Blue Ridge’s Clinical Team Presents about Assessment of Substance Use and Autism at the OBHC Regional Wilderness Therapy Symposium

CLAYTON, GA, April 08, 2023 /24-7PressRelease/ — Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness offers clinically driven wilderness therapy programs encompassing advanced therapeutic skill, a highly flexible wilderness therapy model, licensed wilderness therapy assessment and multiple treatment options for struggling teens ages 13-18 as well as young adults ages 18-29 in the Emerald Arrow program. Their individualized approach, family support and commitment to service translate to an unparalleled experience and better outcomes for adolescents and families.

On March 31st, Blue Ridge Therapists Bob Hennen LCMHC, LCAS, Justin Messinger, LCMHC, and Lizzy Seib, LMFT shared presentations about best practices and benefits of working with substance use disorders and assessing autism in wilderness therapy at the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council’s Regional Wilderness Therapy Symposium in Asheville, North Carolina.

Specializing in substance use and addiction, Bob Hennen is a Blue Ridge Primary Therapist for adolescent boys ages 13-18 as well as for individuals ages 18-29 in Blue Ridge’s Emerald Arrow program. In his presentation, “Recovery Before Abstinence,” Bob explained the modalities associated with adopting a harm reduction approach when working with individuals facing challenges related to substance use and addiction. The presentation emphasized the need for treatment teams to recognize personal biases and the benefits of empowering clients to make self-directed choices. Bob also discussed the ways in which therapists can build a strong rapport with clients by meeting them as individuals, beginning treatment from the level at which each individual is at present, focusing on clients’ strengths, and not holding abstinence as a precondition of the therapy.

In their presentation, “Seeing the Forest Through the Trees: Utilizing a Wilderness Therapy Model to Appropriately Assess and Diagnose Autism in Adolescents,” Family Therapist Lizzy Seib and Primary Therapist for adolescent boys, Justin Messinger discussed the extent to which ASD and other types of neurodivergence can be assessed and treated in wilderness therapy. During their presentation, Lizzy and Justin discussed how to identify personal biases surrounding autism and neurodevelopmental disorders, shared current data related to the misdiagnosis of autism in adolescents, and focused on key components of wilderness therapy which help to assess and diagnose autism, such as time spent in nature, wilderness skills, the therapeutic milieu, and the presence of a licensed mental health clinician. Lizzy and Justin will share their presentation again on Monday, April 17th at the Autism Symposium in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness is a licensed and accredited outdoor child caring program that provides mental health treatment from licensed therapists and skilled outdoors professionals. Removed from the distractions of daily home life, students (ages 13-18, and 18-29 in the Emerald Arrow young adult program) experience the abundance of the healing wilderness setting of the North Georgia Chattahoochee National Forest, where they live 24/7 in nature with a group of peers and our supportive Field Instructors. Blue Ridge provides clinically-focused assessment and evidence-based therapeutic approaches that teach students communication skills, connection, healthy emotional and behavioral habits and other skills needed to be aware of and act on their values. To learn more about Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness, visit or speak with an admissions counselor by calling (888) 914-1050.

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