Ironwood Maine Resident Testimonial – N., Age 17

Ironwood has given me the opportunity to start my life over and rebuild my family.  I have been able to take a long, hard look at myself and my past, and reflect on the way I treated my parents and myself.  I have discovered that I am worthy of happiness, and a future of positivity.  I am in control of my actions, behavior, and attitude towards life.  I’ve learned to laugh every day, appreciate all that I have, and cherish memories with the people I love.  My family has placed me here to challenge myself, re-evaluate my values, and live in a safe environment, where I can no longer self-destruct.  At home, during a lifestyle that now disturbs me, I was a depressed, verbally abusive, and drug-fueled teenager with no respect for my parents and the people who love me the most.  Now, I cannot even picture myself living the way I was, and I cannot imagine that I would ever live like that again.  I caused incredible pain to my family, and they deserved none of it.

When I first arrived at Ironwood, I had nothing nice to say about anyone or anything.  “I hate the food, I hate the kids, I hate the staff, there is no help for me here,” I would say to myself.  After the acceptance started to crawl into my life, I began to invest and fully commit to the program.  Slowly, as I became more comfortable, my life felt like it was finally betting back on track.  My interest in education was regained.  Miss Kathy inspired me to take school seriously again.  She lit an academic fire within me, and I was motivated to work hard, focus, and hopefully finish high school here.  At home, it felt impossible to sit through a day of learning. I was irritated, distracted, truant, and my effort was non-existent.  After I started to abuse drugs and alcohol, I would rather stay home and drink or use alone than set myself up for a successful future.  It became my one reliable friend.

I had blown away all my other real friendships.  I no longer cared for them.  I was unreliable and couldn’t maintain or even obtain healthy relationships.  I plan to work on developing social skills that have been absent from my life for so long.  I wish to create connections with staff and peers, so when I go home, I can surround myself with positive influences.

Having my freedom, the ability to go where ever I want, and do whatever I want, my privilege, and possessions taken away from me made me realize how much I have taken for granted, and how lucky and blessed I actually am.  I have learned that when I abuse these luxuries, they can be taken away from me overnight, and they were.  And it’s the greatest thing that could have happened to me.  I now have a deeper appreciation for the things in life that I actually need, and not what I desire.

Having to finally deal with myself and my emotions was extremely difficult for me.  I had gotten so used to not feeling like myself, and forgotten who I actually am, and what it’s like to live in a clear reality. Being separated from my family was something I have never experienced before and made me feel things I had never known.  I was placed in an environment where there are consequences for my actions, and I finally care that my wrongdoings matter, and can actually affect me and the people around me.

I have isolated myself so long that it’s been difficult to open up to people, express my feelings, and experience trust.

Something I have never done is given myself credit for my accomplishments.  I haven’t appreciated myself and the growth that I’ve made.  In level three, I plan to change the way I treat myself, and have more respect for my capabilities and compassion for others. I would like to explore the leadership qualities that lay deep within me and incorporate them into my life.  A leader isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right and identify when something is wrong.

Whenever I have been asked what I want to do or be in my future, I’ve always shrugged my shoulders and let out an: “I don’t know.  I don’t have to worry about that yet.  I’m just a kid.”  Well, I have recently realized that adulthood is close enough to where I should start tossing ideas around.  I can’t avoid it forever.  I have to make my parents proud.  I hope I’m able to sit down and talk to my parents, have a conversation, express my emotions, and work through problems.  This is something we have never been able to do, and we will have to push through unpleasant barriers to get there.

When I look back, when I’m old and wrinkled, Ironwood will just be another chapter in the book of my life, and this chapter, although challenging and uncomfortable, will make it possible for me to be happy for the rest of the story.

Ironwood Maine Resident Testimonial – J.

Thank you for this opportunity.  I had many challenges in my life at home.  There were many problems in my life.  I was truant in school, I had a bad attitude, and I used to get super rude and disrespectful to my parents.  I suffered from anxiety and depression.  I was not contributing to my household.  All these factors led me to a needed and hopeful conclusion of arriving at Ironwood.  It’s obvious to me now that I needed some help.  I needed to change.  I discovered that I was becoming an abusive person.  I never wanted to believe it when my mom would tell me you’re going down the wrong path.  I would get angry and push it to the side.  Being in a structured, substance-free environment, I realized that she was right. I realized that I can change myself to have a good life, but where I was in a destructive, depressing place.  I understood that I had a bad attitude, work ethic, motivation, and ability to follow through.  It has been brought to my attention that I want to be better. That I want to get well.  That I have desire to act like a good person I am.

