All posts by Brooke Duecker

Understanding the Connection Between Addiction and Attachment

During a recent webinar, Dr. Jerry Davis shared with constituents of Compass Rose Academy research on addiction through the lens of trauma and attachment. He began by sharing a research experiment done by Dr. Bruce Alexander (1977) from Simon Frazier University. In this study, the researchers developed 2 spaces for rats. The first, which they called “Rat Park,” had painted walls, scenes of woodlands, and natural environments. They used fragrant shavings on the floor for rats to nest in and scattered boxes and cans around for the rats to hide and play in, as well as gave the rats other rats to interact with. Conversely, the second rat space consisted of a cage, without colorful scenery, toys, or other rats. Next, the researchers introduced morphine to both the “Rat Park” and to cages with individual rats. 

What the researchers observed was profound: those rats alone in cages seemed happy to drift into a drugged state and partook in the morphine, while those rats in the “Rat Park” largely left the morphine untouched, seeming to prefer not to interrupt their social life with the morphine’s effects (1977). 

Dr. Davis asks “What if the difference between not being addicted and being addicted was the difference between seeing the world as your park… and seeing the world as your cage?” (Davis, 2022). He cites Mate (2022) as he educates that childhood pain is generally the source of addiction, either from bad things happening that shouldn’t, or good things not happening as a result of the parents’/caregivers’ emotional capacity. Whatever the circumstance, addictions “are an attempt to regulate an unbearable internal emotional state through external means” (Davis, 2022). 

For me, this experiment and its findings, while profound, were not a surprise. We are wired for connection! Of course the rats that had other rats to interact with in warm, playful environments thrived. In application, we need to find out not only how to build these robust and relational environments for struggling teens, but also how to help the clients see that these environments exist and are within their reach. To do so, we have to go beneath the surface (thoughts and behaviors) to the source (feelings and experiences) and build back in those elements lost. Trauma happens in relationships, and healing does as well. 

By Director of Admissions Madeline Spring, MA, LMHC

The Biblical Basis for Reality

Our Growth Model at Compass Rose Academy focuses on building on inner resources, as opposed to aiming at symptom reduction, to improve functioning. This approach to therapeutic growth has been shown to demonstrate longer-lasting effects than brief cognitive therapy, where there can often be short-term gains followed by diminished returns. The inner resources that the Growth Model targets are drawn from a developmental lens and are called Bonding, Boundaries, Reality, and Competence: 

Bonding – The ability to relate to God and others, to connect to something outside of yourself. All of life’s tasks are based on this ability and with it, you are never left without a way to meet your needs.

Boundaries – The ability to see oneself as separate from others and therefore own your life as your responsibility.

Reality – The ability to hold onto and pursue your ideals while accepting, forgiving, and redeeming the imperfection you encounter in yourself, others, and the world around you.

Competence – The ability to be productive in the world and to contribute meaningfully to others in a significant way.

The theoretical basis for the idea of “reality” comes from the clinical concept of “integration.” Integration means that as one progresses through the developmental stages of bonding (attaching to caregivers) and boundaries (individuation, experiencing oneself as separate from others), they next develop the capacity to hold both the “good” and “bad” parts of themselves, others, and the world around them. They can begin to experience that the same parent can at times be warm and nurturing, while at other times they may be angry and impatient. As the capacity for integration develops, we gain a sense of our own strengths and weaknesses. For example, I may be good at math, but poor at drawing. We also become in tune with various parts of ourselves. I develop awareness of my sad feelings, angry feelings, and happy feelings, recognizing that they are all different, valuable parts of myself. When we don’t develop this capacity to experience these various parts of ourselves and others, we tend to split off or hide parts of ourselves. We are also likely to put some people on a pedestal (the people who most exhibit the qualities we like) and devalue others (such as those who have hurt us in some way). We experience ourselves and others as “good” or “bad” instead of whole, integrated people with many unique parts. Experiencing ourselves and the world in this way sets us up for many personal and relational struggles, while developing the capacity for integration, or “reality,” builds the strength we need to face life’s challenges. 

A quote by pastor, author, and theologian Timothy Keller captures the essence of this really well. He said, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” He’s saying that the more we are fully known by God and others (good and bad parts alike), the more whole we become. As early as the garden of Eden (Genesis 3), we see the tendency of humans to hide when we experience the reality of our sin, shame, or “badness.” Instead, God calls us to come out of hiding and into the healing light of relationship where those hidden parts (shame, sin, “negative emotions,” etc.) can receive love, nurturance, and healing. In the New Testament, James calls believers to confess their sins to one another in order that they may receive healing (James 5:16). This is evidence of a spiritual principle – that our sin, shame, and internal struggles can destroy us from the inside out, but that when we bring them into relationship with God and others, we are free. King David is a great example of this. After being confronted by the prophet Nathan for his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah, he comes out of hiding and confesses his sin before God and seeks restoration (Psalm 51).  

What does this mean for each of us today? Here are some primary takeaways: 

  • Begin to see that “negative emotions” like anger or sadness are important indicators of something going on. Instead of pushing them away and hiding them because they are “bad,” begin to put words to those emotions with safe, dependable relationships where you can find grace for what is going on below the surface. 
  • As scary as it can sound, begin to make vulnerability and openness a more consistent part of your life and relationships. Instead of feeling like you have to perform to be liked or accepted, foster relationships that are willing to go below the surface and connect authentically with you, in your strengths and weaknesses. Move from seeing yourself as “good” or “bad” to “fully known, fully loved.” This might mean initiating a “coffee group” where you share more intentionally beyond surface-level niceties. 

