Closing the Post-Treatment Gap: Showing Up for Teens When They Need it Most with Dave Herz and Willow Rubin

Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Closing the Post-Treatment Gap: Showing Up for Teens When They Need it Most with Dave Herz and Willow Rubin

Ask any parent what it’s like to know your teen or young-adult child is coming home from drug treatment and you’ll see a very frightened, confused, and anxious person. It’s a highly vulnerable time for the child and a hopeful, yet confusing and terrifying time for parents and caregivers. Wonder, co-founded by Dave Herz and Willow Rubin is a unique program closing that gap in care, role-modeling, support, and expertise when it’s needed most. 

This was such an enlightening and hopeful conversation with two people who have played many roles in the treatment and therapeutic world and I’m so grateful for them sharing their knowledge and insights with us. You’ll hear about:

  • How Dave & Willow noticed a gap in traditional treatment for teens and young adults and then developed a therapy service that fills it
  • What teens and young adults actually want most from their parents
  • What Dave describes as “warrior work” for parents and why it’s the hardest thing to do
  • How meeting kids where they are (aka, not in a therapist office) is such an important part of their success
  • Their philosophy of “we show up,” what it takes to deliver on it, and what that looks like vs traditional models
  • Why they provide separate coaches for parents and teens/young adults to meet their different needs
  • How they work with parents to help them stop enabling destructive behavior and recognize their own needs and boundaries
  • The uncomfortable reality that we as parents don’t have control over what our kids do – but how we can still help them
  • The difference between loving unconditionally and enabling
  • Why it’s important for parents to be held accountable – as well as their kids 
  • Why parents shouldn’t focus on future outcomes and spend time in “future thinking”
  • How kids don’t make their decisions based on the future like adults often do
  • What they’re seeing today related to the opioid epidemic
  • The role of energy and creativity in their therapeutic model
  • Why things may be getting better with your kid even if their behavior isn’t changing, and how to tell


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Brenda  00:02
Willow and Dave, I am so thankful for you to be here today. Welcome to hope stream.
Dave  00:10
Thanks. Happy to be here.
Brenda  00:13
Great. Well before we dive into all of the great things that you guys do and, and talking about all kinds of treatment, I like to just start out with a fun question to let people get to know you. And that is we’ll start with Dave, what did you have for breakfast this morning?
Dave  00:32
What did I have for breakfast this morning? I had some eggs over easy on top of my leftover asparagus from dinner last night.
Brenda  00:43
Whoo. You do the leftover trick. Love it. That sounds good. What about you, Willow?
Willow  00:52
Um, well, funny enough. I had Dave’s English muffin. I don’t know if you know that bread, but it’s delicious. And I had that with a pre-made hard boiled egg.
Brenda Zane  01:05
Mm hmm. Do you do meal prepping? Is that was that the hard boiled?
Willow  01:09
No, I just broke down and got those already boiled eggs really make my life easier. 
Brenda  01:17
Right. Yeah, sometimes it’s just about that. Yeah. Awesome. Well, that sounds like a really good start to both of your days. So, Excellent. Well, I would love for you to just share with my listeners a little bit about yourselves First of all, sort of how you came to be doing what you’re doing and then your work at wonder and the approach that that you guys take with your clients?
Dave  01:47
Well, my background is I’ve been I’ve been doing this work for over 20 years and my background is I’m a former high school teacher many many years ago working with at risk teens and went back to get my therapy degree in was in private practice. And then in 2000 got into this line of work, which is community based aftercare. And originally we were working with lots and lots of kids coming back from therapeutic wilderness programs and residential treatment centers. And you know, start off wonders gone through a bunch of different iterations started off I was created a company called confident living, same model, which morphed into vive Family Support Program. And when that program sold in 2016, and will and I started wonder, a year later in 2017, so that’s a little bit of my background.
Willow  02:46
I have also been working in the field about 20 years and I really started in community based mental health, working for Boulder County and really getting a feel in a sense for the systemic approach of working with families and young people just knowing that the in order to treat people I think effectively you need to be involved with every aspect of their life ideally. So I’ve always had a passion for that and then it you know morphed into working with Dave it with Thrive for a little bit and then started Wonder.
Brenda  03:28
Awesome and I love the name. Can you tell me what’s what’s behind the name Wonder?
Dave  03:32
Well, we have a third founder, who’s part of our group and she came up with the name Wonder, and I don’t know how she came up with the name Wonder but we were doing a lot of brainstorming. And we didn’t you know, we didn’t really like it and a few months later, it’s circled around and it just resonated with us. And, and we went with it. 
