All Kinds of News for February 14, 2018
Onward Transitions is excited to share about its own growth and development since launching April 2016; there have been several lessons learned. "When we started planning for Onward Transitions, I advocated fiercely for a limit of eight participants," recounts co-founder Darrell Fraize, MEd, LCPC, LADC. "It was like I always was working with a group of eight: coaching basketball, facilitating a group on a ropes course, guiding in the wilderness, even teaching a graduate course. I had a group of eight as a therapist in residential treatment, eight in my caseload as a wilderness therapist. I even had eight clients in my specialized private practice focused on transition to traditional environments. Like they say, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail." Evolving and changing is what Onward Transitions has had to do as an organization and it is what they ask their members to do.
With the idea of eight members, "we found we had difficulty at times finding that critical mass. In residential and educational environments people more or less have to show up at a given time. The structure is such that their days are programmed around that event. What we had created with Onward Transitions was something different. Our members might have to work, go to a study group, have family in town or be involved in a volunteer opportunity. When our group was smaller, it was harder to secure the “critical mass” you’d like to have to bring a group activity or group therapy to life," Fraize reports. "Now that we have more space, more staff members we can support more members, and more importantly, provide members with a larger space to convene in for therapeutic work, life skill development and recreation. They will tell you themselves that most times they are more likely to show up for things if they know that others are showing up too. That's an important feature to our culture."
With the opening of the Hay Loft, Onward Transitions now operates out of two distinct locations in Portland, ME. The original Pine House location provides that home-away-from home feel and is a short walk to the University of Southern Maine campus. The Hay Loft serves as a larger-scale group meeting place and staging area for forays into the downtown/Old-Port/Arts District center of the city.
"I had a hard time letting go of the number eight," Fraize begins "and some of our members had a hard time thinking about going to the Hay Loft at all. They worried we might let go of the Pine House, and that kind of change was scary to think about. What they found though was that they really embraced the additional space, and could laugh about it during a group meeting when we talked about the change. Now some of those same members are talking about how we should move particular meetings over to the Hay instead of the Pine House." Currently Onward Transitions supports 14 members (and 9 staff including three therapists and an art therapy intern) and has seen an increase in drop-in use of program services and greater participation in scheduled activities and events like the skiing trip last week featured below.
"We know what research has been telling us since the 90's – that among the predictors of group participation success are safety, relationship with the facilitator and prior experience and success with group work. What we forgot about in our design process is that no one wants to feel like a single fish swimming in a pond alone. Our members want our attention, but what they want more is to avoid being the sole focus of it. They don't like the feeling of the entire staff dragging their lines in the water trying to hook them. Having a stocked pond helps them feel like they're back to swimming in the mainstream. When everyone, particularly one's peer group, is doing 'a thing' it's more natural. This kind of groupthink can be good or bad. Here in our small world, it's looking like a really good thing," said Fraize, reflecting on the growth and development of Onward Transitions.
About Onward Transitions
Onward Transitions is a comprehensive, non-residential living service that supports emerging adults ages 18-29 living independently in the neighborhood of their choice in Portland, Maine. Our members choose and live in their own apartment from day one. They do not ever live with us. Members' challenges include anxiety, depression, executive functioning and meeting the requirements of moving towards independence.