“Therapy in the moment” or “in the moment therapy” is a term used and applied in many wilderness and residential programs as a way to describe how therapy is fully integrated into the program and very different in nature than outpatient therapy. In wilderness or residential settings, if an individual is having an issue (for example, a panic attack or conflict with a peer), a therapist or other staff can help the individual work through the issue as it is happening. Therapy of this nature can be very powerful and allows for strong therapeutic gains. But what happens when an individual is ready for transition? Will the benefits of the in the moment therapy be lost in trade for trying to transition to the “real world?” Hopefully not. Below are some ways that Northwest College Support (a therapeutic college transition program for young adults) uses in the moment therapy to help both ease and fortify the process of transitioning to adulthood as a college student.
24-Hour staff and multiple team members who have strong relationships with students
For Northwest College Support, a core belief is that their work starts and ends with relationship. Students need to feel confident in their relationships with staff, and be assured that they have people they can trust to reach out to in moments of need. 24-hour staffing allows for students to know that there is always someone they call upon if they have an issue. This teaches students how to self advocate and find supportive resources within a nurturing program community. Students feel comfortable texting their therapist if they need some quick advice or calling the staff on shift at 2 am if they’re having a panic attack.
Valued, strong, and fluid communication amongst staff
Many programs including Northwest College Support have some sort of system for grouping students a staff. At NWCS, each individual student works with a team of a therapist, a life skills coach, and an education coach. Each therapist is a masters-level, licensed professional and is the case manager of each individual team which naturally allows for a clinical focus. Frequent team meetings which include the student, regular department and staff meetings, weekly parent phone calls, and an on-going digital communication log represent the way NWCS values input from all team members, students, and their families. Team members understand that their work is integrated, and their collaboration allows for student’s individual needs not to slip through the cracks, and to be addressed as quickly as possible.
Therapy “in the field” of real life
Another core value of Northwest College Support which supports the concept of in moment therapy is the belief that every interaction is a teachable moment. One of the beautiful aspects of being inside a therapeutic program is that therapy doesn’t always have to happen inside an office. At Northwest College Support students and therapists will often go for a walk, hike, drive, shoot hoops, garden, go to coffee, go paddle boarding, go sailing, or go fishing with a student-client. Similarly, individual education coaching sessions may take place on the college campus where a coach can provide support to students as they meet with professors or staff, or work on study skills. Individual life skills coaching sessions may take the form of working out at the gym, grocery shopping trips with meal planning, or even teaching cleaning and organization skills in the student’s apartment. Additionally, regular team meetings involving the therapist, education coach, life coach, and student take place in the student’s living environment. By being able to work in real life settings, therapeutic issues can be addressed within a context that is extremely tangible to the student, and therefore hopefully therapeutic gains become more transferable and sustainable as the student grows into more independence.
Staff experience and therapeutic groups
A large percentage of the staff at Northwest College Support have previous work in residential or wilderness therapy settings. This allows for the understanding and concept of in the moment therapy to sink in to the culture of their transition program as well. In addition to individual therapy and more spontaneous therapeutic moments with staff, students also have a range of therapeutic groups available to them. These therapeutic groups are not “group therapy” and are not mandatory as many students are weary of group therapy from histories of past treatment. Weekly therapeutic groups are led by a therapist and include yoga, meditation, mindful art/ coloring, women’s group, men’s group, and a cognitive-based recovery group.