Brenda  03:56
Nice. Well, it’s very – you know, what I like about it is just refreshing in a field that is full of sort of jargon and a lot of talk about treatment and, you know, some of the some of those things. So I just think it’s a really nice kind of departure from that.
Willow  04:12
Thank you. I think we wanted to capture that.
Brenda  04:16
Yeah, I’m a former marketing person too. So that might have something to do. I’m the weird person that analyzes it.
Dave  04:24
We had a one of our referral sources, or one of our educational consultants and when we came out with our new company, she bought us a plaque that she found that was hanging up in my wall now and it says, “Always be on the lookout for the presence of Wonder” by EB White. We love that.
Brenda  04:44
That’s awesome. That’s really cool. Cool. Well, and then why don’t you talk a little bit about how sort of what you do there. I see at least from you know, and I do a lot of research on on treatment programs and therapies and that but you’re approach seems pretty different. So maybe you can tell us a little bit about that your approach and the philosophy behind it.
Dave  05:06
You know, 20 years ago, we kind of started this approach for me, it was all around, how do we get, you know, I was working with a lot of kids, especially as a high school teacher, who were in therapy within four walls who were not getting enough out of it. And, or it wasn’t translating into the real world, or when they were in family therapy with that with their personal therapists, it just didn’t feel like they were feeling supported. And I just decided I wanted to get therapy out of the building into the real world. So it originally started with this philosophy of let’s get out there and build confidence through action, and let’s match the kids while I was just me at the time, but I am a therapist, but working with kids out in the real world, building confidence and sometimes that less talk less and do more, you know, it’s kind of like this very simplified, I don’t want to, let’s not talk about why you can’t get a job. Let’s just go, I’ll pick you up tomorrow. And we’ll go together, and then we’ll kind of deal with the fears as they come up. 
Dave  06:16
So it’s very much also predicated on is a very relational model. None of this works unless we, as you know, our coaches that want to really build relationships with the kids, so that they trust us. And then they’re willing to, you know, take some gentle pushing and take some risks with us. So that was all about if we can build confidence through action. Hopefully, they can build on themselves and the more successes, the more they can kind of get rolling. Now, what we kind of learned along the way, though, was that we needed the parents involved as well. Because if they were enabling, or not part of the solution, we weren’t very successful. So we kind of morphed over the years into a family program where we had coaches working with the kids, we have separate coaches working with the parents, and we were doing family work as well. But it really kind of started with, how do we be more successful through action?
Brenda  07:10
Hmm, that makes so much sense. I mean, it almost makes so much sense that you just go, Oh, why wouldn’t everybody do it that way?
Dave  07:19
Well, I think, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s hard. And it’s also a lot more time consuming. You know, our coaches are available to our kids around the clock, you know, in real time, so there’s a lot of texting in between sessions. It’s like having a really good friend who’s also a therapist and knows how to support so you have to be very, very available. You have to be willing to show up in a crisis. You know, our motto is we show up, whether that a text reply, or if it’s a big crisis, it’s like, I’m on my way. I’ll be there, you know, and we’ll go talk this out or whatever that is. So it definitely requires a higher level, have a time and comittment.
Willow  07:58
And the only thing I would add You know that that was our foundational just knowing of how best to engage our kids, but then the brain science started catching up with us to be able to say, like you just said, You know, I mean, of course, but the kids are way more engaged when they’re active, and they’re using their body and they’re walking, and they can access their emotional state in a way that is very difficult. I’m not saying no kids can, but most kids have a very young adults have a hard time accessing that deeper emotional understanding when you’re just talking and you’re not moving. So we kind of knew that and then research started validating what we knew, which was really great to see
Brenda  08:45
Yeah – well, it could be, you know, I think it’s intimidating even as an adult sometimes to sit in, in a therapist office, you know, just sitting there looking at each other and it I know from having I have four boys and so I know I don’t know about girls, I haven’t done any girls, but I do know boys tend to open up when you are not face to face. And maybe they’re side by side or yeah, like you said, you’re doing something. And, that is the real world. And I know from my son went to multiple treatment programs and every time he came home, back to the same environment, you know, and trying to sit like he was in wilderness therapy, and he did residential and then to come and sit and face to face with the therapist was just very odd, you know, from that coming from that other experience. Right? And so, what age group are you talking about mostly? Or are you working with mostly, is this is this people under 18? Or do you span, what’s kind of your age span?
Dave  09:49
We we work with both. So we’re about 50/50, under 18 and over 18 our kind of big ranges sixth grade or 12 up to about 20 I’d say probably 80% of the kids and young adults we work with are between 17 and 24. 
