Little Things Promote Big Changes at Ironwood Maine
Since April, Ironwood Maine has committed to making formative changes in the structure and programming of its Mid-Coast Maine residential treatment program for adolescents.
While many changes have already been implemented, perhaps the most notable and noticeable will occur in July, as the program will move on from its color-coded level system to a more therapeutic model of care. The young people at Ironwood will receive new gear to signify this change in philosophy and approach. The color system was a remnant of the past history of Ironwood, dating back to opening day in 2006. Over time, clinicians have seen that the uniform colors eclipse the real therapeutic goals of their clients. The color system was an outdated “behavior modification system of care” and is a change the new leadership was eager to make. As Ironwood moves to a Collaborative Problem Solving model, little changes signify a sea-change in their therapeutic care.
The leadership team has worked hard on adding choice in many areas of the program to give students a sense of empowerment and individuation. As a result, there is a greater emphasis on treatment goals versus feelings of shame and discouragement accompanying the one-size-fits-all approach. For example, students can choose their hairstyle, bring some personal items from home, and are encouraged to have a voice in developing their goals and treatment plans.
The first Ironwood student council was formed in May. Students have reported feeling valued and heard. When asked which change has had the most impact on them, a majority said the choice in haircut and style has been important to them.
Ironwood has adopted trauma-informed and evidence-based interventions and uses outcome studies to evaluate progress. The clinically-based therapeutic approaches empower residents and staff to engage in a validating and solution-focused process to problem-solving. Providing choices while maintaining expectations creates personal accountability and fosters long-term change.
“It has been an honor to be a part of Ironwood’s transformation and witness firsthand how empowerment and collaboration can impact a student’s experience and growth. Our team is not done! We remain committed and excited to continue to improve our program and outcomes for our students and families.” ~ Megan Ryan, Executive Director
“There are few feelings, working in this industry, that can compare to taking an idea and following it through the planning, training, and implementation stages to then see it have a positive impact on the treatment of the individual and, ultimately, the culture of the program. The therapeutic approaches that we have implemented have stimulated more growth and significantly decreased the amount of time spent on staff interventions and have stimulated conversations and even more new ideas that have kept the excitement and progress moving forward.” – Matt Hendry, Clinical Director
Located on Maine’s beautiful mid-coast, Ironwood Maine is a licensed residential mental health treatment program and fully accredited school designed specifically for adolescents, ages 13-17. Our 9-12-month program offers intensive therapy along with customized and accredited academics via three interconnected programs focused on stabilization and assessment, treatment, and transition. Ironwood’s program structure and therapeutic modalities include equine-assisted therapy, outdoor experiential learning, family therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and more.