All posts by Brooke Duecker

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:


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


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


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


“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

The Biblical Basis for Competence

As people, one of our crucial longings is the desire to have meaning and purpose in our lives. Next to our longing for connection and relationship, this longing drives so much of what it means to be a human. We want to know that there is some greater purpose to the world, and importantly, our role in it. God wired us this way, setting eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV), so that we would be filled with a deep knowing that life is about more than temporary pleasures or even about more than we can see with our eyes. This longing drives us to make great sacrifices in order to impact others, to make a difference in the world, and to fulfill a greater purpose with our lives. 

While God wired us this way, that doesn’t mean that we all live out this ideal sense of destiny and purpose in our lives or carry the knowledge that we can make a difference. Sometimes difficult or even tragic life circumstances make us believe that we are insignificant, that our life doesn’t matter, that we have no voice, or even that our impact on the world is negative one. Perhaps many of us can relate to having a George Bailey period in our lives, where like the iconic character from It’s a Wonderful Life, we think that others would be better off if we’d never even been born. 

At Compass Rose Academy, one of the important capacities that we build in is Competence which we define as “The ability to be productive in the world and to contribute meaningfully to others in a significant way.” We believe that not only can this sense of meaning, purpose, and impact be cultivated and developed within a person, but we believe that it is a vital part of having the internal character, or set of capacities, necessary to manage the challenges of life effectively. Through our treatment program, including the focus of our Fall 2021 Parent Weekend, Make Life Good, we work to develop this capacity by helping individuals to own their voice and impact, step into an adult stance to relate to others on equal level, and see life as bigger than themselves. If you would like to explore what it means to develop this capacity, we invite you to reach out to us to learn more.


-By Mike Haarer, MA, LMHC, CRA Vice President & Executive Director

Art in Adolescent Group Therapy

What is art therapy? And why and how is it used in adolescent groups?

Cultures throughout history have utilized art as a way to express and convey thoughts and values. Art has a fundamental place in the human experience of being a way that people communicate with each other.  Art facilitates one person expressing themselves while others also work to interpret and understand both the piece of art and the mind and heart of the artist.  Therefore, it’s not a stretch to believe in the power of art to assist in the therapeutic goals of both increasing self awareness and demonstrating the growing sense of self.

Art therapy is a form of therapy that integrates psychotherapeutic foundations with creative expression.  Therapists utilize a variety of techniques including painting, drawing, sculpting, mixed media (such as collaging), and the list goes on.  Often clients can express through art what they can’t say verbally, possibly revealing repressed feelings and thoughts that have been unconsciously stored or are too hard to put words (such as in the case of trauma).  

At Compass Rose Academy, art therapy is one of the many experiential therapeutic practices we employ. Art and creativity often bypass the defenses of adolescents which helps trusted therapists access underlying thoughts and feelings associated with depression, anxiety, trauma, power/control, grief, and many more of the complex presentations with which our students present. 

Collaborative art takes this a step further in the group therapy experience. Collaborations can help students work towards a healthy definition of self through ownership of their individual contribution while also celebrating the larger beauty of a collected art piece, which reflects the community of the group process.  Thus, assisting our students in celebrating both their growing sense of self and growing understanding of others. 

Collaborative compass created by CRA students


– By Stacey Ruberg, CRA Clinical Director, MA, NCC, LMHC

Compass Rose Academy Hosts Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for New Campus

Compass Rose Academy (CRA) held a ribbon cutting ceremony in celebration of its new campus on Friday, Aug. 27 at 10:00 a.m. The planning and construction of this project was led by Design Builder, Michael Kinder & Sons (MKS).

In 2012, White’s Residential and Family Services (White’s) expanded their range of services by launching a parent choice therapeutic residential program for families in crisis. The need for these therapeutic services continued to grow exponentially, leading to the creation of Compass Rose Academy, a program where parents could directly access these critical services. Compass Rose Academy has been incorporated as a unique division of White’s due to the increasing need for therapeutic residential services, for teen girls specifically. With this rising demand, White’s decided it was time to expand their footprint for Compass Rose Academy, offering an entirely autonomous campus for its residents.

“The new campus for Compass Rose Academy will enhance our ability to carry out our mission to offer hope and transformation through Christ to teenage girls and their families. The collaboration with MKS has been a critical partnership to build this campus in a cost-effective manner while creating a state-of-the-art facility designed to facilitate healing and growth. There is not another facility in the Midwest that will be its equal, and every aspect is designed with safety, healing, and growth as the primary drivers. We are thankful to have like-minded partners like MKS in creating this campus,” stated Ron Evans, President and CEO of White’s.

This 5-acre campus now includes new homes that have increased residential capacity from 24 to 48. There is also a new staff housing building to accommodate the necessary additional staff members. Finally, a multi-purpose building was built to contain a nurse’s clinic, administrative offices, and educational and therapy spaces to support each of the
specialty programs utilized within Compass Rose. The new campus sits on the south end of land owned by White’s but has its own entrance and signage.

