Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center

Welcome to the Harmony Foundation podcast series. 

Jordan, you’re the marketing and PR coordinator for Fire Mountain and was curious if you could tell us a little bit more about the work that you do in addressing marketing with adolescent treatment because I’ve been working on the adult side for a long time, and so people would make the assumption that it’s very much the same but it really isn’t. And so curious about how you got into the field and then how some of the work that you do around marketing plays a part in helping your clients.

Yeah, I think it’s been a really interesting challenge. So my background is not in mental health, it’s more in, I mean, a lot of different things. My master’s degree is in business with a specialization in PR and communications. But I knew that when I got that degree, I didn’t want to work in the dark side of marketing. So I like to call. I don’t want to work for Coca-Cola. I don’t want to work for those guys. I want to do something that I feel like really helps people. And so I just was really looking around and kind of see where I could help. And I worked at a school district in Loveland, Colorado, before this and just found that I really enjoyed working with teenagers. I liked the humor. I like the sarcasm. I like the challenge of it. I think it’s fun because you get to talk to them on a very like personal, real level. And I find that there’s some of the most brutally honest people that there can be out there, which is great and terrible all at the same time.
I think it’s been difficult to transition into this because this isn’t something that people want. It’s something that they need. And I think bringing that to the families is the most important part because they’re the ones making the decisions. Oftentimes they’re so far down the end of their line that they’re stressed out. They don’t know what to do. They’re feeling really hopeless. And so really making sure that establishing that personal connection is a really big piece because it is really scary to think about dropping your kid off for four months with people and feeling like you’re leaving them, but you have to do this. So I think part of what I’ve really tried to do for Fire Mountain is make it feel really personable how we market because I want them to get to know our team. I want them to get to our program. I want them to feel like this is going to be their second home rather than a place that they have to go visit or they have to do this. And I think that that gets a lot of buy-in from the kids as well because oftentimes this isn’t their decision. They don’t want that treatment, but they have to be willing to come to us. And so really showing them, “This is who we are. This is what we do. It’s not this horrifying lockdown experience. You can really make this your tribe.” And that’s something that we focus on is really the piece that I try to get across to families and kids.

It’s interesting because I’m hearing you talk and there’s a lot of similarities between what you all are doing with your young ones as much as what we do with our adults that come into our program. It’s that whole concept of demystifying the nature of what treatment is all about and also for being the solution for the families and for the loved ones who are trying to find a way to break the chaos of what’s going on in their life. So it’s good to hear that there’s some similarities, but clearly I have a teenager, so I understand that the dynamics of that can be very, very different. So Fire Mountain is a recovery program. It works specifically to treat teens. What’s the youngest age that you all work with?
12 years old. Okay. And it focuses specifically on both mental health and addiction issues. I’m going to turn to you, Kristin, and ask you a little bit about what can you share with us in regards to what a day in a life would look like for a young person coming into your program.

Our days are relatively structured. The way I describe it to parents is that we have structure but freedom within that structure. Generally speaking, the kids are up by 7:00 AM a breakfast is served at 7:30, and they go into their school class at 8:00 AM. We do have an accredited high school onsite as well so that’s a big draw for kids that have been struggling in school or I’ve had to be unenrolled because they’ve been absent so much, something like that. The kids, then, the rest of their day floats between their school work and then their therapeutic work. The times that they aren’t in school are when they will meet with their therapists to check in with other staff members. Lunch is generally at noon every day, and then dinner is at 6:00 PM. So during that day time they have generally three of their core classes. They get some PE time so they’re moving. Again, like I said, they have their therapy moments. And then there’s just downtime for them to rest. We call it SRT, or self-regulation time. So they can work on some of their phase work during that time. They can sit and play games with their peers, they can listen to music. Some of them will go just sit in the chairs and kind of crash out for a little while. Just whatever makes them feel calm and collected at that time. We’ve built in time for meditation during the day now; that’s been a new addition. So, again, structured time of their class time, but then when they’re not in class time, they have the freedom to do the things that help them, whether it’s art, some exercise, extra exercise time, but the structure is really between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM also during that time they have two group therapy sessions each day.

And the structure, obviously, it resonates with what recovery is all about, following our direction and making sure that they’re living within the confines of what’s reasonable in their early recovery. That makes sense.

Yes. And it’s part of the structure, just part of them being responsible for being where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there.

I’m going to ask a follow-up question in regards to how do you help introduce that teen back into their life after being in a structured living environment for four months because we find some times that people love the idea of being in this bubble because they’re excluded from the chaos of their life and not having to worry about the stresses and then they have to be reintroduced into life again. So what would that look like for a teenager?

