Anecdotes from the data—Reflections from parents and alumni after three years

Posted by Katie Massey, Research Director on December 16, 2014

Katie MasseyAt Second Nature we have been conducting a longitudinal outcome study, and I am currently in the middle of following up with almost 500 of those participants. In the context of wilderness therapy and residential treatment, a three-year follow-up is unprecedented and will offer incredible insights into the effectiveness of wilderness programs. Those insights are still underway, as we are just halfway through this last follow-up. What I have been itching to share though, are the reflections I am hearing from alumni and parents.

After three years of perspective and reflection, parents tend to talk about how productive their children are, how proud they are of the child’s growth, and how relationships have been repaired. Alumni are in college, working, and engaged in positive relationships. Many parents report that their child may still be struggling in various areas, but by and large, parents cite that there is respect and warmth in their relationship again. From alumni, I hear gratitude, and… wait for it…. many of them want to work at Second Nature in the future!

I am going to leave you with excerpts of their words. As a researcher, I must also add the disclaimer that not all stories are gushing warm and fuzzies. Many are messy, long roads. While we know that most participants make major gains in our program and maintain them up to 18 months post-discharge (learn more here), we also know that 100% of clients do not see this success. This is exactly the reason for doing such research – to better understand who this intervention works best for.

Specific details were omitted and all pronouns made feminine in order to protect confidentiality.

Reflections from Parents

  • Things had gotten so very dark for her, and for our family. Given that context, it feels a little surreal to report that she just started her freshman year at the University, where so far she seems to be thriving. While we know she will encounter the ups and downs of college life (and beyond), we as parents feel relaxed, and confident that she has gained the tools, insight, strength, and self-awareness she’ll need to deal with obstacles.
  • She is doing great. She is in her senior year. ….. She is happy and doing well with maintaining stable positive relationships. She is a completely different person. We are eternally grateful to Second Nature for helping to turn our daughter around!
  • She is doing great, playing on 3 intermural teams, and studying to become a social worker.
  • She is currently away at school where she is studying Forestry (she obviously loved her experience at Second Nature).
  • She is doing amazing. She is currently working in her second year and loves what she is doing. We are so proud of her and her choices. She seems to have found her way.
  • She is truly doing amazing. She is 2 ½ years sober and is leading a healthy life. We are so proud of her and all she has worked through.
  • She is doing well but it was a very challenging road. We and even she agrees that Second Nature might have saved her life. We will forever be grateful and it was the best investment we ever made into her future.
  • I think it is great that people like 2N are truly interested as to how their work affects others!
  • She will graduate on time even though she started a semester late.…..We are very optimistic that she has a bright future and a lot of choices in front of her.
  • The last three years have been up and down but she’s finally getting it. She’s working while trying to determine what she wants to do long term.
  • She speaks fondly of Second Nature and would love to work there someday.
  • She’s doing fantastic and is now a Sophomore – grades are her focus this semester!! We have a great relationship now… What a change – really didn’t think I would ever have this kind of a relationship! It’s not without it’s challenges but…we are really optimistic for her future.
  • She’s still struggling with anxiety but it’s much better.
  • She is doing awesome! She is living at home with us and it is truly a pleasure to have her here. She’s very responsible with school and work, follows our rules and curfew and has a host of good friends that we are glad to have her hang around with.
  • Three years and drug free. She is studying psychology, makes Deans list most semesters and I’ve heard her mention that she will be reaching out to you at Second Nature regarding the possibility of working with you next summer.

Reflections from Clients

  • Looking back at my last few years I have grown so much and have achieved more than I realize. Second Nature was the birthplace of my new life. My new life consists of adventure and success. It is a hard path but rewarding. I owe a sincere thank you to Second Nature for giving me a second chance and providing the tools to succeed. Looking back at my time in the Utah desert I realize those were some of the best times in my life. I learned life lessons and key communication skills that I use today. I enjoyed hiking that endless desert and learning survival skills that not many people know about. I long to return to that mystical desert to learn more about myself and this vast land we live on. I want to let Second Nature know that what they are doing is very much appreciated and has changed my life for the better.
  • I am a Senior at the University. I am planning to pursue a graduate degree starting next Fall. Things are going quite well!
  • Second Nature essentially saved my life and I couldn’t be more grateful.
  • I always say that Second Nature changed my life more than anything else.
  • My most significant life change occurred through Second Nature….I would have never been able to do the work I am doing now without the tools I learned in wilderness.
  • Things are going great! I’m currently studying abroad for my senior year on a scholarship.
  • I still look at both Second Nature and Utah with great fondness, and have recommended your program to many friends.


For the Parent entries, are there any responses for male clients? Or should I interpret “she” as in at least some instances referring to “he”?

Posted by Peter Ewing

Yes, there are multiple responses from parents of male clients. In fact, since about 2/3 of our clients are male, most of these responses are from parents of boys. I made all of the pronouns female simply to de-identify the comments as much as possible.

Posted by Katie

Post your comment