staff it was from the people who answer the phones to every single person employed by Ironwood. The love, compassion and tough love is what helped to transform our son. There is not a day that goes by that we don’t thank Debora, who had a fabulous way about her as she conducted therapy with our son and also with my husband and I.
The thought of a residential treatment program is frightening for everyone, but once you see Ironwood and their philosophies you will feel much more comfortable making that tough decision. You know that the most difficult decision of your life sending your child away is worth while when your child says “you saved my life.”
Thank you EVERYONE at Ironwood for EVERYTHING.
A relieved parent is thankful for new tools her family can use in meeting the challenges of the future. Read more…
Tim and I cannot thank you enough for all you did in helping our family over the 9 month period while Mollie was at Ironwood. Sometimes, I wish the whole world around us could be as safe, warm, caring, patient, and understanding as the staff and environment was for Mollie while she was there. It is hard to leave the structure of something as comfortable and safe only to be thrown back out into the overwhelming, over stimulating, over indulging big, big world. Our true journey has only just begun and yes we know it won’t always be “smooth sailing”. It struck me as ironic that this seems like a test, one we are all willing to take and yet all three of us (Tim, Mollie, & myself) were and are terrible test takers. None of us wants to fail, yet none of us has all the answers. We have been given new tools by all of you at Ironwood and it is our responsibility to know when and how to use them. I pray each day for wisdom and strength, that Tim and I can be the parents we need (and want) to be for the daughter we love so very, very much!
God bless you and your family.
I end with a quote: “It requires the eye of faith to see the undeveloped butterfly in the caterpillar.” – Margaret Larson
Cornelia and Joe’s Testimonial
Parent shares gut-wrenching emotions of the day her child was transported to Ironwood and the early days upon arrival. Read more…
I am a parent whose child was at Ironwood. It was the hardest thing we have done to date, and that includes having buried parents, grandparents, friends, and other life altering events. I wrote this letter as a way of hoping to give back to Ironwood what they gave back to my husband and me: OUR CHILD.
Our son was smoking pot, stealing, failing school, and had become an unhappy, mean spirited child who had no remorse for his actions or behavior. He was like most of the residents there with his attitude and choice to seek the dark path of life.
We were told on a Friday afternoon that he had to go away NOW. It was like being sucker punched. We arranged for his transport and had to pretend all was right with the world until they came to get him. Those three days were days of pure hell and wondering were we doing the right thing.
The transport team was the beginning of an amazing journey for him and for us. He went without a struggle and arrived at Ironwood safely. He greatly appreciated the respect he received from the transporters. That was followed by pure unadulterated hate directed at us as he sat in impact for three days.
The following is hopefully helpful in understanding all that will be happening to your child and to you as you begin this journey to healing.
“Residential treatment” means that your child lives here and adheres to the dynamics set up to teach your child accountability, responsibility, maturity, teamwork, and self-confidence. Your child will learn how to stay within strict boundaries and will learn swift and measurable consequences for falling out of the boundaries.
The first few days are incredibly intense. Each resident has his “Aha” moment and these moments occur at different times for each individual. During this time period please be aware that you will receive hand written mail from your child. It will not be pleasant. We called it hate mail because it arrived right on time every Friday in time to ruin the weekend and dissolve me into tears. The language can be intense, foul, and can strike at your most vulnerable place as a parent. IT IS NORMAL AND TO BE EXPECTED! DO NOT BE ALARMED OR DISCOURAGED.
Each person is here because they have made bad, even dangerous decisions. He/she is caught and scared and now lashes out looking for the weak spot that will get him/her out of this “predicament.” Our son said that Ironwood was not like any thing on the internet or in a brochure. (He was thinking he should be in a resort!!)
The epiphany or AHA moment does come. We were told that our son was probably going to be as stubborn as they come and not to expect any breakthrough for several months. He surprised us all and it came after 3 weeks.
Each resident has a therapist, and they have individual therapy twice a week and group therapy once a week as well as anger therapy with the horses. ((Called Eagala= Equine Assisted Growth and Learning)
The therapists work gently and patiently with each child. Trust and confidence is built and then progress is made.