Brenda  10:09
Ok, so that is quite a range. And what do you see those differences being from some of the younger kids to the older ones, you know, the ones that are above, you know, 20 in that age, are they struggling with some of the same things? Or how does how does that look when they come to meet up with you?
Willow  10:30
Oh, it’s different developmentally you would, you know, most kids that we work with may have some developmental delays, but the younger ones are, you know, struggling with and this is not exclusive to them, but, you know, peer relationships and, you know, self confidence and being able to, you know, navigate their place outside of the home a little bit more. Whereas, you know, older, older kids and young adults are looking at individuation and also self confidence, but how we look at how they’re doing in those different kind of domains depends on, you know, their developmental tasks. So if a 16 year old is still really stuck in just basic kind of peer relationships, like for example, being heavily influenced by all his or her peers and not being able to have a voice and you know, lacking that self confidence, we would say, oh, that they might be operating more in the 13 year old range, and we have to meet them there in order to catch them up. So, we see differences but we also really look at the whole picture in terms of the continuum of where they are developmentally. 
Brenda  11:44
Are they typically, like you mentioned Dave, some are  transitioning out of a treatment program, are you also intersecting with these people, both in a actively using substances kind of mode, and also some who are now, you know, in recovery?
Dave  12:06
Yeah, so we work with all of the above. For a while, we kind of got into that. And we still, you know, we were with a lot of kids coming out of treatment, because we kind of got, at the time when we started getting into this work, there wasn’t a lot of aftercare. So we just kind of fell into that niche. But we love to work with kids and young adults on the front end as well. But one of the things I learned early on, especially with kids who are actively abusing substances, I mean, you already know this Brenda, but you know, when I was a young clinician, I thought I could save everybody. And that means that even if someone was, you know, actively abusing drugs, through this model of building confidence, we could get them off drugs, right quickly learned that that doesn’t work, they got to get clean first. So especially with kids who are abusing drugs, we you know, we do work better when they come back from treatment, whether it’s residential or IOP, but we have worked with some people families with kids who are abusing drugs on the front end, but very clear with the family that they need a higher level of care and through this one on one relationship with one of our coaches, if we can help get him or her there, then that’s what we’re going to do. But that’s really the only time we’ll work with front end before they go away to treatment if they’re actively abusing.
Brenda  13:24
Yeah, that’s, that’s sort of in a mentor relationship that sounds like to sort of help them. And I know, just from my experience, when my son was really actively using the problem, and a challenge for a parent is there, they really aren’t talking to you there at least. I know a lot of times and they don’t have a single, sober, positive person in their life, right and most often, so I think that’s really great. If you guys can provide somebody who can even if it’s just once a week, maybe I don’t know how you’re kind of your model works, but just to have one person who has a positive influence who might be able to connect with them. And you know, and see where that goes and help move them along. 
Dave  14:10
Exactly. And typically with kids are actively using words definitely meeting with them more than once a week, because we’re going into crisis a lot. And so we’re showing up a lot. I mean, I remember I had one kid who was actively using and, you know, long story short, the parents really, we really supported them to hold the boundaries and kind of let natural consequences take place. He stopped bailing him out. So he started, you know, getting in trouble with the law. And it ultimately came to where the judge said, you either go to treatment or you’re going to jail, and it’s not just the county jail. So I had this relationship though, because he didn’t want to talk to his parents and I just look up to you, man, but I am absolutely willing to drive you up to Harmony treatment program. And he’s like, yes, I got to do it. And so you know, to me, driving him up there dropping him off was a success. And I was glad I had the relationship so that someone could do that for him because I don’t think he would have let his parents do that for him at the time.
Brenda  15:09
Right? No, I agree. I think that’s that’s so crucial is to have that third party, because parents are too emotionally involved. And you’re too crazy and stressed out at the time to be able to be sort of rational and thoughtful and empathetic to what they’re going through. You mentioned, a couple of things I’d love to circle back to one is enabling and then boundaries. And what does that look like when you guys are working with parents? Because this is a topic that every single mom I talk to every single one without question says, I know I’m enabling. I think I’m enabling. I don’t know how not to what does that look like when you’re working with parents and how you help them recognize a if they are doing something that’s you know, enabling another In a detrimental way, and then how do you sort of help them hold boundaries with their with their kids?