Identify your ideal self, that is, the version of yourself that you compare yourself to. If you’re constantly feeling like you’re not enough, it means that you don’t measure up to some constructed version of yourself. Begin to let go of and grieve that idealized version of yourself, and instead choose to accept yourself as you are. If we “know and rely on the love God has for us” (1 John 4:16), it means believing that we will never be more loved by God than we are right now.

Save the Date: Alumni Reunion 2022

Save the date for our upcoming 2022 Alumni Reunion on September 23 and 24! The weekend will begin with dinner on Friday and conclude Saturday evening. 

This annual event was created out of CRA alumni’s desire to receive ongoing support and stay connected with the community they built with other parents and students during their time at CRA, in addition to the optional monthly alumni calls. Similar to parent weekend, the alumni track will feature some activities for parents and students to do together, along with individualized programming for parents and students. 

“We know that the parents’ journey of supporting their daughter doesn’t end the day they graduate from Compass Rose. It’s important to us to offer a way for parents to stay connected so they feel an ongoing sense of community and support,” said Mike Haarer, Vice President and Executive Director. 

This year’s event will be particularly special as we will be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Compass Rose Academy!

Registration will be opening soon. We hope you will join us on our new campus for this special time together!

The Academy at Compass Rose Achieves ACSI Accreditation

Here at Compass Rose Academy, we are regularly seeking new ways to meet the needs of our students. This is why we built our new, intentionally designed campus, and why we implemented Project Based Learning in The Academy. Both these initiatives were part of what led to our recent accreditation through the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).

ACSI is an internationally recognized accreditation program that aids schools in evaluating their academic excellence and spiritual formation.

“This accreditation is an amazing accomplishment for our school. It helps to ensure that we are consistently reflecting and working to improve in all areas of the school’s operation. It places an emphasis on how we’re supporting students academically and spiritually and also including outside stakeholders in this process. Many team members worked collaboratively to help ensure that this process was a smooth one, and we learned a lot in the process,” said Katherine Kelly, Academic Director. 

 Last fall, The Academy at Compass Rose hosted a visiting team from ACSI. In preparation for this visit, The Academy engaged in an extensive self-study in which we evaluated our current progress in a variety of areas such as governance, academics, spiritual formation, student care, and instructional programming. Based on the results from this visit, Compass Rose Academy was granted full accreditation by ACSI. Compass Rose Academy is committed to continuously providing high quality, Christian education and programming for our students. 

The Academy at Compass Rose embraces a project-based learning approach, encouraging students’ choice, intellectual curiosity, and, ultimately, ownership of their education as integral parts of their progress. Our students also have the opportunity to take accelerated college-level courses online through Indiana Wesleyan University-National & Global while at Compass Rose in order to earn credits toward both their high school diploma and future college degree simultaneously.

The Academy at CRA is honored to be accredited by ACSI, and we are excited for what this accreditation will mean for our future as an organization and the futures of our students!

Bonding: Soothing Self through Holy Memories of God’s Faithfulness

In the midst of life’s trials, we often find ourselves worn out and asking questions: “Why is this happening to me? What am I supposed to do?” We may even question God: “Where is God in this? How could He let this happen?” Sometimes, we are so deep in a pit of despair and questions of why, we feel unable to move forward. However, God has instilled within us the ability for deeper connection and healing by way of self-soothing.

Beginning with a series of questions that are relatable to our own hardships, Psalm 13 gives voice to our pain: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-3). What is interesting about this Psalm is that after asking these questions and boldly approaching the Lord, the Psalmist then says, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praises, for you have been good to me” (Psalm 13:5-6). The Psalmist makes a choice! He does not choose to stay stuck in his hurt, brokenness, and despair; rather, he recalls memories of past times God had been good to him. He recalls when God had provided, had comforted, and had helped him. Then, he chooses to sing!

In a devotional book on the Psalms, the authors write: “Christians must cultivate holy memories of God’s work in history and in our lives, which alone can sustain us in the times of despair and darkness. Christ’s obedience to go to the cross was made possible through such holy memories” (p. 20). In times of need, we are able to recall times of God’s faithfulness and internalize His provision. But wait, it gets better! God has not only created us to do this with Him, but also with each other! Even if a loved one is not physically with us, we can draw on our relationship with that person and are able to feel the warmth of their connection and their presence. We are equipped to soothe ourselves because of our ability to build relationships with others.

Whatever challenge and pit you are currently in, know that you are able to bring light to your darkness not only by recalling God’s goodness but also by seeking comfort from both past and present relationships.

-Marissa Pollard, MA, LMFT, RPT

Tennent, T. and J. (2017). A meditative journey through the psalms. Seedbed Publishing. Franklin, TN.

Created in His Image

“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness…God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26a, 27

In the course of two verses, the writer of Genesis conveys four different times that humankind was made in the image or likeness of God, emphasizing the importance of this concept. Humanity was made to reflect its Creator!                                                                                     

When I was a child I used to hear these verses and wonder what physical part of my body was like God. Do I have His eyes? His chin shape? His feet? To hear the words “made in his image” constantly made me wonder what part of me might look like him. My mind could only comprehend “image” in the form of how I might draw a portrait or take a picture of someone. As I have grown, I have come to know that when God created us at the foundation of the world He was not seeking to make us look like Him in a physical sense, but rather in a spiritual sense. His desire was not to give us His nose, but rather give us His heart. It is clear by pure repetition that the author wanted to make sure readers did not miss this point. Humanity, you and I, were created to have a certain heart, certain desires, and certain longings in life. The issue is not that we were made this way, the issue is that the enemy has corrupted this message and worked hard to teach us something vastly different. 

