Alexandra’s Story


She was seventeen and a half and we felt that if we didn’t do something soon she was not going to have any chance of becoming a happy, healthy adult.

Dan from Connecticut recently talked about his family’s experience at Discovery Ranch.

We’d had behavior problems in her sophomore and junior years of high school, he recalled. Alex had been involved in a serious car accident but even that hadn’t been enough to make her reconsider her choices.

We’d been working with a therapist for a couple of years. She referred us to an educational consultant, Dan recalls.

The consultant considered Alex’s interests and struggles and recommended Discovery Ranch and one other program. Dan visited both programs and picked the Ranch.  While he would have preferred a program closer to home, Dan said after seeing the Ranch he felt confident that if Alex was going to be successful, DR would be the place for that to happen.  He knew his daughter would love the horses and calves the moment she saw them. But something else impressed him as well.

The co-ed aspect of it was big, he explains. The other program was all girls. Clearly, part of our issue was Alex’s inability to interact appropriately with boys. I liked very much the idea that there were boys on campus. Boys and girls are separate for a lot of the time but not all the time. That was a skill she’d be able to work on there.

The Ranch’s single gender hybrid model keeps boys and girls from having an interaction until there is a therapeutic reason to allow them to mingle. Then all activities are carefully structured and supervised.

Dan also recognized that Alex’s therapy would be coming from a variety of people, something he felt would prevent her from becoming bored. She worked with one person on individual therapy but another on equine, another on residential issues and still another for drug & alcohol, he says. The therapists communicated really well with each other.

Dan also feels Alex’s therapist was a good fit for their family as a whole. At first he says he was concerned about not being able to select a specific therapist. But Ranch staff promised him that if, after a few weeks, he didn’t think it was a good fit they could change therapists.

Dan said he never needed to request a change. Alex connected well with the therapist, as did the rest of the family.

He does believe, however, that changing from regular telephone counseling sessions to Skype sessions made a big difference in the effectiveness of their family therapy. He says being able to see Alex’s reactions to the discussions was huge.

We knew we were making progress within the first six weeks, he recalls. Alex enrolled November 15 and Dan didn’t see his daughter until Christmas Day. We’d spoken to her on the phone but didn’t see her, he says. In the first five minutes of our visit you knew that there was progress.

Dan says before Alex’s therapy at the Ranch she and her mother had a tense, disrespectful relationship. There was none of that at Christmas. Her reaction to her mother was great, he says.

Six months into her therapy at the Ranch, Alex wanted to know if she could stay past her 18th birthday. Dan says when his daughter returned to the Ranch after a home visit she wrote her parents a long letter explaining why she didn’t think she was ready to return home.

The family discussed it and agreed. She wanted to make at least Level 4. She stayed 60 days past her 18th birthday.

Alex graduated from the Ranch in 2011, having rediscovered her interest in academics, earning an average for her senior year, and re-taking the SAT exam while at DR with dramatically better results than she’d had at home. She plans to attend college in Utah this fall. In the meantime, she’s had a steady part-time job and has resumed riding horses’ English style after learning how to ride Western at DR. She’s taking a college course via the Internet and attends Narcotics Anonymous meetings four nights a week.

Dan says the Ranch’s introduction of off-campus NA meetings made a huge difference for Alex.  When she returned home she knew she wanted to continue her involvement with an NA group. Within two weeks she’d found a group, a sponsor, and a new set of friends who are all clean, Dan says. Alex has even served as the meeting chairperson for two of the NA groups.

Overall, Dan says, he’s thrilled with Discovery Ranch and what therapy there has done for Alex. For the first little while he admits he struggled with the thought of sending Alex away. He says he sometimes felt he had failed as a parent because he had to seek outside help. We had tried everything that we could try, he says. We owed it to her to try something completely different.

For the first 15 years of her life she was a great kid and a happy kid. Then she went through a couple of years where she was never happy. I think she’s now learned what truly makes her happy and unhappy, and how her own behavior impacts her own long-term happiness.  That is a huge change, and it’s had a very favorable impact on how we interact with each other.