Today I sat down with Selina Mason as she told me about The Pinnacle Schools, Elk River Treatment Program (ERTP). Located near Huntsville, AL Elk River is a residential treatment center. Students, who are approved for this program, being their treatment living in a tee pee with 24-7 supervision. She went on to say that living in the outdoors becomes the therapeutic piece as each student continues their academic quest at their own pace. Elk River does have air conditioned buildings for the students to engage in academic studies and a gymnasium for student athletics.

I asked Mason what was one of the problems ERTP parents are dealing with teenagers. Boundaries and structure, she said. “Friday is Friday, Mason emphasized. “When a parent tells me that they took away their son’s cell phone for a week and gave it back a day early because they believe he earned it back on good behavior, I say to them: Friday is Friday, not Thursday. If you have set a consequence then follow through. Kids need boundaries and structure in their lives and giving back the phone a day early or ending their grounding early does not send the correct message.” ERTP Psychologist Wayne Wilson agrees: you don’t give back the phone on Thursday.

Mason went on to say that ERTP is the beginning of a solution, not the end all. ERTP is the first step in establishing a life course. Mason continued by saying that it is imperative that students go home on a contract. You don’t give a learners permit to a teenager and say go drive; you work with them, within the scope of their abilities and capabilities, building in expectations and consequences to keep them focused on their path. Mason and I encourage all parents of teens to integrate a contract in your relationship. It brings a sense of reality to your relationship and leaves less to chance. Mason said the contract is to be reviewed weekly and revisions made as their goals are met.