Moments after we read about the intention of the Creator for humanity to reflect Him, we learn of how things went drastically wrong. As a product of the fall, humanity is now at war with the idea that we are meant to reflect our creator. We are now convinced that to be all that we are meant to be entails selfish gain for me, myself, and I. The only way to my true self is to listen to my emotions, do what’s best for me, and climb my way to whatever I feel is right. Ironically, the effort to become our “true selves” often leads us into a downward spiral. We become everything to all people or nothing to no one. We become immersed in a community, yet all alone, or at the top of the corrupt ladder and left wondering why we feel so empty. We start to lose ourselves in our careers or our families or our hobbies and cannot tell who we actually are. This is because we were never meant to live in a way that reflects our own desires, but rather the desires of our Creator. 

Let me propose that becoming all we were meant to be does not mean tapping into some deeper reality of ourselves, but it means getting to know our Creator. The trick is we often work to create some formula in our Christian walk. We say, “Well, I need X (success, contentment, a happy family), so let me do Y (Church and moral living) + Z (volunteering and donating money) and hope that the odds play out in my favor.” We wander through our Christian walk hoping for the best because we are giving our best, and then we are drastically confused when our kid still has cancer, or our family still hates one another. Our Christian walk is not about the good life, but about becoming who we were created to be — a reflection of the Creator. To become that, we do not need a formula or a list of do’s and don’ts. Instead, we need to get to know our Creator. We cannot become like someone we do not know. If I do not know my Creator’s heart through the reading of His Word and the involvement in His Kingdom, then I am forever going to be hopelessly striving to be something I have never seen. 

Here at Compass Rose, we reflect on this idea that as human beings we are created uniquely. This is the beauty of creation, that we are all made in His image, yet because He is so vast and beyond our comprehension, I could not possibly reflect all of Him, but rather I need my neighbor and their uniqueness to help me get to know my God more. So to be human is to be created in the image of God, and in my Christian walk, I must work at reflecting that image by getting to know Him and getting to know His people. Together, we can come to reflect Him as we were meant to and show Him to the world around us. That is Kingdom work. 

By LilyAnn Matchett, CRA Student Chaplain

History Modernized: A Project-Based Learning Experience

The Academy at Compass Rose continues to be dedicated to providing authentic project-based learning experiences for our students. Recently, students enrolled in The Academy’s World History class were tasked with choosing a historical figure to research. Upon completion of their research, each of the students were asked to write a script in a podcast format and present it to an audience. The students researched and examined the typical format of a podcast prior to drafting their own. This project ended with each student performing their script with a partner before peers and staff members, in an attempt to both effectively inform and entertain their audience. Their peers and staff members then had the opportunity to critique the performance and provide feedback to the various groups. 

Mr. Eichman, the social studies teacher at The Academy, does an excellent job at interweaving the components of project-based learning into his core curriculum. For this project specifically, he provided choices which helped to generate interest and buy-in from the students. In addition, the students generated a public product that they were able to share with an audience. By creating a podcast, students also had the ability to be creative in how they presented the content. In speaking with a ninth grade student enrolled in World History, she stated “Personally, I enjoyed being able to interweave modern day humor into a historical segment to peak the audience’s interest.”

Upon reflecting on this project, Mr. Eichman stated, “The girls had to work hard to not only include pertinent information, but express it in a conversational tone, like you would hear in a contemporary interview.” This project was aimed at developing skills such as creativity, in-depth content knowledge, presentation skills, written expression and critiquing their work based on feedback from others. An effective project-based learning experience also interweaves multiple disciplines, and this project did just that. Students had opportunities to practice both their English Language Arts skills while gaining valuable content knowledge in History as well. 

CRA Welcomes Jenna York as New Residential Director

Compass Rose Academy is excited to welcome Jenna York as the new Residential Director!  

Jenna began serving in her new role in March. Prior to Compass Rose, Jenna worked at Meridian Health Services as a therapist, LMHC, and clinical supervisor providing therapy to adolescents, young adults, and families with trauma history, depression, anxiety, behavioral concerns, and severe mental illness. Jenna’s passion for residential treatment began at a young age as her parents were houseparents at George Junior Republic, a residential facility in Gas City, IN, where they lived on campus.

“My career has been focused on working with adolescent girls who have experienced trauma or are dealing with depression, anxiety, and family struggles. I feel CRA has opened a door for me to work within a leadership role, but is also allowing me to still work closely with the population I thrive working with,” said Jenna.

Jenna holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Indiana Wesleyan University and a master’s in clinical mental health counseling from Grace College. She and her husband, Adam, have three children: Malachi, Madelyn and Lincoln. She enjoys having movie nights with her family, playing and coaching volleyball, and being outside. 

The Biblical Basis for Boundaries

I remember really questioning the idea of boundaries early in my adult life. Is it really biblical to have and assert boundaries as a Christian? Did Jesus model boundaries? I thought of the scripture in Matthew where he said, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well” (NIV, Matthew 5:39-40). What does it look like as a Christian to have a strong “No” when our model for living is to give the shirt off our back? 

So, first of all, what do we really mean when we talk about having strong boundaries? Developmentally, having strong boundaries means that we have a strong sense of who we are and what we stand for. It’s a result of the early developmental stage, individuation, that directly follows attachment. In this way, we develop a strong foundation for life through safe, meaningful relationships right before we begin to understand and assert who we are as an independent, separate being from others. 