At Frye, I faced many, many challenges.  I remember my second family therapy session with Shawn feeling like my life was over, feeling like my life was messed up to the point of no recovery.  I remember feeling like I didn’t want to live any more. I felt worthless and heartless, like a blob that was breathing.  Sadness was all I knew.  Sadness was all I thought I could feel.  I couldn’t make myself happy.  There was a change of mind that occurred from that time to when I started accepting the program.  I realized that I didn’t like the position that I was in and that the only way to change the position I was in was to change my actions and attitude.  The thing that pushed me to this place was a lot of structure and consistency, my mom and dad not giving-in to my pleas made me understand that my only option was to do the program and try my best.  I felt challenged by everything at Frye.  I had trouble with authority, even though I didn’t want to admit it.  I had hard times focusing in school and on normal activities.  I experienced a lot of anxiety throughout the ins and outs of my days.  I struggled with a bad attitude.  I battled with being focused and present.  I had a hard time with being calm and staying focused on one task at a time. I struggled with staff redirection and being respectful.  I had to overcome these things, and this was hard work.  I rose above these things using coping skills.  Some of these were breathing, talking to staff, keeping myself busy, and doing my best in the present moment.  I learned many things at Frye.  I discovered that I am stronger than I thought I was.  I learned that respecting authority not only works better because it is the right thing to do.  From my experience I found out how to be a good leader.  I discovered how to gain trust and push through.  I accomplished making new friends and succeeding at my goals.  I realized how to be content in the moment and not to stress about the future.  I learned that happiness is a choice and that it is possible at all times.  I struggled with a bad attitude.  I had a “I’m done with Frye, there’s nothing more I can learn here” type attitude. That attitude on its own showed that I wasn’t ready.  I had to change my attitude and accept Frye.  I had to seek to learn something in every moment.  I had to try to be content in my circumstances, even though I did not like them.

There are going to be things that will be hard for me at the farm house.  I think that some of these things will be staying serious even when I want to joke around, knowing the time and place for fun, being present in the present moment, accomplishing one task at a time, keeping track of my items, slowing down, and being positive.  I am going to breathe deeply, engage in the present moment, utilize staff, slow down, try my best, and be aware of the time and place for things.  Some things that I want to gain from level three are being present and happy, earning trust and handling responsibility well, having a good work ethic, building good relationships, and letting go of all my anger, doing well in my junior year of high school, and being positive. I am looking forward to more freedom and a new setting.  I am excited for a new set of challenges and gaining more skills.  I am looking forward to being the best me that I can be.

Thank you for this opportunity.

Ironwood Resident Testimonial – C.

Good morning treatment team, I would like to start off by thanking you for inviting me to present to you today.  My stay at Frye was a long one.  I spent seven months dwelling on the past and getting angry about things I would not change. I was scared, because I didn’t want to leave Frye.  I got comfortable.  Then I start thinking about all of the great opportunities that come with moving up to level three.  Some of you might know about my passion for horses.  When I was told I was able to ride here, my eyes lit up and my heart started racing.  Riding was something that kept me out of trouble.  When my relationship with my dad started to falter, I started going to the barn less and less.  We didn’t communicate at all.  I started to get angry and started to ruin my health with self-destructive behavior.  I spent years working with the horses at my barn, but because I was so angry and defiant, I lost all of it.  I threw that part of my life away.  My dad and I drew farther apart and we couldn’t communicate without yelling.  Years of therapy didn’t help anything.  Within these past seven months, my dad and I have been able to have civilized conversations with each other.  We can talk to each other like adults.  The distance between us definitely helped.  We were both able to work on communication in a respectful manner. This helped me gain my confidence back. I started to open up, create strong relationships with the staff, and other girls at Frye.  After losing my color the first time, it opened my eyes. I didn’t know how much work still needed to be done.  I got way too comfortable in purple.  I didn’t care about my folder and often got agitated if people asked me about it. When I was orange for the second time, it really motivated me to start working on my purple folder.  I realized that if I wanted to move forward, I had to work on my folder and my attitude.  I feel like I have made a lot of progress in level two.  I can process difficult situations on my own.  I no longer rely on staff to help me deal with my problems.  I have made a lot of progress with emotional regulation during level two.  There’s still a lot more room for improvement, but I know I am capable of it.  This is going to be a big challenge for me, and I’m scared of change, but this is my chance to move forward, and I’m willing to take that chance.  Thank you for listening.

