Woodbury Reports

The Pro's and Con's of a Therapeutic Experience Abroad

The advantages of cultural immersion in a therapeutic environment abroad, to concerns of how risks are minimized, and the specifics parents should do to make a placement with a successful outcome.


Bonners Ferry, ID -- (SBWIRE) -- 06/14/2012 -- Today’s guests on Parent Choices for Struggling Teens included Heather Tracy, Executive Director and one of the founders of New Summit Academy Costa Rica; Karen Nelson, Executive Director and Clinical Director of Coral Reef Academy in Samoa and Bryan Marks, a former student of Coral Reef Academy and currently the Intake Coordinator and Admissions at Coral Reef, discussing the pro’s and con’s of students attending schools and therapeutic programs abroad. When asked what the therapeutic benefits of special programs abroad had to offer, all three guests agreed that students are given the opportunity to live “an experientially way” to see how others live and to immerse themselves in a different culture with a whole set of different values. They get beyond seeing things in their own “immediate world of IPods and I Phones” and learn to focus on the “community” rather than themselves, or as Lon stated “more of a world view.”

As part of this daily immergence, students participate in community service and learn that the “local people” live quite happily with less and that relationships are prioritized. “The focus is shifted to collaboration rather than competition” and quality time with family members (such as Costa Rican locals) allow the students to become comfortable with diversity, which they will carry with them when they return to the US.

Brian shared his personal experience of feeling homesick and missing the “normal” teenage things like prom and graduation, yet being far away also gave him the opportunity to miss doing those things, which he may have missed altogether considering the path he was on. “I did get the opportunity to get healthy and to fill myself with things I learned, though.” So, eventually the pros outweigh the cons.

To minimize the risks of enrolling a student in a “seedy program abroad” there are precautions parents can and should take. Number one- parents need to ask questions and educate themselves on the different rules and policies of the other countries, specifically on immigration and child welfare, the need for a visa, what happens if their child gets into legal trouble, where is the nearest American Embassy and airport? What medical services in the country are available and what are the health risks in that country? What are the program policies for medical care, and making sure to ask about the credentials of the programs therapists and clinicians. All information about the program and staff needs to be transparent.

In order to keep the families involved and work on rebuilding the unity, programs abroad depend on working with family members through phone calls, video calls and Skype, letters and emails. Family visits are encouraged in addition to family workshops that are offered. All agreed that a huge emphasis on communication is the key.

When asked how these programs work on re-integrating the students back to the states and reduce the stress of returning home, both Heather and Karen explained that students work on transition planning and goals when it is the appropriate time before returning. “We want them to be proud of their experiences here, to leave with a sense of pride. The journey they have completed in these countries abroad is something their peers in the states will never get to experience.”

To listen to the full interview on Pros and Cons of a Therapeutic Experience Abroad on LATalkRadio go to http://www.latalkradio.com/Players/Lon-052112.shtml.

Lon Woodbury is the owner/founder of Woodbury Reports Inc. and www.strugglingteens.com. He has worked with families and struggling teens since 1984 and is the host of Parent Choices for Struggling Teens on LATalkRadio Mondays at 12:00pm, Pacific Time, Channel One.

Heather Tracy is the Executive Director and co-founder of New Summit Academy Costa Rica. She is a psychologists and educator who has been working with at-risk adolescents for the past 12 years. Ms. Tracy has a Master’s in Education in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard Graduate School and is currently pursuing her doctorate degree. Having lived in Costa Rica for the past 11 years, Heather believes that cultural immersion is one way to reach bright, creative, non-traditional learners.

Karen Nelson is the Executive Director and Clinical Director at Coral Reef Academy in Samoa. Karen graduated with a B.A. degree from the Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas in 1988 and after a 2 year stint with the US Peace Corps, she returned to the University of Houston, Texas where she completed her Master's degree and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. During her years of clinical work, she has supervised and taught Master's and Doctoral level therapists at various stages of training. Prior to joining Coral Reef Academy, she was lecturing at the National University of Samoa.

Bryan Marks is the Intake Coordinator and Admissions staff at Coral Reef Academy in Samoa. Bryan, also a graduate of Coral Reef, is able to work with students and their families at the time of admission, coming from a point of care and understanding as a former graduate himself.

This segment was sponsored by Spring Ridge Academy, 928-632-4602, http://www.springridgeacademy.com, a Therapeutic Boarding School for Girls in Arizona.

Woodbury Reports was founded in November 1989, by Lon Woodbury, MA, IECA, CEP, as an Independent Educational Consulting firm to help parents of teens making poor decisions select a private, parent choice program that would help return the family to normalcy. Through interviews with parents, communication with professionals who know your child well, and then thoroughly researching viable options, we can help parents make the right choices that will help your child get back on the right path.

For more information about Woodbury Reports Inc., call 208-267-5550, or email to lon@woodbury.com, or visit the web site http://www.strugglingteens.com.