God designed our lives to be this way. He calls us first to a life of meaningful connections (with Him and others) that are stabilizing, energizing, enriching, and growth-producing. Secondly, He actually does call us to a life of boundaries. We are designed to know who we are and what we stand for. God wants us to be rooted securely in Him and who He has made us to be. The more secure we are in our identity and beliefs as an individual, the less we are like an infant, “tossed back and forth by the waves” (Ephesians 4:14). To live a life of faithful following, we must know who we are apart from others. To not be conformed to the patterns of the world (Romans 12:2) means that we are rooted securely in our identity as children of God. 

I think that if we are letting everyone slap us on the cheek and take the shirts off of our backs as a pattern in our lives, there might be an indication of poor boundaries. But I also think it’s clear that that was not Christ’s example. So, I realize now that giving the shirt off of our backs can actually be the most boundaried thing we could do. If I’m secure in who I am, then others’ actions don’t define me. I give because I am giving. I love because God first loved me. I sacrifice because I’ve been a recipient of the ultimate sacrifice. 

If you’ve ever wondered what it means to have boundaries as a Christian or even just in general, I challenge you to lean in and explore this identity piece. Who are you as a separate person from others? What defines you? How do decide when to give freely out of a place of love and when it’s the right time to say “no,” also out of a place of love?

Increasing Self-awareness through Curiosity and Compassion

Dr. Richard Schwartz, a Ph.D. and licensed marriage and family therapist, was working with a very difficult client one day and expressed his frustration with her and the lack of progress they were making in therapy. Sensing Richard’s frustration, the client began to experience some empathy for him and stated, “I don’t want you to give up on me.” Intrigued, Dr. Schwartz explored what seemed to be a different part within his client, a part that wanted help and a part that desired to work with him.  

This was the beginning of Internal Family Systems (IFS), an approach that works with understanding all parts of clients with curiosity and compassion. IFS is an empirically validated model for post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, and a variety of other mental health issues.  

Upon reflection, we can all think about situations where different “parts” of us may be activated.  For example, you are scheduled to go with your family to a Christmas gathering, and you are looking forward to seeing your Aunt Lois. She has always shown interest in you and has consistently been non-judgmental even in the midst of some difficult times. However, also at this gathering is your Uncle Tom who is often angry and has tons of advice for what you should be doing with your life. You know that you will be cornered by him and have to endure his interrogations. So you have parts. Part of you wants to go and connect with your Aunt Lois. Part of you doesn’t want to go and have to listen to Uncle Tom telling you that you are wasting your life by following your dreams.

IFS explores each of these parts with curiosity and compassion. The more we understand and accept all of our parts, the more we can deepen our self-awareness and ultimately change and grow in desirable ways. There is no judgment. There are no “bad parts.”  Each part is expressing a different aspect of our personality and character. Compass Rose uses IFS along with other empirically validated approaches to help promote understanding, acceptance, healing, and growth. Each part has an important role to play in our development and if parts are accepted and understood, they can become less intense and controlling. Understood and accepted parts learn to work well with other parts and allow the self to be more integrated and competent.  

 

Dr. Jerry Davis, LCSW, LMFT, LMHC

Professor Emeritus

Huntington University

Part-time therapist and consultant

Compass Rose Academy 

An Overview of the Growth Model

“I’m not in the business of helping people cope.” This is a phrase I’ve heard many times from Dr. John Townsend, and we at Compass Rose Academy (CRA) could not agree more. Now, of course coping is necessary and helpful. We would not refute that. People do what they must to survive. But inevitably, coping methods that once proved effective stop working. Another obstacle arises, there’s a loss, stressor, or some need for adjustment and that coping strategy is no longer effective.

That’s why at CRA we don’t believe in simply helping people cope; instead, we help people heal and grow using the Growth Model. The Growth Model (developed by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend) is a developmental model of therapy that works to develop a person’s internal capacities to successfully manage the challenges of life (Cloud 2018; Townsend, 2019). It goes beneath the behaviors to what’s driving those behaviors. Instead of focusing solely on external behavioral changes or willful changes in thoughts, the Growth Model aims to build in new capacities at a much deeper level. The beauty is that these don’t require ongoing maintenance! While coping requires constant effort to manage feelings/thoughts/behaviors, this strategy creates an effortless and lasting change.

Both neuroscience and scripture support this model, as it follows natural human development (Cloud & Townsend, 2001). It’s how humans were designed to grow and heal. It asserts that growth and development happen in relationship. For healthy development, a person receives the nutrients of grace and truth over time, providing the optimal conditions for growth through 4 developmental stages: Bonding/Attachment, Boundaries/Differentiation, Reality/Integration & Competence/Adulthood. 

The problem is that grace, truth, and time are not always accessible, and due to brokenness in our world and human limitations, a person inevitably experiences deficits in their natural development. When these ingredients are lacking, a person experiences painful emotional and relational realities, which create unhealthy beliefs on a neurological level that then drive dysfunction (largely subconsciously). 

These occur within each of the 4 developmental capacities. Some examples are as follows:

bonding/attachment 

“People aren’t safe – I need to handle life alone”

boundaries/differentiation 

“I’m not okay if others aren’t okay with me – I can’t be different or set limits”

reality/integration 

“These ‘bad parts’ I have make me bad; I feel shame”

competence/adulthood 

“I’m less-than, and have no power” (victim mindset or entitlement)

Since these damaging core learnings that drive symptoms/behavior were created in relationship, the key to healing is, likewise, relational. Through this model, we are able to create growth and healing by creating mismatching experiences on the limbic level in the brain. These mismatching experiences replace the previously held, damaging learning, all through connection and in relationship. 

This is done by accessing the core emotional/relational learning through affect (emotion) using an array of skills, starting with attunement. We then create healing affective experiences, which replace the old learning that drove symptoms. “People aren’t safe” is replaced experientially with “I can express needs and get them met in healthy relationships.” “I am bad,” transforms to “I have good and bad parts, and I am loved and drawn close in the midst of both.”  This model works to literally rewire the neural pathways and erase the previous learning with a new one in the respective developmental capacity, and can only be done through intensive emotional and relational experiences (Ecker et. al., 2012). 