Ironwood Maine Parent Testimonial

Dear Sue and Wes-

After 8 months and two children at Ironwood, years of crisis, tears, hospitals, and more, it is only at Ironwood that we’ve begun to have hope again. We did all that we knew to do. We followed the right paths: the paved mental health road, the doctor’s advice, the medical model and the alternative, too. We used the court system when we had to and thought we’d exhausted our resources until their lives were literally on track to prison, homelessness or permanent psychiatric institutionalization.

Thinking the effort futile, I made one more run at an internet search and something was different in a keystroke this time because I found Parent’s Universal Resource Experts and Sue Scheff. That phone call brought me to you, Sue, and to Ironwood.

We aren’t out of the woods, we know this. We still have a long way to go to bring them home and guide their way to keep the boat upright. But along this terrifying journey, you’ve spoken softly, kindly, with knowledge and understanding. You’ve made arrangements for our kids when you weren’t sure you should be. You’ve provided us with expert therapy, therapists and behavior support staff. You’ve reached out for more resources, dug deep to find supports and provided us with help everywhere you could find it. There have been stunning facilities and grounds to support their wellness and change, also.

Some of the most important pieces of connection that you’ve given us at Ironwood are their therapist, Laura and the Parent Portal: there have been the most glorious pictures along this journey to make sure we could see them smile, see them work, cooperate, play, experience nature and life- free of distractions. We’ve been able to watch them change, literally through photography and their letters. We didn’t “lose” this time, we experienced it and began to heal in their pictures, our therapy, Family Weekends, and constant contact.

No parent ever wants to walk this crooked path, but if one has to, I will always refer them to Ironwood. We will never have enough words to express our gratitude to you for your services and support of our children and our family. I cannot say enough about our respect for Laura and how she supports our children, our family work and the complexity of the dynamics with their father, also. This is a unique situation and you all have provided us with equal respect and dignity in this process.

Thank you for what you are doing for families and children in crisis.
Thank you for your understanding and your compassion of our family and our crisis. We know you have choices about your residents: who you can and will serve. We are very grateful to have found your services at Ironwood and more grateful to have been given the opportunity to be served by the Ironwood team.

With the deepest sincerity,

Charlene​ & Jack

Ironwood Maine Parent Testimonial

Hi Wes and Sue,

Thank you for your congratulations! Yes, we think he is pretty amazing too! This is a long note, so I apologize in advance. I guess it is my own way of processing our profound Ironwood experience. Which I know we will continue to do for a very, very long time. You have both created an exceptional therapeutic program. Beyond our expectations.

We missed you last Friday. What an absolutely amazingly personal graduation ceremony. I wish every young person could have that experience. We are so thankful that our Alek was able to. I cried through most of it, as I imagine many parents do. Bill and I don’t know how to adequately express our thanks and gratitude for what Ironwood has given our son, as well as our whole family this year. Ironwood will hold a very special place in our hearts forever. I thank you for being here when I made that call just over a year ago. The work that is done at Ironwood is life changing. We have met so many wonderful people at Ironwood and you have shown what kind of positive change is possible with intensive therapeutic supports and guidance, structure and compassion. The reset our son received is nothing short of a miracle.

A year ago Alek was engaged in many unhealthy behaviors. He had not been following rules for quite some time, was lying on a daily basis, and his oppositional behavior was escalating to a point that was becoming scary. He was spending countless hours every day video gaming, and attempts to reign him in were not working. We had tried outpatient therapy and he would not engage. His school seemed only interested in pushing him through with passing academics. Years of asking for school services tailored to his emotional and social cognition needs went unanswered. His social skills were almost zero, and the only friends he had were just reinforcing his unhealthy habits. It was a true miracle he had not been hurt or hurt someone else, or got in trouble with the law. He had almost no self-esteem and little hope for his future. We didn’t know where to turn.

The week we brought Alek to Ironwood had been horrible. One night at the beginning of that week he had escalated at home and gave me a look of defiance that I had not seen before. His step-dad said to me, “we have to do something”. For months we had been looking at different wilderness programs, intensive Outward Bound programs, therapeutic schools, but I just hadn’t found the right match. When I asked Alek’s therapist what he suggested, he had no ideas. Alek wasn’t suicidal, and for most in mental health, that seems to be the criteria for anything “inpatient or residential”. We knew we were not going to give up on our son. So that fateful night, I got on my computer one more time and typed in “schools for struggling teens”. And that night, in our truly most desperate hour, Ironwood’s website popped up. I read through the site quickly, found Billy and said…”I’ve found it”. I am not sure why it had never come up before. Maybe it was because we were finally ready to do what we had been talking about for months. The rest is history. Alek enrolled less than a week after I found your website.