Willow  16:07
I think we start with trying to help parents recognize what their own needs are and if they if what we might be considering enabling is really, of strong need for a parent that’s not getting met by just saying don’t enable your kid we’re missing, giving them a path of how not to do that. So it’s, we also apply this relational work to parents we, a lot of our parents are very educated around this information. They know a lot. They’ve been told a lot, but it’s hard for them to really connect with feeling empowered on how to make different choices. So just the same with the kids. We need to create some relationship and trust building with parents so they feel seen and understood into what might be stopping them. And some of the language that we use is, you know, we really don’t have control over what our what our kids do. This is the reality of life and parenting. And so once we start to help them be more reality based in what they what they can and can’t do, enabling sort of loses that power, I think, and it’s more about taking care of themselves. And also understanding that by showing unconditional love doesn’t mean you’re giving permission for your child to use or have any other maladaptive behaviors. It just means you can love them unconditionally and that’s not enabling.
Brenda  17:41
That’s so helpful because you’re right. I think a lot of times parents hear you know, don’t do that don’t enable them but no one’s saying instead you could do XYZ, which would be really helpful to know because you’re so desperate to do anything. That telling you what not to do is fine. But give me some alternatives or other ways to think about it is, would be great.
Dave  18:06
Yeah. And sometimes even in the moment, you know, as we’re our kids get this individual coach who’s available for them in real time and they meet, but also, you know, can text and email, you know, parents get a parent coach, who is a separate person on our team who is there for them. So, yes, they have a weekly call, but they can reach out to their parent coach whenever they need support as well because, you know, sometimes they need it in real time. need to check in. So it’s important that parents have their own support system to that they feel comfortable.
Brenda  18:41
Yeah, and the fact that those are two different people, you know, the one with the coach with the child versus the one with the parent seems really important because there is a little bit I would think, if I was the kid, I’d want to know this is my own person. This isn’t this person isn’t also trying to you know, influence my Parents, even though it’s all one team seems like that division would be really important.
Willow  19:07
It’s also a recognition that the parents are willing to do work to it’s not just about the kid changing, and then everything is okay. You know, it’s really systemic. And I’ve heard many kids say, it feels really good that my parents are also being held accountable. And it’s not just me that has to do all the work. Yeah,
Brenda  19:27
yeah. What do you hear? I just be curious. Like, I’d love to be a fly on the wall and some of those, those meetings, but what do you hear, you know, teens and adolescents say that they want the most from their parents or, you know, whatever. Maybe it’s not their parents. Maybe they have a different guardian relationship, but what is it that they want, right?
Willow  19:49
I would say that in many different ways. It shows up that the kids really want to be seen as they are and not how the parents wish that they were and that sounds, I know, very big, but it happened. I just in my supervision calls today it came up three times where, you know, parents fears around future of school and a lot of future thinking, which, you know, side note for the, for all of our kids, again, with their brains, that’s not really going to work for them, they don’t make their decisions based on the future like adults do. So you’re fundamentally, you know, creating a disconnect with your with your kid. That’s kind of just a side note, but what the kids are saying is, you know, I would like to be seen as I am right now, a lot of them have been through higher levels of care and they want they want their changes to be seen. Maybe not just behavior, behaviorly, but relationally. You know, I want my parents to look at me differently, and see what I went through. And that’s why we’re also really passionate note about what we do on the back end when kids are going home to be able to help facilitate that communication and help the kids find their voices with the parents and help educate parents in hearing what kids are communicating. In a way they may be missing. As hard as they’re trying to see and hear their kids. It there’s so much fear, you know, with for valid reasons. So we want to help interpret the communication so they can kind of see and hear their kids differently. 
Brenda  21:30
So the kids are saying, this is this is who I am, maybe they’ve been to wilderness or residential, and they really have made a lot of changes. And then they come home and they’re really just wanting their parents to see who they are. Then without layering on some expectations. Is that am I hearing that right? 
Willow  21:49
Mm hmm, well said. 
Dave  21:52
Which by the way, is much easier said than done. And that’s again, why I just feel like parents need a lot of support. I mean, you know, it’s the hardest thing in the world to see our kids struggle. And, you know, to meet them where they are and not judge them and put our fears on them is, in my opinion, warrior work. And and I think parents have to be acknowledged for that this is really hard, and it can be done.
Dave  22:21
Right. Right. With a lot of work and determination. 
Dave  22:25
Yeah, yeah. You said it.  So much work. I mean, it really, you know, yeah.
Brenda  22:32
And but, you know, on the other hand, you have to look at it and say, if I’m not willing to do this work, I’m, I’m actually in a way putting my child back at risk or continuing in that risk, because it’s, there’s as much as I know, parents feel disconnected with their kids when they’re struggling. They’re still they’re still that bond. And you know, if we cannot keep that healthy or try to get it repaired, Then that just puts the kid at so much more of an advantage to to have success long term. So from sort of a just practical standpoint, if, let’s say, kids gone to a wilderness program, and then they spent some months in a residential treatment program outside of their home state, which is often the case, and then they come home, I’ve often said, I want to start a foster system for these kids, because bringing into their home environment can be so challenging just because all the friends and the triggers and everything, but so from a practical standpoint, is that when you would, they would engage with you and sort of get this this team around them.