While this simplistic overview of The Growth Model does not point to the many scientific theories and studies influencing and supporting its work, does not delve into the complexity of skills required to identify the developmental deficit, access its core learning, and replace it experientially with a mismatching experience, it does offer a 30,000 foot view of the healing accessible to our clients through The Growth Model. With true growth and healing possible, you can see why we refuse to settle for simply helping clients cope!

-By CRA Director of Admissions Madeline Spring, MA, LMHC

Cloud, H (2018). Changes that heal. Zondervan.
Could, H & Townsend, J (2001). How people grow: What the Bible reveals about personal growth. Zondervan.
Ecker, B., Ticic, R.,  Hulley, L., & Sibson, P., Martignetti, C. A., Geoghegan, N., & Connor, T. A (Collaborators). (2012). Unlocking the emotional brain: Eliminating symptoms at their roots using memory reconsolidation. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.
Townsend, J. (2019). People fuel: Fill your tank for life, love and leadership. Zondervan.

Transitioning Home

The decision to place our daughter in a residential treatment program was one of the hardest, most gut-wrenching parenting decisions we could have ever imagined.  From the onset of our journey at Compass Rose Academy, we devoured the book Not By Chance by Tim R. Thayne PhD. and began talking with Homeward Bound, an aftercare program that helps with transitions, about three months into our 14-month journey. We secured a transition coach six weeks prior to our daughter’s expected graduation date from Compass Rose. Once she came home, our coach spent three days with us working through hopes and dreams, stop/start/continue, and family goals. One of the first things we organized with our coach was our home team gathering, and we were challenged to invite those who we felt could come alongside us as we transitioned back home. We allowed ourselves to be vulnerable by inviting friends, neighbors, youth leaders, teachers, coaches, and even former counselors – not knowing how many would attend. On the night of our gathering our home was filled with 31 individuals who rallied together to share stories of how others have mentored them and how they could come along our daughter and ourselves to encourage and support when circumstances require ‘extra reinforcement’. They offered to do things for us such as helping to foster a new hobby or providing a change of scenery with a cup of coffee and listening ear. The outpouring of love, care, and compassion will sustain us even when there are bumpy nights – they do still exist! 

Our coach continues to meet with us virtually on a weekly basis to help us apply the learnings from our three day intensive home visit and to support us as we continue to create family stability, strength, and growth. Progress over perfection.  

Linda Seifferth

CRA Parent Alumni, 2021

People Fuel: Learning Your Relational Needs & How to Get Those Met

We. Need. People. Brené Brown said it well: “We are hardwired to connect with others. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it, there is suffering.” 

Dan Siegel, a popular neuroscientist, points to early attachment relationships as shaping the very neural structures that influence how we construct reality (2002). At Compass Rose Academy, we see how vital relationships are to every human. This is a huge part of our culture and work with students: we believe that relationships with God and others are the fuel of life and that, with strong relationships, we are never left without a way to meet life’s challenges. As we connect with others in meaningful ways, we receive nutrients that we’re then able to metabolize as energy.

In Dr. John Townsend’s most recent book, People Fuel, he shares 22 relational nutrients that every human needs at different times. He breaks the 22 into 4 quadrants: being present, conveying the good, providing reality, and calling to action. In my experience, we as humans are generally most in need of quadrant 1: “Be Present.” I think this is because it’s easier for people to give the other nutrients. Encouraging someone (Q2) is easier than attuning to their feelings (Q1). Providing feedback (Q3) is easier than creating a safe container (Q1) for someone to express their emotions. “Fixing it” is so much easier than “jumping in the well” with someone who is experiencing grief, overwhelm, or anxiety. 

Our work, then, is to identify which of the nutrients we need and ask the right person specifically for that nutrient. If we share vulnerably and are in need of acceptance, for example, but don’t ask for that, we might get advice instead – which might feel more like judgement and certainly wouldn’t create the nutrient needed. Likewise, if we need attunement or empathy but ask for attunement from someone unable to access their own difficult emotions, we’re likely to walk away without the need being met. 

Don’t allow yourself to be depleted of your energy, left to manage the challenges of life alone. You were never meant to have to do that! Begin to identify your feelings and needs, and ask safe people in your life to meet those needs. Then, keep doing that. You don’t fill up your gas tank once and then beat your car (or yourself) up when the fuel runs out. You fill it up again. And again. Because it needs fuel to run efficiently. In the same way, we as humans need people to function well.

By Madeline Spring, MA, LMHC

Brown, B. (2013). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead. Penguin Random House. New York, NY. 

Siegel, D. J. (2012).  The developing mind: How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are. 2nd ed.  New York:  Guilford.

Townsend, J. (2019). People fuel. Zondervan.

Asking Questions Cultivates Faith

Having grown up in the church, there existed a certain expectation on my life to live, act, and speak in a certain way. With good intentions, the Church taught me more about how to be a good person than they did about Jesus himself. I knew all the right things, but if you pressed me on why we did things a certain way or why I followed a list of rules, I would not have been able to articulate it. As a result, as I got older I had a lot of questions about things of the faith and was increasingly frustrated when people of the church could not give me answers. As I ventured deeper into my understanding of the Bible, I found a God who was not afraid of questions but often posed them Himself. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is continually asking his followers and bystanders questions about why they do the things they do and using them as launching pads for His teachings. He was not setting out to just teach them to memorize a load of information, but rather to truly know it and to be stirred to action on a deep level. 