The stages through which each child goes are much like one sees in Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s death and dying stages.
There is DENIAL (this went on at home. Then the child comes here) and initially there is DENIAL –“this isn’t happening. It is a mistake.”
Followed by ANGER (and LOTS of it). “I’ll make you pay….you are wrong. I hate you. This is all your fault”., etc.
Then BARGAINING- “I promise I won’t EVER do it again. Please get me out of here. I swear I wasn’t doing anything. I promise I’ll be good”. You put the flavor of your child here. Here some will think they have the system figured out and will do only what they have to do to get out…to resume their “old” way of life.
Depression – a sense of giving up. Sinking into a hole. Therapists are trained to recognize signs and symptoms of real depression and there is a psychiatrist available to see the residents.
Acceptance- Healing begins here. When the child can begin to see that it was his/her decisions that got him/her here and no one else’s, true healing and restoration begins.
Through physical labor (which expends energy, builds muscle, and actually balances many neurotransmitters and hormones), intense counseling, and strict boundaries, residents reclaim excellent mental and physical health. They are taught skills that will help them throughout life. They learn appreciation for the material things they have (had), for their families, for their community, and for themselves. They also learn to eat whatever is cooked for them!! They have no TV, internet, ipods, cell phones, computers, etc…NO distractions. All reading material should be self-help or inspirational. All the negative influences are withdrawn so they can concentrate on themselves.
The program is divided into four levels (orange, yellow, green, and blue) and there are privileges earned as they advance. There is true gratitude that develops and the residents see what it means to earn something and feel good about their own success.
They will learn how to recognize behaviors in others that are counter productive as well as self-behaviors that need improvement, including anger management. They will have setbacks. Some advance to green and then go back to Orange. They learn that nothing in life is given, that they are the determiners of their actions and consequences, and they learn to be respectful and communicate clearly.
We learned how to express ourselves and to let our son know we love him no matter what while supporting his progress. Simultaneously we learned how to not reinforce his bad behavior and to put the onus of responsibility on him. Guess what, it is ok to say no and not negotiate with them!!
It is important that families at home also receive counseling to learn about family dynamics, triggers, body language, and other behaviors that can impair communication. Having healthy communication and recognizing dysfunctional patterns of behavior are crucial to help everyone in the family and to make coming home a positive event.
The stories are all similar. The pain we feel as parents is similar. The love we feel is the same. The goal should be improved communication between parents and children. The children do not go to Ironwood to be “fixed” and then return to the same situation. That is a recipe for failure. We as parents have to change as well. We did help them get here …usually because we have given too much.
Your child will, make amazing progress. There will be amazing days and then some set backs as well. WE ALL HAVE THEM. It is part of life. How you handle and react to setbacks is the important issue. Even at the higher levels, there is work to be done, character improvements to be made, and new things to learn.
It is frustrating at times. That is part of the process. It is time for your child to learn to accept responsibility for his /her actions, and to learn what to do to be successful and to have healthy relationships.
The journey does not end with coming home. That is the real beginning and we must prepare for things to be different. You may have sent away a child but chances are an adult is returning home; or at least a more mature child with better communication skills.
It hurts that things got to this point. But they did. And we love our son enough to do what we can to save his life. Now it is up to him to take these gifts and use them to be happy, healthy, and successful. And he knows there are consequences for bad choices. He knows we can let him go with no support once he is 18. Is that hard? Yes. Is it necessary? Yes.
I hope this helps take the edge off what you are experiencing. It is the right choice. We wish you an amazing and successful Ironwood experience.
Parent describes her son’s “attitude transplant” and truly believes her son’s life was saved. Read more…
It has been some time since Edward left Ironwood. Sometimes it seems like yesterday, sometimes like a year ago. I can’t use the word “easy” to describe Edward’s return home. Yet, “so far, so good”. He is both still himself and yet transformed. Every day with him is an adventure now, but the kind of “adventure” that is full of surprises and hope. It’s a little scary to believe that a miracle has occurred, but I do want to give credit where credit is due: I believe Edward has had an “attitude transplant”!!
