Northwoods Ranch Blog

The Age of (Dis)Connection

Has our society devolved due to technology?

It’s a provocative question, isn’t it? I’ve spent the past 10 years personally and professionally watching the evolution of this, believe that parts of our society are being damaged by...
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Why There's No Such Thing as Privilege

And why we should stop talking about it!

Something has been bothering me lately. I am hearing the word privilege being used more and more, and the use of the word opportunity used less and less when discussing the same context. While the difference...
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Why You're A Failure

And HOW to pull away from the pack!

No matter what is going on in our society, it seems that we are destined to have winners and losers. I’ve always found this topic to be fascinating as it seems everyone has different rationales for...
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Living With Regrets

How do you view your past?

In my line of work, we focus a lot of time talking about regrets. I have come to view regrets differently over the years… More accurately, I have come to analyze HOW people view their own regrets....
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Everything You Did Wrong as a Parent

Ummm Seriously?!?!?!

Our most recent parent outing highlighted yet again a topic that we constantly find ourselves providing counseling around. We often take for granted our insights being an outside and unbiased perspective...
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An Attitude of Gratitude

Choose gratitude... You'll be grateful you did!

We are challenged daily with the realities of life, nearly every day has a diverse mixture of experiences, some inherently bring you up because of how they feel and what they mean to us, and others bring...
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Minimize Stuff, Maximize Happiness?

Say what?!?

Everyone has their own path in life. I have chosen one of simplicity and minimalism. Although I believe this path may not be for everyone in the long-term, I do believe that creating some version of this...
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The Shopping Cart Test

Have we become a culture of observers versus doers?

I like to come up with simplified ways to think about and test theories. A pet peeve of mine is not doing seemingly simple things because “it’s not my job”. My feelings have been there...
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Rescuing Versus Helping

Are you wearing a cape?

Probably one of the bigger concepts to convince people of in the realm of life skills, is that of not “saving” people, but simply “helping” them. Let me explain that further....
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Small Doses of Mindfulness

Improve your life by focusing on things as simple as walking through doorways… Literally?

What is mindfulness? How is it useful? Great questions, however I will save them for the end of the blog. First, let’s start by saying that my observation is that most people are very poor at being...
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Millionaire Mentality

Do you have what it takes?

Money… Something that Americans are very shy to talk about personally. Have you ever stopped to think about why talking about our personal finances makes us feel uncomfortable? Even discussing it...
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Are You Sweating the Small Stuff?

...And It's All Small Stuff

I remember reading the book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, and it’s All Small Stuff” by Richard Carlson five or six years ago. I found the book enlightening because it was one of...
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Compare and Despair?

Anyone who knows me knows what a big fan I am of minimalism and the simple life. For lots of reasons I think they are the key to happiness for the average person. I am increasingly shocked by this generation’s...
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Locus of Control

Who holds the keys to your success?

Have you ever stopped to think about when something goes wrong for someone, they respond to the situation in one of two distinctively different ways? There are people who find fault in their environment...
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Measuring Unhealthy Behavior

How do we measure “Unhealthy”?

In nearly all aspects of what we do I am officially and unofficially measuring whether or not a behavior is healthy or unhealthy before a meaningful plan can be put into place to change that behavior. I...
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A force for evil… or good?

I have to confess. I have tried to write this blog a few other times, each time I have run into problems writing it. I simply have difficulty adequately making my argument in written form. It’s mostly...
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Distractions and Creative thinking

Unplug and turn on your creative mind

September 14, 2016
I made an interesting observation during my days off on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. I realized that my thinking profoundly changes when I’m “unplugged”. My thinking was reflective,...
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Self-Care and Unplugging

Does your time off have purpose? Taking the right vacation can recharge your batteries, foster relationships with loved ones, and help you relax.

August 22, 2016
As I write this, I’m 3 days away from a much needed 7-day vacation. I’ve come to realize that everyone has a different definition of the word “vacation”. Some people travel, some...
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4 Reasons Entitlement Ensures Failing at Everything

July 29, 2016
I had to look back in our blog and double-check. I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about entitlement! It’s probably in our top 5 list of unhelpful thinking habits that we help people...
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Appreciate What You Have

Happiness is appreciation for what you have

July 15, 2016
An awakening of appreciation- I had been deployed to the frigid north of Europe in the straights of Denmark, exposed to a freezing environment that left me hypothermic and wishing I had water in liquid...
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5 Reasons "Screen time" is ruining your life

A world of constant entertainment and connectivity

June 30, 2016
We live in a world where technology is nearly inescapable. As a species we have created tools that our ancestors could have never imagined. I say tools because nearly every device with a screen has been...
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3 Reasons I Enjoy Working with Personality Disorders