It is through this journey in my own life and coming to see Jesus’ invitation to question that I have delighted in being able to open the door to teenagers who may be in a similar place I was. Recently, the Spiritual Life team took the opportunity to do just that. We sat down with the students of Compass Rose Academy and opened the floor for them to ask questions of the faith. We did not promise to hold all the answers but rather to be students of the Word with them and to commit to seeking and discovering answers together. 

The students did not shy away from presenting questions on sin, the second coming, and why the world is the way that it is. In a world that is ravished by the impact of sin in the life of humanity, it was clear they struggled (as most of us do) to grasp a God who claimed all power and yet would not fix the problems in the world. Why would He even allow the opportunity for sin, and if the new world will be the redeemed version of this world what prevents us from falling right back into the temptation of sin? The Bible speaks about how Lucifer was a creation of God gone wrong, why did he not destroy him, and what prevents another angel from taking the same route as Lucifer? Often as adults, we do not give our teenagers enough credit for the deepness and the seriousness of their thoughts, but the world does. While we are trying to quiet the questions and encourage them to just do as we say, the world is teaching them a narrative that is vastly different and is willing to interact with all their questions. This is where things go catastrophically wrong. Often hiding behind the shield of “just have faith” or fear of saying the wrong thing, we brush away real and hard questions, and in that absence of answers the world gladly picks up the slack. It is here that we have given our culture and the world around us the ability to answer their questions and define their worldview. The world asks them to look within themselves for all answers, while the Bible challenges us to look to Christ for all answers.

Open-ended opportunities with teenagers can sometimes lead to a room full of awkward silence. I have been increasingly encouraged that when it comes to questions of the faith, there is rarely silence in the room at Compass Rose. When students come with a sincere heart to seek and know and be genuine in their questions, I have full confidence in God to show up and do a work in their hearts. While the Spiritual Life team is far from claiming all the answers on the Bible, we do confidently claim the name of the one who holds all answers, Jesus Christ. Sometimes He actively chooses to reveal those to us in the form of who He is, other times He asks us to trust and walk the journey step-by-step. Regardless, the opportunity to ask, seek, and know, is always an open door to those who do so with a sincere heart, and we are gifted to do it alongside the students here at Compass Rose. 

~By LilyAnn Matchett, CRA Student Chaplain

The Biblical Basis for Bonding

At Compass Rose Academy, our definition of bonding describes this capacity as the ability to relate to both God and other people. As a Christian and a counselor, the concept of bonding and attachment is an area where it is easy to see God’s intentional design in creation, including human nature and relationship. In Changes That Heal, author Dr. Henry Cloud says that “Relationship, or bonding, then is the foundation of God’s nature” and provides the foundation for our very existence. John the Apostle writes in scripture that “God is love” and that as we are made in his image, we are to love others. In fact, the Lord’s two greatest commandments discussed in Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV) can be summarized as “Love God and love others.” 

Attachment theory is well known and understood in the fields of psychology, counseling, and human development. We know that early “attachment” experiences with caregivers have a tremendous impact on our ability to form meaningful relationships, trust, and to experience healthy interdependency later in life. In his teachings, Dr. John Townsend points out that King David highlights this truth in Psalm 22:9, “Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.” In our state of 100% dependency during our infant stage, we learn to trust others outside of ourselves to help meet our needs. With a healthy awareness and ability to trust, we can later identify relational needs and build safe relationships to pursue meeting our needs. Franciscan priest Richard Rohr in his book True Self, False Self  says that his review of neurological research confirms that “Our capacity and desire for divine love does indeed depend on our regular experience of human love, especially at the key transitional stages.” So, even our ability to trust and relate to God is influenced or shaped largely by our early attachment experiences. 

Through neurological development, these early attachment experiences also wire our brains to create a capacity for emotional regulation throughout our lives. That is, our caregiver’s consistent nurturing and soothing eventually forms the basis for our own ability to self-soothe as children, teens, and even as adults. While neuroscience does point to the significance of key transitional stages for brain development that affect attachment, we also know that our brains maintain neuroplasticity throughout life that allow for ongoing development. Even if we have a history of disrupted attachment or neglectful caregivers, there is still hope for healing and growth through the development of nurturing relationships with safe, dependable others. It is never too late to develop and grow our capacity for healthy attachment. If you would like more information on attachment or other capacities for managing the challenges of life, we would love to talk with you. 

Exercise and Mental Health

As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and holistic Executive Coach, I’m always interested in what increases productivity, mood, and overall health in my clients. In both my mental health practice as well as in coaching, my intake interview includes asking a question surrounding physical exercise. This is because time and time again I’ve found that regular exercise (especially if it’s in nature) plays a positive role in overall health and functioning. 

From the beginning of our programming, Compass Rose Academy has implemented physical activity into our daily routines. We have an expectation that our students exercise for at least 20 minutes a day, and oftentimes, we exceed that amount of time by incorporating hikes, canoe rides, rock wall climbing, and other adventures to create an active, healthy lifestyle. During their daily exercise, some of our students choose to get a group together and play volleyball or kickball, while others prefer to swim, lift weights, or walk laps around campus. We even reserve sessions at the local CrossFit gym each week so our girls can participate in an organized workout regimen off-campus with trained facilitators. We do this for a number of reasons, many of which were intuitive, and all which are evidenced in the growing body of research around this topic.