Dave  23:45
Yeah, I mean, 75% of the kids we work with are coming back from treatment. So we are that that aftercare step. So that’s exactly right. They certainly I mean, ideally, maybe a couple of weeks before they come home, were connecting with There are therapists in the program and parents are starting from parent support. So we have a solid kind of expectations when they come home. And then we absolutely started and our goal is to continue the work that’s been done in program and help the family implemented in the real world. Because in the real world is messy and there’s gonna be bumps and there’s going to be slip ups. And to have a someone there to support in real time that has the therapeutic background, and understands those programs can be very, very helpful.
Brenda  24:32
Especially that your mentors. Do you call them mentors or coaches? I want to make sure I’m using the right term.
Dave  24:40
That’s a long standing debate, Brenda. Yes, yes, either mentors. I go with coaches because there’s a lot of connotations with mentors, that they’re not therapists and they’re volunteers. But it’s just but we call them individua coaches. But we called them mentors for a long time.
Willow  25:02
We just had a breakthrough Brenda.
Brenda  25:07
Yeah, well and kids are probably a little bit more familiar with the coach nomenclature than then mentor, which might sound something like something old people do. But yeah, right. Yeah. Because there’s that there’s that safety net that I think they lose when they come home of somebody who’s cool. Imagine your people are really cool and are probably very, you know, like in culture, and they probably understand what’s going on. Whereas, you know, if they come home without that support, it’s like, well, there’s my old group of friends. I don’t have any good friends. So now Who am I gonna hang out with?
Dave  25:46
Exactly, yeah, you hit it right on the head. And it’s important that our individual coaches have that cool factor, and know how to relate and know how to show up and then you know, like, let’s go help you find some cool trends. Let’s let’s find some different avenues for you to meet some people that are going to be more supportive.
Brenda  26:02
Yeah. So what is the sort of the what is what is a great for you guys? What does a great coach look like from a experience standpoint, education standpoint? Like if I had my son coming home in a couple of weeks and I was like, ooh, that sounds interesting. What’s the kind of person that I would end up? You know, pairing up with my kids?
Willow  26:26
Well, I think are the best coaches for us have, you know, the foundational understanding of you know, all of the emotional struggles that we’re going to be looking at so that educationally, you know, all of our coaches have their Masters for that reason. But then so that’s just the ground but then after that, we when somebody has been creative, somebody worked at a summer camp, if somebody lives music, and that’s kind of their side gig, or they’ve been a sports coach. We kind of know that they instinctively want to be outside of the box and want to get creative with meeting kids where they are. And that’s who we attract. And that’s who when we find them, we really nurture them, and are really committed to keeping the coaches with us for as long as we can. Because it really does make a big difference when we find those people because they are special. And we know that and I think that’s what families feel also when they they meet their treatment teams there they can they can get a sense of that we’re all we’re all connected, you know, from Dave, to me to the rest of our leadership team. So really, the creative background that we find will be drawn to them. And then some of our coaches have worked in wilderness programs. And that of course, is a huge plus for us.
Brenda  27:52
Yeah, I think some of the we went out on a parent’s weekend in my son’s wilderness and I just thought what cool people these are, first of all that you want to hang out with my kid for nine weeks. And actually him plus five others, like, that’s amazing but, but just so you know, artistic but athletic and covered in tattoos and, you know, dreadlocks or whatever it was, it was so refreshing to see because I think when parents and kids to think about therapy, it’s such a kind of stigmatized word, or therapist. And so when I saw this really cool group of people, and I imagine yours are the same that it was just like, okay, maybe these are people that he could relate to, or she can relate to that that’s not a parent or traditional type of therapist.
Dave  28:47
Exactly, exactly. You really get what we do. And you’re exactly right. And you know, my hope is that a lot of these you know, not a lot but a good handful of kids that we work with, they develop a very tight bond with their coach. And even after the program is over, you know, they’re still they say connected in some ways. I mean, I’ve been to high school graduations college graduations, I’ve been to weddings for people that I’ve mentored. And, you know, I think there has to be that willing to, if you’re going to connect can be in a relational model, and you have to be willing to connect and that connection, can you ask a long time,
Brenda  29:24
and it’s so important for the kids because I think they do tend to get, at least, you know, by their peers, they can get sort of ostracized and oh, you’re the drug kid. And, you know, they really do end up alone. So having that having that bond is so important. I’m just I’m curious about the last few years as you know, the opioid epidemic has finally gotten some press and I think people unless you’ve been living under a rock have heard about it. Are you seeing changes in in kids, you know, either before or after. They see you or I’m just curious what that what the kind of landscape is looking like with more notoriety or not notoriety but more publicity out about the epidemic and in potentially education what what are you guys seeing?
