I frequently get asked: “who really makes sense for Chrysalis,” or “what type of student do you work with?” While these are good and important questions, sometimes I find it difficult to answer. Yes, Chrysalis is treatment. Yes, we are a therapeutic boarding school. Yet when you step on campus it doesn’t feel like treatment, and visitors often tell us that we work with wonderful young ladies.
Because we do. A Chrysalis student has a good heart, and genuinely cares about other people, but has had difficulty making and maintaining relationships. Adolescence is hard enough, and when you add mental health struggles or difficult peer groups, it can be overwhelming.
I don’t envy modern day adolescents. Sure, we were all an adolescent at one point, but a 21st-century teenager has unnecessary pressure put on her, not to mention the craziness that is social media. Research tells us that technology can create the same addiction chemicals in your brain that substances cause. A Chrysalis student is one who desperately wants to be connected to family and friends, but isn’t sure how. Her behaviors may suggest otherwise, but deep down a Chrysalis student longs for connection.
A Chrysalis student is open to treatment and often comes to us after attending a wilderness therapy program, another residential program, or some type of treatment facility. We do have a number of girls who come straight from home who have been doing outpatient therapy but need additional support. Students want to be healthy, and they want to be their best version of themselves. While our students range from formal diagnosis of anxiety, depression, ADHD, parent-child relationship struggles, mild substance dependency, poor executive functioning, or social anxiety, we believe their struggles do not have to define them. Lack of depression does not necessarily equate happiness, which is why we also focus on healthy identity development.
This is why Chrysalis is so relationally focused in all aspects of the program; we strongly believe that healing happens in relationships. Thus we make building connection the center of everything – meals, living situation, adventure, school, and therapy. Once a student has connected with staff and peers, she feels safe to dig deep and begin the process of healing wounds. We all have wounds, big and small, that have hurt us and at times caused us to feel that moving forward is impossible. Chrysalis helps students to move forward, and not only find healing but to find strengths.
So who is a Chrysalis student? In a way, it could be any of us. The skills that a Chrysalis student learns are valuable for everyone. We all are regularly developing and modifying our identity. But a Chrysalis student has the unique privilege of doing so in a structured, safe environment. Not to mention we have loads of fun!