This past year incredible. A learning opportunity I wouldn’t change for anything. The first few months were really hard. I had to come to grips with what I had done. I had just left my son off with complete strangers! But I knew he was in good hands. My conversations with Sue reinforced what I had learned from the website. When I dropped Alek off, Molly gave me a tour of the campus and I was filled with hope. I met some of the students and my first thought was that these were kids he would be able to relate to. Alek had real struggles those first few months for sure. And to be honest, we were not sure it was working until about five months in. There was still a lot of manipulation in both Alek’s letters and in our family therapy sessions. Both Nicole and Krissy Pozatek (who we hired for some parent coaching) were great at reassuring us that indeed progress was being made. We had come to trust them both and because of that we hung in there. We felt this was our last shot at making a difference and we firmly committed to giving it our all. Nicole and Krissy were so right! After Alek turned 18 and voluntarily signed himself in, he slowly began to take ownership of his own journey. The last two months or so were especially meaningful.

Everyone has worked so hard with him. He talks about staff with fondness, and I know so many have had a profound impact on him. During family weekends I observed many lighthearted moments with staff interacting with Alek and I could see true connection. We came to know more of the staff ourselves, and our own connection with Ironwood grew. Each visit I could see and feel the progress he was making. It was never easy to go home from those weekends without Alek, but I always left knowing he was well cared for both physically and emotionally.

Alek is so solid right now. His thinking is clear. He has developed abstract social skills and a much more advanced ability to perspective take. He can roll with the punches in a way I have never seen before. He is self-confident and optimistic about his future! He can see that he has the ability to be successful in many different areas. He is open to our suggestions and we have lighthearted, mature discussions. It all feels SO GOOD!!! I have no doubt he will make mistakes, but the difference now is that he accepts redirection quickly and without animosity. He has the ability now to learn from his mistakes and grow. He is willing to accept the boundaries and rules we have in place, and knows that as he moves forward and demonstrates his personal responsibility there will be more and more freedom. As Billy and I said yesterday, each good day is one in the bank of positivity and growth, another step in the right direction.

It is hard to explain his program to those who don’t have an understanding of a therapeutic school. The depth of what he (and our family) received is incredible. Ironwood was such a stretch for us financially, but it truly is a case of “you get what you pay for”. In our minds, it was worth every penny. The quality of your therapists, educators and staff is exceptional. The grounds and access to animals both large and small is amazing and that impact cannot be underestimated. Dr. Clemons psychiatric care was phenomenal. After years of struggling with medical management of Alek’s ADHD, we finally found a treatment that is helping him. I could go on and on.

I want to do a shout out to Nicole. She feels like a member of our family now. Her caring, strength, her professional expertise-she is one in a million! Alek finally knows what a good therapeutic relationship can do, and he has learned to trust.

Emmet made a connection with Alek early on in his program. Obviously Emmett is much more than a talented chef, he is an incredible mentor and coach. And now Alek wants to explore the culinary world himself!

Joy and her equine magic. We had the opportunity to participate in EAP and it WAS MAGICAL. We all had a profound experience and came away with some incredible insights.

Molly was so professional, caring and kind as we slugged through the evaluation process and developing a new IEP. And then she developed Alek’s extension program, which I know was a lot of extra work. That was another positive just when Alek needed it. Alek really felt she was someone in his corner. I am so sad I did not have the opportunity to say goodbye to her in person.

Alek talked often of the lessons he learned from Darrin. More than things Darrin taught Alek, his model of caring was something that Alek said he hopes to emulate.

There were so many other staff members that Alek mentioned, and I don’t know their names. Suffice it to say, he made a lot of connections with MANY caring staff. Once he could let himself feel their care, he began to soar.

We (our whole family) are here to help other families however we can. I know Alek wants to return to mentor (and have lunch with Nicole!). Billy and I are always happy to talk with prospective families, or any families that may be struggling especially in those first few months. We have been there for sure.

Thank you again. Alek’s life, and our life as a family have taken a 180. This is the life I always envisioned for my son. One where he feels his inner strength and autonomy. Today is an amazing day and I know there are many more ahead for him and for us.

All our best to you both and the whole Ironwood team!!!!

Carolynn, Bill and Alek