Willow  30:16
Well, from our lens, we’re seeing the the back end. So not a lot of our the early intervention kids we’ve we have been seeing as much as you know, after they’ve had a lot of intense treatment. And so I can speak to the back end, you know, which, which is that systemic, like everything that we’ve talked about to this point of having to look at every domain in their life and having a real understanding of what it is like for them coming back to not just their peer group, but you know, their their family system, their school system, their vocational work, their exercise, every single part of that is comforting. And it is the accessibility and the this stigma around it has shifted a little bit. So I appreciate the question in that in that way that, you know, the the substance abuse professionals who are focusing on how best to understand the brain chemistry and all of these different factors that are coming out. I think they’re still look, they’re still looking at it. I don’t feel like there’s we’re over that hump. You know, I feel like we’re at the beginning of that and really understanding how best to bring kids home who have struggled. 
Willow  31:39
Yeah. And now with with COVID-19. What are your thoughts sort of longer term, maybe in the next year, two to three years what impact this might have on some of those people that have had some success or, you know, are in treatment? What do you think’s gonna be the some of the outtakes of this, this crazy time?
Willow  32:04
Well, one thing I think we noticed right away, which has always been a theme for us in terms of kids who are feeling more isolated, is that we had to quickly add but, but thoughtfully create opportunities for kids to connect with each other online. So, there’s one thing to get creative with our coaches, which we’ve done, you know, like, let’s go for a walk together, let’s do a scavenger hunt. Let’s do this art project together. Because we weren’t sitting and just talking with them before. That would be very strange for us just to have, you know, a zoom call staring at a kid. So we had to really think creatively, but one of the things that came up pretty quickly and strongly was the need for us to create groups and, and and do it with the same kind of spirit of connection and creativity. Those you know, those are our two main, I think goals. And so we’re at you know, we have a process group, an activity group where there might be skills around rock climbing, there’s a process group for parents, because parents tend to one process more. So we want to do what is helpful. And then, you know, we’re hoping to keep creating that we have somebody who makes music, and he’s trying to get it together where he can create a group with kids, you know, in front of their computers making music together. So I think the big picture again, is really not taking for granted that we have to meet this new I hate being this cliched, but this new normal, where it where we might be looking at kids needing to be engaged in a completely different way, but they still need to be engaged and they still need to be met with, you know, energy and creativity. And so that’s how just our little corner of the Wonder world is focusing on it. But I think a lot of people are doing a lot of good work around it too. So I like I’d like our mental health world to be really supportive of each other and figure out what’s working and share that with each other too.
Brenda  34:13
Yeah, yeah, that’s that does pose a challenge when your model is face to face. Work currently not supposed to be face to face. That’s quite a challenge. Yeah. And I know you have locations I don’t know how many but in many cities so how, how does that sort of benefit your teams and your clients to be really kind of geographically but also I would imagine culturally diverse.
Dave  34:42
It was always intentional that we want our whole thing is we want to be meeting with kids where we live so that we can show up face to face. Yes, we can have phone calls and now we can have zoom calls. But before the you know before the COVID crisis is about should be we’ll meet face to face, especially in a crisis, I want someone that can show up and be there. And also someone that understands that community and knows that community. So we’ve always believed that that’s how we want to do it or model we weren’t going to work with families long distance. So over the years, we’ve just opened up in different cities where we felt there was a need, and we could be successful. So that’s what we’ve done. So we can only work with families. I mean, we can only work with families that are in those cities where we are. Although with the COVID crisis, we are branching out a little bit since we’re doing Zoom anyway, and there’s been a few clinicians in some of our markets that have shown to be very exceptional over Zoom. So we are working a little bit long distance but in general, we’re a local program.
Brenda  35:50
Yeah, that’s super important. Do you ever have and I just know because I talk with so many parents and I experienced it myself that sometimes bringing a kid back to the city that In the town or wherever they are from is is actually dangerous as it was for my son, do you ever have a situation where maybe you have a kid that goes live lives with a relative in another city where you have a staff? And they work with them? Or how does that work?