Well, as Jordan mentioned, the family piece of treatment is huge for Fire Mountain. That is something that through the admission process I stress to parents that they’re going to be required to be participating. As the kids work through their phases, we have four phases in our program, they earn passes outside of the facility. So that gives them the time and then the practice going back into their life, so to speak. Prior to graduation, each of our kids goes home for an entire week and that gives an opportunity, again, to practice those skills to go and see their friends, see how that relationship has changed. For the kids that have the substance abuse issues and most of their friends were using, are they able to stay sober or are they able to say no when presented with those problems. And then it gives them an opportunity to come back and work through any glitches that arose with their therapists. So they get that support. But we start out with just four hours, go to age 12, 24, 36 and keep moving it up until it is that final week home.

And they’ve had the opportunity to run through different scenarios.

So very nice. As the admissions specialist, what is the most common issue that you’re seeing our teens struggling with today?

Oh, there’s so many. What I’ve noticed most of the kids come in with some types of substance use, either vaping or marijuana use. The other thing that really has been significant, I would say, in the last two to three months in my experience and the parents I’ve spoken to is screen time. Just the kids that they say they are addicted to their phone. They are on it 24/7. They’re staying up late because they’re on their phones or they’re playing video games. Anything having to do with a screen. That’s the biggest thing.

Do you have a program or some sort of group dedicated to that environment?

Not yet, but we’re working on developing that. Yes, but we do talk about it in the whole realm of addiction. So we do have 12-step work that we do. All the kids get edge education on addiction because there is that issue with kids in this time.

There’s very few firms in the country that actually are dedicated exclusively to gaming. There’s one in Washington I think that I’m aware of, but that’s the only one I know of that you can admit specifically for gaming addiction, which I think is a very prevalent concern, an issue, that we’re facing in society.

Absolutely. And we don’t even know what the impact is going to be yet.

It’s completely hard wiring their brain differently.

Exactly. And just the stressors involved with that. I often, when I was running groups, in my previous life and career, I would ask the kids what impact it’s had on them. And it’s really profound when you start listening to them and just the fact that you cannot make a mistake without everybody knowing about it, and that’s really hard on you psychologically.

I never thought about it from that perspective, but it does put you under the microscope for not being able to fail. They already deal with so many pressures anyway. Actually, I think, I’m going to ask the next question to Kristen, Jordan, if you’re okay with that. If you could do anything in the next year of 2020 what would you like to accomplish?

Well, this is me waving my magic wand, so it’s not necessarily a realistic answer, but I would love to advocate for and help have mental health coverage become almost universal, that it’d be like a universal health care, mental health and substance abuse. If you need to help, you get it, and you don’t have to fight for it.

I think that’s such a great way to go. I agree with you. I’m on board with that.

That would be my magic wand wish because I think it’s something that everybody can benefit for, and it breaks my heart when I have to tell somebody that we can give what they need because they can’t afford it or their insurance won’t cover it or whatever else. That’s the worst part of my job.

I hear you. Well, and we’re making strides. We’re not quite where we want to be, but we’re a whole lot better than where we were 10 years ago. But definitely I agree with you. I’ll join that bandwagon. I’m going to turn to you, Jordan, and ask a different question, and I’m going to ask you, if you could have a billboard that you can put up anywhere that had a message that you wanted it to say to the world and it doesn’t necessarily have to be about the work that you do, what would you say?

Oh, that’s tough. I think it would just say, “Advocate for each other,” because I think that’s something I really learned with working with the kids that’s been super impactful for me is that they’re so genuinely themselves and they’re there for a lot of different reasons, and I know that they struggle with that, but they do advocate for each other and they make really good bonds. I think just hearing them the way that they come at problems is so unique and so truly, yeah, just themselves. And so, I think, I try to kind of take that in my own life and advocate for myself and advocate for others because I think that’s just how we be kind to one another is just making sure that we’re checking in and helping to support people who are being marginalized. And that’s really difficult, but I just think that’s a great reminder that I try to incorporate into my life and I try to remind the kids of, and we do a really good job at work as well, I think of making sure that we check in with one another and just being good advocates for mental health.

And try to take care of each other.

It’s a good message. And if I were to offer up the word harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?

I think it just means be at peace with yourself. I mean, I think nothing in the outside world is going to always be peaceful and harmonious, but I think you have to get to a point where you’re feeling your inner peace and you’re feeling like where you’re at in your personal life and your professional life and everything is just where you want it to be and you’re making sure that you’re taking steps to get there. So that’s kind of where I would see that as.

Well, thank you for sharing that. And for those that are listening, if they wanted to learn more about Fire Mountain recovery and how to get in touch, who and where would they go to do that?

Our website is just Our admissions coordinator is Kristen, who’s on this podcast, so she’s just She’s our guru for all that stuff. The website has a lot of information on our programming. We have access to our podcast on there as well. We have a lot of free resources and just ways that you can check in with your family, and we do monthly blogs and stuff like that.

It’s been a pleasure having both of you here. It’s great to have our neighbors come over and say hi. And so we look forward to continuing a partnership with you all and, again, thank you for all the work that you do. It’s not easy work, but it’s definitely needed, so thanks again.