June 15, 2016
Many therapists and counselors avoid working with personality disorders like they will transmit the plague to them. Believe me, I understand why. They are some of the most difficult clients you will ever...
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The Importance of Rituals

Structure as a path to wellness

“Ritual: A religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.”   Even avoiding the religious aspects of the term ritual, it...
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Step by Step

The right steps at the right time

One conversation that we have many many times with students and parents is the importance of taking the right steps, and not skipping any. Although this seems like a simple task, it’s amazing how...
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Introduction to the farming practices at Northwoods

April 22, 2016
We are often asked lots of questions about the type of farming we do, how we do it, and why we do it that way. We have decided to update our website to reflect this information in the coming weeks, but...
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Autism Spectrum and Life Skills

I am asked frequently about autism spectrum disorders and how life skills education fits into improving their quality of life.

April 13, 2016
A brief explanation of autism spectrum There are three main areas of difficulty children, and young adults commonly struggle with functioning optimally when diagnosed to be somewhere on "the spectrum"....
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March 21, 2016
Yep... That's Kristen, feeding bread from her mouth to a wandering goat in the mountains of Turkey! Don't worry... I asked if I could use this picture. I GOT MARRIED!  I was fortunate enough to...
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Types of Intelligence

Are you intelligent enough to know when you're not?

February 5, 2016
I had an epiphany when I was in undergrad working on my bachelors in psychology. I believe the course was a second tier course titled "applied psychology" with an emphasis on practical applications of...
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The importance of Grit

Failure lies in your inability to get back up. Do you have what it takes?

January 14, 2016
Having trouble viewing this video? Click here "We can make the best plan for your life, career, sobriety, relationships, or education imaginable... We can even frame it like a piece of art and hang it...
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Do you have the resolve for your resolution?

December 31, 2015
Have you ever noticed how New Years is the day most people set some pretty awesome goals? Of course you have... In fact, I'm sure everyone reading this has had some zingers in the past. One of my personal...
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Everything I want for Christmas

"Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?"

December 24, 2015
Do you remember being asked this as a kid? I do. For me it provided a mixed bag of feelings and emotions. We didn't have a lot of money growing up, but I distinctly remember my parents doing everything...
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Being Thankful

Be more thankful everyday ~ and improve your life!

December 16, 2015
Have you ever noticed that for most people, the only day every year we formally say, or process mentally, what we are grateful/thankful for is Thanksgiving? We all sit around a fat turkey on the dining...
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Delayed Gratification

Delayed gratification and the millennial generation

October 26, 2015
It was on last year’s Allagash Wilderness Waterway trip that I compiled my thoughts on delayed gratification and its interplay with young men, and the generation we are currently serving in general. The...
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The "SMART" way to set personal goals

How to set goals you will actually accomplish

October 15, 2015
 At Northwoods Ranch & Retreat, we teach our students how to effectively set goals. Goal setting seems to have become a lost art. When you talk to most young men about what goal setting means...
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Stages of recovery

A road map to where you are in recovery

As discussed in our previous blog, the stages of recovery refers to a guideline that references where an individual is in terms of their recovery. Although we try not to think of things in black and...
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Changing your Environment

August 31, 2015
Why transitioning is often the most important step First a brief explanation of the stages of recovery we often refer to when talking about long-term change. This applies to all addictions as well as...
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failure, improvise, adapt

Accepting some failure

Improvise, adapt, overcome...

August 13, 2015
Accepting some failure Improvise, adapt, overcome... Words I try to live by So this gardening season has been absolutely terrible. We have had multiple crop failures, ultimately things that we are...
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Coping skills versus distraction techniques

July 30, 2015
Coping skills versus distraction techniques     We teach classes on both distraction techniques and coping skills, and for some of our young men, include them as part of their goals...
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Are you going above and beyond? Or are you doing the minimum?

Drawbacks of doing the bare minimum

July 21, 2015
                In the Marine Corps we had a saying “That 10%”, what we were referencing was the fact that seemingly...
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Great Few Days at Northwoods: Part 1

Warrior training and untapped skills meet at dawn

March 13, 2015
This week we focused on utilizing untapped skills and ingenuity. It is amazing to watch these young men as they develop the life skills and confidence needed for success.   We began our week by initiating...
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A Hiatus from the Smartphone

What's the big deal about phones?

February 5, 2015
Why do we make a point of removing a smartphone from the first part of a young man's therapy? I've already talked about different types of addiction, and why social media can be counterproductive in addiction...
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Therapy and Social Media: Part 2

Where does addiction fit in with social media?

February 1, 2015
If you type "define: addiction" into Google, the word is defined as: "the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity." It is an excellent, concise definition. Too...
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Therapy and Social Media: Part 1

Shall we demonize social media, or rely upon it? What is its relationship with therapy?

