Every student at MA participates in individual, group and family psycho-therapies, which are seamlessly integrated into daily campus life. MA invests heavily (in staff and time) to put these encounters at the heart of each student’s ranch experience, because they (a) mitigate or eliminate psychological obstacles in the way of a student’s maturation; and (b) promote the close relationships within which maturation takes place.
Each team’s therapist provides most psychotherapy for team students and families. The mix (e.g., individual vs family) and the clinical emphasis changes as students move through the clan sequence. At the start (Earth) the scheduled hours are devoted to building a relationship with a new student. At the beginning, parents talk with sons or daughters to learn how their lives are sorting out, what friends they are making, how their classes are going, and to sustain the treatment. Early on, parents may have private talks with the therapist.
Later, when a new student is ready to work (Moon clan), the therapy hours become explorations of history and past relationships, present thinking and strong feelings, and future ambitions. Family struggles are put on hold while students and therapists explore personal worries, traumatic memories, conflicts, griefs, humiliations, remorse, self-doubt, or the disruptive feelings still associated with divorce, adoption, addiction, academic failures, sexual assault, inadequacy, or romantic problems.
When students become ready (Sun clan), the emphasis shifts again–to relationships, particularly family relation-ships. Scheduled therapy hours then concentrate upon a review and a renegotiation (if need be) of parent or sibling relationships.
From the start, students participate in groups five days each week. Four of these are team group meetings in which students talk with one another and with team staff about current and past events and relationships, about feelings, hopes, dreams, goals and plans. In these groups students learn to listen, to speak honestly and frankly, albeit tactfully, about personal matters, about thoughts and feelings. In groups students discover what impact they have upon others, hear how others feel and think, and discover that they are not alone. Team groups create a culture in which considerate, honest conversation routinely takes place. Social skills are sharpened, support offered and accepted.
The team’s clinical supervisor, who leads each student’s treatment team, is also responsible for the treatment plan, which guides the team staff’s concerted effort. The therapist spends five or six hours each week in therapeutic conversations with each student. In addition, the therapist shares meals in the dining hall, plays with students on the volleyball court or sings with them around a campfire. Therapists and students listen to each other’s words in dorm and community meetings, during phone calls with parents and in conversations in a lodge lounge. These therapist-student relationships become close and intense. It is within these relationships that recognition and limit-setting powerfully influence the course of maturation.