Most people, from experience alone, can identify with “feeling better” when regularly exercising. This has certainly been the case for me over the years. This “feeling better” is associated with many outcomes: increased energy, increased self-confidence, increased feelings of connection (when exercising with others), and increased groundedness/presence. While there may be many confounding variables (release of cortisol, effects of nature, relational connection/support, self-image, etc.), what we know is that exercise improves anxiety and stress, significantly reduces depression, and improves psychological, physiological, and immunological functioning (Bauer & Varahram, 2001; Mikkelsena, Stonjanovska, Polenakovic, Bosevski & Apostolopaulos, 2017). 

So if you’re not already regularly exercising, incorporate some exercise into your daily routines. Even just 5 minutes of exercise has been found to reap benefits (Wood, 2013). If you don’t feel like you have the creativity, understanding, or determination to set your own routines, it may be worth it to you to engage the help of a professional or exercise aficionado to help support you with the structure and expertise you need. We encourage you, like us, to go after the increased mental (and holistic) health benefits this practice has to offer!

–By Madeline Spring, Director of Admissions for Compass Rose Academy

Leaning Into the Goodness of God

Recently, I heard a student share the struggle of her faith weaning and waning with different seasons in life. In her articulation of this, she said, “I can know all the right answers, but I find it hard to comfort my friends in their hard times because I don’t really believe the answers to be true. What comfort is it to say what doesn’t seem real?” In a nutshell, she summed up much of what we believe and act out in the Church today. We know that God is good, but we cannot find or offer comfort in those aspects of His character because our hearts are far from believing it. 

  • “God is good, but he doesn’t care about me losing my job.” 
  • “God is good, but he is far from me when my son got in that car crash.” 
  • “God is good, but he took my father too soon.” 
  • “God is good, but (fill in the blank).” 

A doubt of his goodness is ultimately a lack of awareness of His presence. When we stop seeing His redeeming work among us, in the good and the bad, we link His character only to the things that are happening around us rather than what He is doing in-spite of our circumstances. 

In a season where we are reminded to be grateful, we often look back at the past 12 months and find ourselves anything but grateful for the circumstances of our lives. Family members die, others get diagnosed with cancer, friends move away, money is not always there, and things rarely look like we dreamed they would be when we were younger. If we have been in the church for any length of time, we often file into a pew Sunday morning and smile while talking about how good our God is to the people around us. Life can be utter chaos, and we can be far from the reality of Christ in our lives, but somehow we still fake a smile and let the community around us know that we’ve “got this.” We learn all the right things to say, to do, and when to smile and when to cry. The American “can do” attitude has bled its way into the church and resulted in a group of people seeking to “fake it ’til they make it”. The enemy has convinced us to not let the people around us know how much we are struggling, and in that isolation, we quickly start to question who God really is. 

In moments like this within my own life, I have been struck in a deep way by a cliché saying that I have known all my life—God is good. While the enemy tempts us in several ways throughout the course of our journey in this world, all of it comes down to him getting us to question the character of God. In the garden, the serpent got Eve to doubt if God really had her best in mind. Throughout the Bible, it’s the same story of people doubting God’s ability to show up, provide, be faithful, or be just, and as a result, they take matters into their own hands time and time again. All of our sin, all of our temptations, all of our wayward thoughts can come down to a doubting that God is who He says He is, and will do as He says He will do. 

If all our sin, doubt, and temptation is founded in a doubt of God’s character, then our biggest weapon to counter that is to immerse ourselves in the study of His character. I have found that coming to see Him for who He truly is makes me desire to fall at His knees and worship. To see Him for who He is should make us all the more aware of who we are not, how much we fail, and how much He succeeds. That is not a defeating reality, but rather a moment that makes us want to sing all the more of his deep, deep goodness. When chaos and the unknown have consumed me, there is a cry from deep within that longs for Jesus, and not words about Him. Not for Him to fix it, not for Him to solve all my problems, but for Him to simply sit in the room with me and feel what I feel. In that, I have found a God who shows up. People die, lives change, people get diagnosed with cancer, marriages fall apart, jobs do not last forever, but God is showing up in the midst of it all. Though I would love to put the experience of His presence into words, I have tried and failed. All I am left with is to say from deep places within my heart, God is good. 

In this season of taking time to be thankful for all that we have – the family that is around us, the home that we sleep in, and the food we consume – I invite you to be most thankful for the God we serve. The natural response to an awareness of God’s character is utter thankfulness that He chooses to work His kingdom out among people like you and me. 

So the question remains, do you find yourself overwhelmed with who Christ is? Or just overwhelmed with your circumstances? What would it look like if we stopped getting wrapped up in the things we think about Him and find out for ourselves who really He is by spending time in His presence? What if we stopped asking Him to change our circumstances, and became overwhelmed by who He is? It is in His presence that we find the essence of thanksgiving. Coming to know Christ at deeper depths should naturally drive us to our knees in simple adoration of greatness. He is speaking, He is working, He is showing up, it is who He is, are we listening? 

–By LilyAnn Matchett, CRA Student Chaplain

 

Project Based Learning Prepares Students for Future Academic Pursuits

In English Language Arts class, the students at The Academy are working on creating a Literary Magazine for Compass Rose. For this project, students must develop a concept for a campus literary magazine and then create a presentation covering things such as aesthetic, layout, publishing model, and production costs. Students have brainstormed ideas such as newsletters, magazines, and literary collections featuring students’ works. This project will culminate with a capstone project in which they present their idea to a formal audience. They will pitch their idea to the Academic Director who will determine which Literary Magazine ideas are feasible to reproduce and distribute to the Compass Rose community. 

One of the groups is proposing an idea for their team to create and publish a school yearbook. They intend to integrate Compass Rose Academy’s Growth Model of care into aspects of the yearbook through visuals, photographs of students living out our model, etc. They have developed a publication timeline, a design layout for each page, and the price of publication. 