I was blessed by Ironwood’s existence. I don’t think I could have sent him west of the Mississippi…And I don’t think I could have found a better place here in the east. Thank you, thank you, thank you for Ironwood.
I believe as well that it was extremely important to Edward and to me that Ed graduates. Edward wears his graduation bracelet with such hope and displays his graduation picture with love and pride. I know, Marion, that you had a lot to do with Ed’s graduation. With gratitude, I just want to tell you that I do strongly believe that Ed’s graduation was earned and deserved and that it has made a very strong impression. Edward is going to be OK. His life was saved. How can I ever re-pay you?
A grateful parent describes her daughter’s sudden transformation to a “Mean Girl” and how difficult it was to send her away to Ironwood–and the rewards of a successful outcome. Read more…
Growing up, our daughter was an affectionate, funny, original girl. She loved animals and had a real gift for language and storytelling. But in fifth grade everything changed. She broke off with her old friends and gravitated to girls who were dishonest, careless and often mean. She began to act that way herself.
By middle school our relationship with our daughter was strained at best. She became sullen and uncommunicative and complained about the way things were in school. She started therapy in 7th grade. Trouble continued into eighth grade, and we later found out she had begun drinking alcohol and smoking pot at 11 and 12 years old.
In eighth grade, our daughter indicated that she wanted a change – that she didn’t like the way her life was going, and she asked to change schools. She was accepted to a good boarding school about 45 min. from our home. While we knew a change of venue wasn’t the whole answer, we thought that if she really wanted things to be different, this could help.
Things seemed better for a while. Our daughter made new friends and got involved in the dance program at school, which she loved. But before the year was out, she started hanging out with her old friends at home, and that summer her drinking and drug use got worse (we were still unaware of the extent of her problem). She was sneaking out at night and lying to us as a matter of course. The only time she spoke to us was when she wanted something. At the time, we struggled to understand how much of this was normal teen behavior and how much was serious. She saw the school psychologist on a regular basis, and we had family therapy as well.
In boarding school our daughter got introduced to prescription drugs, including powerful pain killers that other kids stole from home. By the middle of her sophmore year, she was using cocaine (and stealing to get it) and being treated for anxiety and depression.
Our daughter asked to go into treatment in March of her sophomore year. She spent a month in a residential treatment program at a hospital. The program was really good for her, but it wasn’t enough. We didn’t know what to do when she got discharged from there, and the insurance clock was ticking. She was adamant about not going back to boarding school – she didn’t believe she could stay sober if she did. There was no way we were going to have her go to the local high school, where her drug-using friends went. Summer was just a few months away, and we knew she couldn’t be home for that. We researched all the longer-term residential treatment options: therapeutic schools, programs on ranches out West (she loves horses), wilderness programs that involved a lot of self-exploration, and more traditional rehabs.
With the help of a consultant, we found Ironwood. It was exactly what we were looking for: ongoing treatment for all of our daughter’s issues, plus a lot of activities to reintroduce positive, healthy things into her life. There were a number of things we liked about the program initially: first, while our daughter didn’t have all the symptoms listed on the web site, she had a lot of them. We liked the the emphasis on therapy and the treatment goals. The use of dialectic behavioral therapy aligned with the work she’d already been doing. And we felt that the programs – riding, gardening, cooking, art, exercise, working with the dogs – would help her reconnect with life and find ways to channel her energies in positive directions. Most important of all, while Ironwood is strict, it is based on a culture of respect. Not all programs are like that.
Even after everything we’d been through, sending our daughter to Ironwood was a difficult thing to do. You entrust your child, someone you’d do anything for, into the care of strangers knowing she needs more than you can provide; hoping it’s the right thing. But we had done a lot of research and truly believed it was the best option available. The beginning was hard. Since our daughter had already been in a treatment program for a month and was a willing participant in her own recovery, knowing she’d be starting out in Impact was hard. She definitely felt we’d betrayed her at first. But it’s all part of the process. She did fine, and she herself now believes in the value of the experience – even Impact.