January 25, 2015
Everyone’s got something to say about technology. It’s brilliant; it’s terrible. It’s the path to the future; it’s the path to doom. I don’t buy into either extreme....
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The "Millennial" Dilemma

How is this generation of adolescents different?

The mere mention of the word "millennial" carries such incredibly negative imagery: struggling young adults, crippled by laziness and entitlement, fighting stagnant battles in virtual reality in their...
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The Mental Illness in All of Us, Part 2

There's a fine line between "normal" and "mentally ill."

November 6, 2014
An important thing to consider about "Mental Illness" is that there is a fine line between the mentally ill and the being "normal". We have all had rough times in our lives; there have been times when...
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The "Mental Illness" in All of Us, Part 1: Disorders and Labels

What exactly is mental illness, anyway?

October 26, 2014
I've always been fascinated with the concept of how we define mental illness. If we are looking for the textbook definition then it would be "...medical conditions that disrupt a person's thinking, feeling,...
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Mt. Katahdin: The Summit of Baxter State Park

August 11, 2014
Reaching the peak of Mt. Katahdin is a memorable moment for anyone. It is another self-exploratory and defining trip for our students, and is an especially transforming experience for struggling young...
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Attitude is Everything: Choose Your Attitude!

August 27, 2014
One of the things that can take some time to understand is that you have control of your attitude. Even after being understood, achieving this control is incredibly difficult. The majority of us go through...
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Service, Learning, and Young Men

July 18, 2014
Our society has done a disservice to its students, especially struggling young men, by largely separating community connection from academics. In fact, the most important experience any adolescent - or,...
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Adventure on the Allagash

July 30, 2014
The Allagash Wilderness Waterway, a place that many have sought for its pristine wilderness, solitude, and wildlife, is a great place to get back to the elements for a week or more. For all of these reasons...
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Respect Yourself

July 11, 2014
Respect, as the great "they" say, must be earned. Usually this adage is repeated in reference to respecting one's elders. What no one talks about, or perhaps even thinks about, is how to earn self-respect....
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Celebrating Independence

July 4, 2014
On this day every year we celebrate the United States' independence from England in 1776. Relatively young men, propelled by idealism and growth, rose up to the challenge of breaking away and becoming...
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A Different Kind of Animal Therapy

June 26, 2014
I am continually amazed by the ways animals are used in therapy and in education. Seeing eye dogs are completely passé. We've now got rabbits that help kids with reading and miniature horses that...
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Rosenberg, Part 2

Questioning standard practices in therapy

June 24, 2014
Dr. Rosenberg struggled with some of the concepts mandated by traditional psychotherapy, as do I. He was, for example, adamant that true therapy could not be achieved without some degree of personal bonding...
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Marshall Rosenberg: The Importance of Nonviolent Communication

Introducing the concept of nonviolent communication as an essential life skill

June 23, 2014
When I first heard the term "nonviolent communication," I thought it sounded like some sort of rehabilitation program for violent felons. And indeed, it has been used successfully in that sort of program....
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Education as Therapy

Experiential Learning vs. Recreational Therapy: Where does experiential learning fall short?

June 21, 2014
Within the past decade, schools across the nation have become more familiar with the concept of experiential learning. Educators, recognizing a flawed system, have been searching for radically new ways...
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Therapeutic Benefits of a Farm

August 6, 2013
An Excerpt from, "Better Mental Health, Down on the Farm" By TARA PARKER-POPE, The New York Times  Working with farm animals may boost coping skills. (James Estrin/The New York Times) Caring...
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Self-Defeating Attitudes and Behaviors in Teens and Young Adults

July 7, 2013
Understanding and Overcoming Self-Defeating Attitudes and Behaviors Teens and young adults who are described as troubled or high risk often share a very similar characteristic- they have self-defeating...
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Young Adult Drug Use & Awareness for Parents

June 3, 2013
Many of the students that enter our program have past histories of drug abuse or addiction. Most of the parents we speak with did not recognize the signs until it was too late. By being properly educated...
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Understanding Our Students

May 7, 2013
I am frequently asked, "What is your typical client like?" and "Why do they come to you?"Like many other questions in this business, it’s difficult to give a concrete answer. No two people are the...
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Adolescent Brain Biology

April 4, 2013
A recent article published in the Nature Neuroscience Journal had some interesting information about why young adults behave the way they do, the findings shine some light on the old adage “if your...
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Random Acts of Kindness

March 11, 2013
Something I've thought about a lot lately is the lack of community that our current society has. Whatever happened to the days when people did things for their neighbors, not for financial gain or recognition,...
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Experiential Learning for Troubled Young Men

February 4, 2013
What is Experiential Learning and Why Does It Work? Experiential learning is a process through which students at Northwoods Ranch & Retreat are able to positively cultivate knowledge, skills, and...
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