“I’ve learned a lot about what it actually takes to make something a ‘real’ thing. In some ways, making the magazine was kind of like being an entrepreneur. We had to think about all of the little things, not just the pretty layout and design. We had to look into publishing and make sure that websites we wanted to use were compatible with the technology we’re using,” said a current CRA student.

The students working on this project have gained valuable experience with composition, editing, project management, budgeting, and group collaboration. These are highly sought after, real-world skills that employers are looking for. This is one example of how The Academy’s Project Based Learning model of instruction aims to prepare students for their next academic pursuit — whether that be continuing high school, going on to college, or entering the workforce.

CRA Students Cultivate Healthy Relationships with Food

As part of life on the new campus, Compass Rose decided to revamp what the students were eating each day to better support their journey towards healing and growth. Since we know the important impact that nutrition has on our overall health, including our mental health, we put together a food committee made up of staff to thoughtfully redesign our menu to greatly limit or exclude refined carbohydrates, sugars, and processed foods. Our new menu emphasizes whole foods, including nutrient-rich and filling foods like avocados and sweet potatoes, and is largely grain-free. 

“Overall, the reason was partly helping the girls to develop a healthy relationship with food and also recognizing the impact of the food that we eat on our overall well-being, particularly our mental health,” said Mike Haarer, Vice President and Executive Director. “That involved taking a look at the ways that a diet that’s high in grains and includes sugars impacts mood and then making changes to limit those and replace them with nutrient-rich whole foods.” 

This new approach to food at Compass Rose also encourages students to reestablish a healthy relationship with food. 

“I still struggle with a relationship with food, but I definitely came here with the understanding that food, in any kind of excess or to any kind of extent is harmful to your body,” said a current CRA student. “I just have a very different view of food now where I notice myself getting hungry and thinking, ‘Oh, I definitely need protein today because I’m low on energy’ or ‘It would be really great for me to have some fruit or vegetables right now because I feel a little stuck’ and I just have never noticed that kind of effect on my body before.”

The students take responsibility and practice life skills by taking part in meal planning, budgeting, grocery shopping and cooking. The dinners are planned out on a 4-week rotation and include meals like Lasagna Stuffed Spaghetti Squash, Loaded Sweet Potato Bar, and Cajun Shrimp Tacos. All the dinner recipes are in a binder, and the students “edit” the recipes as a home, making adjustments as they learn what they like and dislike. Students are offered flexibility in that they are allowed to loosely follow the recipes as long as they use the ingredients they were given. They have also learned the value of improvising when necessary.

In the future, we hope to adjust the menu rotation based on the season and the students’ evaluations. While these changes have only affected the dinner menu so far, we are working to enact the changes for breakfast and lunch as well. Future goals also include having our own farm on campus that will directly contribute to the meals the students are eating on a daily basis.

“Partly the goal is to really emphasize that our relationship with food starts with more awareness of where food comes from, how we grow, nurture, and develop it and its impact on our bodies. Eventually we want to do everything from raising animals to growing more of our own fruits and vegetables,” said Mike Haarer. “Students are already eating fresh salads with lettuce grown in lettuce towers in our on-campus greenhouse. We also have pasture land and own livestock adjacent to our student homes.” 

Overall, we want our students to learn to enjoy food, understand where it comes from, and learn to make healthy choices that have a lasting positive impact on their lives. By teaching them experientially in our therapeutic environment, we not only help them to eat healthy food while they are here, but we equip them with knowledge and create patterns to help them when they leave as well.

Project Based Learning-The Student Perspective

Recently, The Academy at Compass Rose has transitioned to the Project Based Learning model of instruction. Project Based Learning (PBL) is different from the traditional projects you may think of when reflecting back on your own school experience. According to the Buck Institute for Education, Project Based Learning is made up of seven key components: 

1) a challenging problem or question
2) sustained inquiry
3) authenticity
4) student voice and choice
5) reflection
6) critique and revision and
7) public product

With PBL, students investigate topics that have a real world application, therefore increasing student engagement throughout the process. PBL aids in helping students to think critically, work collaboratively, and present effectively to an audience. Katherine Kelly, Academic Director, sat down with Tristin, a current 11th grade student, to ask her some questions about her experience with PBL.

What is different about PBL than traditional methods of learning? 

“A lot of PBL is more collaborative group work than being independent on your own. I enjoy group work because it gives me less anxiety because you’re working with people that can answer your questions instead of constantly needing to talk to the teacher.  It utilizes more real life components that I will actually use.” 

Can you tell me about a specific project you’re working on that deepened your understanding of a specific topic? 

“For one project, we had to choose between two cars we wanted to purchase within certain parameters. We looked at how much gas would cost over a year, got insurance quotes, calculated how much we needed for a down payment, etc.” 

How do you think PBL will help you after high school? What skills have you improved since The Academy’s implementation of the PBL model? 

“I will know how to purchase a truck and the planning process. In addition, my communication skills have improved as well as presentation skills. The presentations are similar to if you were presenting to your boss. I have learned how to better collaborate with others.” 

In addition, our Child Development class recently completed a project where the students studied the impact of prenatal health on the mother and the child. The students designed menus with healthy eating options for an expectant mother and came up with a weekly plan for moderate exercise and self-care ideas. As a culminating activity, the students then presented their ideas to an expectant mother. Students had the ability to present to a meaningful, authentic audience that was truly invested in their suggestions and ideas. 

In conclusion, students and staff at The Academy have enjoyed navigating the transition to this new methodology of teaching and learning. We have seen a much higher level of engagement among students and look forward to this model of instruction transforming how students learn in our school community. 

-By Katherine Kelly, Academic Director