Our daughter was able to complete her sophomore year while at Ironwood through a combination of finishing assignments from her boarding school, distance learning through an organization that Ironwood has a relationship with and on-site tutoring. Ironwood provided all the support we needed to make sure that our daughter’s problems and treatment did not derail her education.
My husband and I also had the support we needed as parents. We had weekly calls with our daughter’s therapist and, once our daughter had moved from Frye up to the Farmhouse, another call with her and the therapist together plus a short call just with her.
It’s hard to describe the difference that our daughter’s Ironwood experience has made in her life, and how deeply grateful we are to…all the people who had a role in her treatment there. It didn’t happen overnight. For many months the reports were that while she was “compliant,” our daughter was basically flying under the radar, doing what she needed to do to get by. The staff’s knowledge and insight into what was really going on with her was remarkable. They taught her about herself, how to love and respect herself and others, how to deal with tough situations.
Our daughter graduated from Ironwood after six months with a new sense of accountability and pride in herself, and she celebrated a full year’s sobriety this spring. She attends a Recovery High School near our town. She is active in AA, has a sponsor, chairs meetings when asked and is working on her fourth step. She got mostly A’s in school on her return. She rides four times a week and is getting ready to go to college.
The relationship we have with our daughter today is great – “normal,” happy, honest and supportive, with mutual respect and open love. She’s still a teen, going through the things teens go through, but she is infinitely better equipped to deal with those things than the vast majority of her peers. She herself points to Ironwood as the thing that saved her.
We have a lot of exposure to other struggling teens through our daughter’s school. The ones who have at least been through 90-day treatment programs do best, and it’s apparent by contrast how beneficial Ironwood’s multi-dimensional approach is. From the beginning, the staff at her school has relied on our daughter as a peer leader with students who haven’t had as solid a foundation as she has. We’re all incredibly grateful for what the Ironwood program and people did for our daughter and our family.
Gary and Patsy’s Testimonial
Parents describe their miracle solution for their runaway daughter, a second chance for an angry, insecure teen. Read more…
Our daughter, Meghan, at age 17, got lost in her group of peers. She fell in love, running away from home to be with him.
The local police told us “Get her out of there; she is in an unstable, dangerous situation.”
We were lucky enough to have someone recommend Ironwood to us. When the authorities phoned to say they had Meghan, Patsy picked her up, drove straight to the airport, flew north, and then rented a car driving to Morrill, ME.
The anger Meghan carried was greater than either of our life experiences. No matter how much we loved her she had become someone we didn’t know and could not reach emotionally. Ironwood was able to penetrate her anger and reach her inner core. Ironwood helped Meghan work through her fears and insecurities. We were impressed when she told us that she felt the “entire staff really care about me” (her). That is a testimonial in itself! It is their caring which allowed Meghan to once again find herself.
Today Meghan is a freshman in college and loves where she is in life. We feel blessed that Meghan was given a second chance to work through adolescence. We believe her experience at Ironwood saved her future and possibly her life.
Barbara and David’s Testimonial
Bad friends, drug and alcohol abuse, dropping out of school: How parents dealt with their son’s crisis and learned that intensive therapy gets results. Read more…
We were blessed with two great children. This writing concerns our youngest son, Andrew. He is a bright, funny, witty, enthusiastic, popular, good-looking, self-assured kid with great friends and a supportive loving family. He had always done well in school, was active in sports and was just a pleasure to be around. He was always affectionate; in fact we had to tuck him in bed until he was about 14.
As Andrew went into high school, he did very well in his freshman and sophomore year. He had turned 16 and was still the same kid we knew, but we noticed changes. He started to smoke cigarettes. We hated the idea but just couldn’t get him to quit. He had tried beer and occasionally would go to his friends’ houses and play beer pong. They were all doing it. At least he wasn’t driving so we figured he was safe.
