“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” —BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

Thayne, Tim. Not by Chance: How Parents Boost Their Teen's Success In and After Treatment (p. 51).

A therapeutic milieu is a theme that comes up time and time again in Dr. Thayne’s book. In chapter two, Dr. Thayne tells parents that a therapeutic milieu of a program (the social environment of a program) is of utmost importance when seeking out potential programs, wilderness therapy schools, and residential treatment centers. As he explains, a program’s environment and setting should meet every mental, emotional, and physical growth needs of every student who attends their program. 

This brings us to the second theme of chapter two: individualized treatment. When seeking a program, therapeutic boarding school, or wilderness therapy program, parents should focus on schools prioritizing individualized treatment. In other words, parents should only seek out the services of a school that provides a carefully crafted experience, flexible length of stay, and a treatment regimen that is customized to meet the needs of every one of their students. As Dr. Thayne explains, “Individualized treatment and a flexible length of stay mean that a program can be customized to meet the needs of individual teens. Some aspects of a program can be flexed, and some cannot, but the goal is to meet each teen where they are.”

Consistency is King/ Home Visits 

Dr. Thayne explains to parents that consistency is king when it comes to parenting or therapeutically treating the underlying issues of troubled teenage behaviors. Any prospective program should prioritize a treatment regimen that sticks to its philosophy. According to Thayne, clinical professionals and frontline staff should strive to create a safe and predictable environment that students can easily learn to trust. If a program is constantly changing its rules or regimens based on students' behaviors or how staff happens to feel that day, students are less likely to trust the program -- and rightly so. 

Thayne also tells parents that home visits are an invaluable and critical tool for a program to use. Visiting home before graduating from a program can staff, and parents identify a child’s “weak spots” and how to work on and refine said week spots. Consequently, parents should make sure that any prospective program incorporates home visits in their program.  


“INTENT reveals desire; ACTION reveals commitment.” —STEVE MARABOLI

Thayne, Tim. Not by Chance: How Parents Boost Their Teen's Success In and After Treatment (p. 75). 

At the beginning of chapter 3, Dr. Tim Thayne explains how easy it is for even the most engaged parents to become overwhelmed. However, the doctor explains how even eating an elephant can be done by eating “one bite at a time.”  

Parental Involvement is  The Key to Success: Assessing Strengths and Weaknesses

Parenting a mentally ill child can be daunting and can leave any parent overwhelmed to the point of giving up. But, giving up isn’t an option. Instead, parents should focus on what they can do and how they can involve themselves in their child’s recovery. 

Dr. Thayne explains that parents have a unique opportunity to assess their own parenting style and personal contributions while their child is away. By creating a “resume’ of failure,” parents can identify and work on personal mistakes they have made as a parent and further understand and take note of the strengths they have gained in the process. 

“There is an ideal balance in the program/parent partnership. It is a sweet spot between being micromanaging and laissez-faire. We call it an engaged collaborator.”

At the end of chapter 3, Dr. Thayne recommends that parents spend an hour writing their parental assessment or “resume’ of failure,” then following up this assessment by designing a lofty vision for their family’s future relationship. He further recommends writing this out on paper or printing it off to be used as a sort of cheatsheet to be referred back to when needing to “measure your commitment and progress” later on. 


 Expectations must be managed, or we will overlook the real positive changes in our teens while focusing on the negative irritants.

 In comparing the transition from treatment to home to that of a plant going from the greenhouse to the garden, environmental challenges must be compensated if a tender plant—or teen—is to thrive. 

Remember to focus on activities that are important, not just urgent. Knowing the difference will keep you from stamping out fires only to sacrifice activities or changes that would have had the most positive long-term effect. 

As you study the “hidden waterfalls” included in this chapter, you will recognize which waterfalls are your own “signature” dangers. Your program or hometown therapist can offer valuable insights here.