Willow  36:17
We have done that, you know, with grandparents or aunts or, you know, other, just family support people, when that’s been recognized, I think in the referral process, if that is something that comes up, you know, we really do try and create the, the appropriate team around that kids. So we wouldn’t say, you know, we were enough if that’s been the assessment, that coming home to their environment that they grew up in would be dangerous or they’re not ready, we would support that process because sometimes parents and also referral sources need to hear that again, you know, from from us, like, would you work with them? Am I making sense right now. So in case he’s coming to us for an assessment, we would err on that side, you know, what are some other options for them, you know, in. And then if we know people, if we don’t happen to have a team there, you know, we would refer you to another team that we think could help in a different city, right?
Brenda  37:15
Because sometimes it’s just it isn’t safe, especially if they’re in, you know, gang involvement or drug dealing or something like that, but they would still really benefit from the model that you have of that personal connection would be would be great. Is there? Is there a question or scenario that you guys see all the time that like, if I could give you a billboard in downtown Colorado, or somewhere in Denver that you could answer a question once and for all? What would that be?
Willow  37:51
I think again, I mean, I’m obviously more on the clinical side of things, but for me, it would be you know, how do you know if they’re doing a Okay, if their behavior doesn’t change, because I often say we’re relational model, meaning we look at improved relationships as a sign that things are working, and that doesn’t always transfer into behavior relationships, and that’s a little bit different conversations with our substance abuse codes, I can recognize that. But fundamentally, when that question is, how do you know they’re doing well? And the answer is, do you feel better in your relationship? Do you feel that if your son or daughter is doing well right now, if that changes in the future, you have the skills and the ability to navigate that with them, and still show you unconditional love? And then when the answer is yes, then we know, that’s why we move from, from a relationship behavioral talk to a relational talk. 
Willow  38:50
That’s really good. Yeah, because you just you wish you wish, you could just crawl inside their heads, but you can’t. So that’s, that’s very good. Okay, Dave what would yours be?
Dave  39:01
Well, I think, I don’t know if this answers the question directly, but I think it’s the root of what we do with all of our kids. is we’re a competence building program. And we’re, you know, I think it’s a room in there somewhere as a lack of confidence and we have to build confidence. What it looks different with every every kid, some kids, you know, who are actively using that’s going to look different than maybe a kid who’s come out of treatment who’s now clean, is might look different to a kid who’s autistic or has nonverbal learning disorder or struggles socially or has anxiety and depression. We might work with all those kids a little bit differently in terms of what we do out in the real world. But underneath all that, it’s how do we build confidence? How do we help kids feel good about themselves? Because if we did, we can build on successes. They just build on each other. And eventually it’s, you know, I call it kind of the point of no return, they just can’t go back. So, we believe strongly in that.
Brenda  40:04
So your billboard would say confidence.
Dave  40:06
Brenda  40:08
I love it. I love it. Do you think I’m, I always hear and I am so excited to be able to ask two professionals this question I hear all the time, you know, behind all of this, the substance misuse and all that is, is usually trauma or some sort of, you know, something has happened. But I also see, and I agree day when the confidence thing is, is yes, there may be trauma, but do you find that there is usually a combination of those two, or do you see those as separate? Like, what’s that? What’s the real tell us the real deal behind? You know, the real deal behind the trauma and the confidence what’s the what’s the down-low?
Willow  40:54
I think it’s typically a combination, but you know, there’s this idea That like a lack of attunement with with your kid, you know when they’re younger can create trauma, there’s actual, you know, external named trauma. There are so many different ways that people talk about trauma that it can be I get it really overwhelming when that’s the information that’s given to you around you know why this is happening in your family. So I think it’s important to be educated about that but I also try and be very curious about like more in the moment kind of things not that I in any way ignore what’s happened in the past because I’m a firm believer and understanding all of that, but I think it the conversation around you know, what might have caused it can be a very, very tricky one. So I think the reason why they agree now is really about like how how we work with each family, very Individually, I did not like making sweeping kind of assessments about families. 
Willow  42:04
And you can even hear in this way I’m responding. And I get a little uncomfortable because every family is so unique in the way that they’re, that they’re showing up for us. And so we need to give them a lot of attention and care to say, okay, we can name all of these things that we might know, and how, you know, contribute in the past. But what is it about this particular family and their particular response to their environment or to the trauma or to the lack of trauma that has has created you know, the distress that they’re in now? So every family that comes our way and we just, you know, we really look at them as like their unique being. And so you’re probably never going to hear from us kind of like these big, this is what it is.