At some point Andrew started migrating to a new group. Now, for the first time his friends did not have last names and we did not know their parents. He was spending more and more time with this group and less time with the kids that we knew. Through his new “friends” he was introduced to weed, and beyond that his drug experimentation escalated quickly – well beyond anything we could ever have imagined.
By the time he had turned 17, he refused to go to school; in fact he missed enough days that he was simply asked to leave before the end of his junior year. He was always out of the house and we never knew where he was or with whom. He openly admitted to smoking weed and drinking beer and vodka, but “it was no big deal” because “everyone else was doing it”. There were nights that Andrew just didn’t come home.
Our son was abusing drugs and/or alcohol on a regular basis. He was transformed from the kid we raised to someone we didn’t even recognize. Andrew ran our home – he could not be disciplined. There was horrible verbal abuse and some physical abuse. He stole our money and stole our cars continually and he didn’t even have a driver’s license. He threatened us constantly, to the point that we slept with our bedroom door locked most of the time. It was awful and something had to be done!
We called anyone and everyone to get some type of help for our son. The school guidance counselor suggested that we call the police. The police suggested that we have him admitted to a facility that would help him. However, the treatment facility that was recommended to us was only interested in him, if he were homicidal or suicidal. We were totally lost. We felt that the way it was going for our son, he would either be in jail or dead. We were desperate!
We did hours and hours of research on the Internet and finally came across a small host of treatment options for our son. There were military schools, specialty boarding schools and wilderness camps. We wanted a place where he would receive the therapy that he needed and where he would be in a safe environment. We were initially going to send him to a wilderness camp in Colorado and though the people were very nice and helpful, we just didn’t get the impression that he was going to receive the treatment and therapy that he needed. With no other options we were just about ready to send him to Colorado. By happenstance, as we were searching for a transport service to get him there, we accessed a youth transport website with a link to Ironwood.
Ironwood’s website was very informative. They were focused on Therapy and Counseling. They also provided programs where our son would interact with horses and dogs. There were programs in gardening, art, outdoor projects, exercise and cooking. This was the kind of environment that we felt our son needed. Ironwood appeared to provide a place where Andrew would be safe and protected from the outside world. We spoke several times to the Ironwood administrators and the more we spoke to them the more we were convinced that Ironwood would be the best place for our son, and we even filled out an application and had Andrew accepted into their program. But we just couldn’t get ourselves to make that final decision. Even though our life at home was a living hell, we put off sending our son, hoping that things would get better. Naturally they didn’t, and when we couldn’t take it any longer, we called the folks at Ironwood and they set the process in motion. Within a 24-hour period all of the arrangements were made with Ironwood to receive Andrew into their program.
The toughest part of this decision was when the men from the transport service came to our door at 4:30 am to take our son anyway. They were very professional, courteous and mindful of how emotional the situation was. We woke our son, introduced him to Tom and Rich and then left his bedroom to wait in another area of our home. In a matter of ten minutes or so, our son was dressed, put into a van (he did not go willingly) and driven away from his home for a 9-hour drive to Maine. When they left, my wife broke down in tears, and we held each other so tightly, questioning our decision and yet affirming that it was the best answer to helping our son. This was the beginning of an amazing journey for our son and our family.
There was no direct communication with our son for several weeks, but we were constantly kept informed of his situation via telephone calls, e-mails and his web site. Ironwood is not a quick fix and Andrew’s stay was not without its share of setbacks. The treatment is a process. A couple of steps forward, a step or two back; but eventually he was taking more steps forward than backward. For the first 3 months of Andrew’s treatment he worked hard at telling the therapist and us what we wanted to hear. He was less interested in getting better than in getting home. But at some point things changed and Andrew really understood that he has a problem and became committed to the program and the process. This is when we could see and hear him soar. He finally got it. We are so very proud of him!
He has embraced what Ironwood offers and what it’s about. Andrew is now open and honest in all his therapy sessions. He has developed into a leader and a mentor. He loves working with the animals – he has a favorite alpaca and he loves the dogs. He has developed solid relationships with the staff and goes to them for advice or for help when he is struggling with a decision. He is learning to cook and now wants to go to culinary school to become a chef. Andrew is working hard in his schoolwork and is maintaining very good grades. He has learned so much about himself. He is doing great.
