RISK-y business

Steamboat Mental Health uses outdoor adventures to support teen programs

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— Eight troubled teens needing support in family and peer relationships soon may have the opportunity to be confident in both areas after the Turns for Teens event Saturday.

Snowboarders, skiers or telemarkers willing to raise money for the Steamboat Mental Health youth programs will help give confidence to children needing to step out of the comfort zone, find trust and help find themselves.

"Things don't immediately change, but (the activities) are little steps," said Deb Hutson, licensed clinical social worker and event coordinator at Steamboat Mental Health.

R.I.S.K., Reaching an Identity through Self-Knowledge, is a combination of risk adventures and group therapy to achieve group goals. The program will include activities, such as rock climbing, learning a ropes course, mountain biking and kayaking, among others, and group discussions and activities.

Although receiving negative criticisms from other teens can be a large obstacle to overcome, positive attributes from others also can be uncomfortable for some teens. During the 10-day trip over a six-week period during the summer, the mental health clinic hopes that teens will learn to accept compliments and criticisms, increase their communication skills with parents and peers and demonstrate a sense of control and identify sources of personal strength and limitations, to name a few.

Adolescents have identity issues: They have a need to express themselves and they have a lot of confusion they don't know how to manage, said Carla Portigal, licensed clinical social worker with Steamboat Mental Health.

Hutson said the learning to push their personal limits is a major step in the ropes course.

"You realize when you're standing up there, 'I'm scared to death,'" Hutson said. "Kids that pushed through their anxiety felt great. Others that said no, realized they can say no."

Most of last year's R.I.S.K. trip will be identical to this year's, however, Hutson said the group therapy will be more intense because more experienced therapists will participate.

During the course of the six-week program, therapists will meet with parents to discuss the progress of a child's emotional and behavioral development. While high school students are difficult to lure, Hutson said the program targets middle school-age students. Although any teen is welcome, even those who don't need mental health assistance can attend.

Colleen Treanor is one such child. Although Treanor is in good mental health, Hutson said her mother, a therapist at Steamboat Mental Health, wanted her to participate in the activities.

"It was pretty fun, but I didn't like the kayaking or mountain biking," Treanor said.

For one of the more meditative quiet activities, Treanor said it was pretty weird.

"We learned how to center ourselves. We closed our eyes and had to concentrate really hard," Treanor said.

Although the total cost of the six-week excursion is about $1,525, all the money raised at Turns for Teens will be directed toward the cost of activities to benefit the eight children. Last year's $300 cost may be reduced or increased according to the money raised, Hutson said.

Last year, the Lyon's Club sponsored a teen and Hutson hopes this year, the good will of many others will spread.

Hutson said she has seen children mature a little bit and their self-esteem heighten.

"They learn a lot more about themselves and how they relate to their friends," Hutson said.

"It's a lot more intense if you can get a good solid team going," Hutson said. "We help them build social skills. How a group works and how to build a team."

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