Brenda  42:53
Yeah, no, I can I can appreciate that. It’s and I think that’s why this is such a difficult While you why your work is so difficult in particular is that there isn’t a one size fits all or one size fits most. program or plan or treatment that you can apply every single not only every family but every person in that family is so individual that it’s a custom solution for each family and each person. And that’s again why I just love your model is to get out into sit with them in their home or in a coffee shop or on a bike path is where you’re really going to find out the realness of that person and that family versus them coming and sitting on a couch in some office building that they’re not connected to in any way in their life. So thank you that that makes a lot of sense. I think there’s a lot of confusion about that. And it also what I what I do know is trauma to one person is might not affect somebody else at all, you know even my two boys when when I got divorced one handled at one way and one it shattered his entire world right so it’s it’s gotta just be so interesting to see every one of your your clients and and how they go through their life and how they process all these things that happened to us exactly. Do you have any resources sort of go to or standby tools that you refer either you know the kids to or parents that you found Help Help them that you would want to share?
Willow  44:42
I do, When we start working with a family we also give them an additional resource called Wise Roots Parenting and it’s and it’s a very, like I think we spoke about at the very beginning it just gives more skills and resources in how you can actually navigate some of the trickier conversations and how you can maybe understand what might be motivating some behaviors that are really problematic or difficult. And so, you know, we that’s one place, I think, from a video perspective that it all depends on how people learn, I think so that’s a, that’s a nice one. And one that we use for our company and for every everything that we do is very commonly known support, which is the Four Agreements. And I love to mention it because I feel like if you understand, you know, those kinds of directives, then you can pretty much understand how we’re operating at wonder, and I’ll just leave it at that. And then one last one and again, is probably very well known, but it also helps inform how best to relate to kids but it’s also you know, based in science which is Brainstorm by Dan Siegal, that’s great.
Brenda  46:08
I love love getting all the resources and passing those along. Yeah, you’re right. Everybody does learn differently. So some people want to write some people want to read, listen. Yeah, awesome. Anything else that you guys feel is important if there’s a parent listening right now who’s got a kid who’s maybe struggling, experimenting, or they’re like, holy cow, they’re going to be done with, you know, residential in three weeks…what do I do? Any any words of wisdom from your chairs?
Dave  46:39
 I mean, you know, if they’re, if they’re not coming out of treatment, or you know, don’t isolate, don’t, you know, reach out and get support, you know, join a group, whatever you need to do, don’t isolate and try to figure this out alone. It’s too hard, and it’s not meant to be that way. We’re meant to be You know, working on things together and and that’s really important. And then for coming out of treatment I just extremely important to and I think our, our culture around treatment has changed from 20 years ago or 20 years ago, you know, kids came out of treatment and they were supposed to be, quote, thick and didn’t need any support. And that’s really shifted in a big way. So I just would really advise parents to really, you know, follow the treatment recommendations from programs because without support coming home, it’s not going to stick with support it really can.
Brenda  47:37
Willow, anything burning on your mind that you want to say.
Willow  47:41
I mean, I really like what Dave said.
Brenda  47:46
That’s good. That’s perfect. And, you know, I think Dave, in that same vein is that as a parent, don’t feel like you’re you’re using have failed, because you have to reach out and have somebody help you with this. This is not, I remember the point where we got to where we said, we’re not going to be able to parent our way out of this, this is just way, way too big. And that doesn’t mean that you didn’t mean that we were bad parents, it just meant that things had gotten to a point where it was not in my capability in any way, shape, or form to deal with it. And that doesn’t. That doesn’t mean you failed as a parent, it just means that you need to get other resources on your on your side.
Dave  48:32
Absolutely, absolutely. If it’s just the opposite. It just really shows to courage. And like I said, you know, many, many times in many, many people, the path of parent for parents, when their kids are struggling is truly a warrior courageous path and I have most of most respect or parents have had to walk down this path. It’s warrior work.
Brenda  48:55
That’s an excellent, excellent way to wrap up. So thank you so, so much. for joining us and really giving us the the perspective of somebody who’s dealing with this day in and day out with hundreds of different people. I think it gives us the ability to see that we’re not alone and that there are people who know how to do this and know how to best manage the the challenges that we face. So thank you very, very much for being with us. 
Dave  49:26
Thank you so much.
Willow  49:27
Thanks for having us.
If you are a mom who’s looking for some support and some strength, I hope you will check out The Stream. It’s our online community for moms to get together find a tribe of other moms who are going through a really difficult time and just try and get as healthy and whole as possible while your child is struggling. You can find that at my website And if you would do me a huge favor, I would really appreciate it – that would be to leave me a review and rating on the podcast platform that you listen to hope stream on, that’ll help more parents find us. So thank you so much for listening and I’ll meet you here next week.

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