We honestly believe that without Ironwood, we may have lost our son forever. Andrew turned 18 during his stay at Ironwood, and thought about checking himself out. With some coaxing he was convinced to stick the program out and to stay focused and he is now finishing up. He is happier now than he has ever been. He has a great self-image and high self-esteem. He has experienced so much at Ironwood and has been helped by a wonderful group of caring and dedicated people.
We thank [Ironwood] for everything they have done for our son. We cannot say enough about Donna. Through her diligence, her professional knowledge, and her caring manner, she has helped our son face his issues and develop effective coping skills. She is simply amazing. Thank you. We thank Jay, Aimee, Jeremy, Garrett, Jim, Kelly and Chris for being there for our son during those very difficult times that he was going through. In your own ways, you provided our son with useful advice and direction that was taken from your own unique life experiences. Thank you.
Ironwood has done so much for our family. We have learned the importance of maintaining supportive, cohesive relationships within our family. We understand the importance of being open with each other, without being judgmental. And we learned that help for our family is only a phone call away.
Through the dedication and efforts of all of the staff at Ironwood, we have our son back. Thank you for helping our son to gain control of his life and to look forward to a great future. Andrew has bonded through this program with several members of the staff and the residents. They have shared an experience that our son will keep with him for a very long time. Thanks to all of you!
A high school guidance counselor recalls the drastic measures she took in order to get her daughter back from the brink of disaster. Read more…
As a high school guidance counselor, I realized how serious my daughter’s problems were. She was self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, stealing from her family, running away, skipping school and lying. She was also physically and verbally abusive to family members. The anti-depressants and counseling were not working for Shelby and our family was in turmoil. I knew Shelby was in deep depression and I was afraid she would harm herself.
What had happened to my daughter? She had great friends, a supportive family and did well in school. She was involved in sports, gymnastics, chorus, band and drama. She loved to ride horses and had a smile that would light up the room and a laugh that was contagious.
My husband and I realized that we needed to take drastic measures. I spent hours and hours researching residential treatment facilities and found Ironwood to be the best fit for Shelby. I spoke to several people at Ironwood and felt that they really did understand what I was going through and that they could help. They also understood the severity of the situation and the need to get her there as soon as possible.
I will never forget the morning that the transportation service came to take her to Ironwood. It was 5:30 a.m. Shelby awoke to find two strangers in her room telling her they were going to take her away to get some help. She screamed, yelled and threatened to hurt them. I remember calmly telling her I loved her and walking away into another room and crying so hard I didn’t think I would be able to breathe again.
After she left, my husband and I just held each other and tried to believe that things would get better. Loraine, from the transportation service, kept us informed throughout Shelby’s journey. I was so grateful that she was both compassionate and a professional.
Over the last several months while Shelby has been at Ironwood, I have seen a transformation in my daughter that I thought would not be possible. She has become a leader, a mentor, and she is happy! Not only am I proud of her, but more importantly, she is proud of herself. She understands that she has worked hard to get to where she is. I am confident that Ironwood has taught her the skills necessary for her to be successful.
The caring and professional staff at Ironwood makes Ironwood what it is. I have each and every staff member to thank for my daughter’s success. They are very skilled and professional and each has been able to help Shelby in their own unique way.
In particular, I wish to thank Donna for all that she has done for my daughter and my family. She has been my lifeline to my daughter and is very knowledgeable, supportive and caring. She has been there to help our family through all of this and to encourage Shelby to be the best she can be.
I will close with a quote that I had written when Shelby was five-years-old.
“If I hadn’t had children, I probably would have had more money and material things. I probably would have gone more places, gotten more sleep and pampered myself more. As a result of being a parent, I have laughed harder and cried more often, but somehow, I’ve had more fun. My children are without a doubt the greatest happening in my life and I am forever thankful for each day I am able to share with them.”
I would like to thank each and every staff member at Ironwood for giving me my daughter back!