Doug Kinder, President and Co-Owner at Michael Kinder & Sons said, “Since 2006 Michael Kinder & Sons has partnered with White’s Residential and Family Services on expanding its footprint to share their faith-filled mission of impacting young lives in a place to heal and a place to grow. The opening of the new campus at Compass Rose Academy provides another spirited path for young ladies to find the support from the White’s community. Compass Rose is the type of project in which we take special pride. White’s is changing lives, one at a time! To play a role in that endeavor is very meaningful to the MKS team.”

The Ribbon-cutting Ceremony is a commemorative tradition where a ribbon is cut to celebrate and recognize the official opening of a building or in this case, an entire campus of buildings. It is recognized by, and the ribbon is cut by, the businesses and individuals involved in the project. A red ceremonial ribbon is pulled along a crowd of those most involved in the project, and the ribbon is cut by oversized scissors. One or two short speeches will take place by those community individuals most involved or impacted by the project. Members from Compass Rose Academy, MKS, and MKM architecture + design, were in attendance, along with Wabash County community members and representatives from the Indiana Department of Child Services and the State Senate.

The event started at the front of the hub, where speakers, Ron Evans (White’s President and CEO), Andy Zay (IN State Senator), Dave Heist (CRA Board Vice President), Mike Haarer (CRA Vice President and Executive Director), Bill Kinder and a CRA student all said some brief words about the project and it’s impact. The ribbon was then cut, photos were taken, and the crowd of 50 moved inside for a reception in the lobby, hall and commons. Naming recognition of the rooms took place at the end of the event.


Written by Brooke Sheridan, Marketing Director
Michael Kinder & Sons, Inc.

Unlocking Potential

Recently, I had the honor of hearing a current student confidently address a room full of board members and supporters of Compass Rose Academy. While she shared, she expressed something so beautiful and reflective of the healing and growth that she has experienced at CRA. She said, I think Compass Rose has not made me a new person, it has unlocked the potential inside of me to be the person that I am today.”

This statement hit me because it so deeply resonates with our mission here at Compass Rose Academy. My former pastor, Alex Falder, used to speak of this as “unleashing our fullest redemptive potential.” We at CRA exist to facilitate experiences for our clients that heal and grow them and their families at their core. 

This is what’s foreshadowed in Isaiah 61, a prophesy of what Christ would come to do: “bind up the brokenhearted… proclaim freedom to the captives,” (61:1) “comfort all who are filled with sorrow” (61:2), “give them beauty instead of ashes… joy instead of sorrow” (61:3). It goes on to say “they will build the cities again that were destroyed long ago” (61:4) and “instead of your shame you will have a share that is twice as much… instead of being without honor, they will sing for joy over all you receive” (61:7). 

This student has experienced release from bondage. For her, the bondage came in the form of limiting beliefs and core emotional learnings about herself that kept her stuck: “I have to be perfect to be worthy of love.” In experiencing that she is loved, both with her good and bad parts, she is freed to live out of that place. No longer does she need to restrict food or “be perfect.” Instead, she can simply be. She is loved, and no longer defined by her good or bad parts. As a result, “cities” are rebuilt that were “destroyed long ago” in terms of relationships with her family and peers. Shame no longer grips her, and instead she experiences honor and embraces her inherent worthiness.

For this student, her journey isn’t over. She will continue to grow in her ability to attach and get her needs met in healthy relationships (bonding). She will continue to grow in defining herself and her “boundaries.” She will continue to grieve losses, and hold the good and bad in herself and others while striving toward the ideal (reality). And she will continue to develop her skills and passion, while learning to submit healthily to authority (competence). And all of this work will be possible because she’s no longer working to constantly be “enough.” This piece has changed everything: her potential has been unlocked as she’s freed from the chains that once bonded her as she now knows she’s neither good nor bad, but loved. Herself, unlocked.


By Madeline Spring, Director of Admissions, MA, LMHC

Sharing Truth in Everyday Life at CRA

Before I was a Family Teacher at CRA, I was a youth director at a small church in Ohio. I love teenagers and love helping them discover who Jesus is and the relationship He wants with them. However, while I was working at the church, God started to stir within me a desire for more life-on-life ministry; something more than an hour and a half for youth group once a week. This is when God opened the door for Compass Rose Academy, and I am so grateful to serve here. 

When I tell people about my job at CRA, I often get similar responses:

“It sounds kind of crazy.”
“That sounds exhausting.”
“What a challenging but rewarding job.” 

These are all accurate. So why do I do what I do? I do it because God called me here, and I want to be obedient to that. I do it because Jesus modeled incarnational ministry. John 1:14 says, “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” Jesus entered our world and made it possible to have a relationship with the Father. Living life with these girls at Compass Rose is just a small way to partner with what God is already doing and share His love and truth with them through daily interactions. I am reminded of Paul, Silas and Timothy’s words in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, which says, “We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.” It is a privilege to share not only the truth of the gospel, but the ups and downs of everyday life as well. 

And on the hard days, I cling to the truth found in Lamentations 3:21-23:

“Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
His mercies begin afresh each morning.”

God’s mercies are new every morning with me, and so I chose to start each day fresh with the girls at Compass Rose. It does not matter what happened the day before, because I try to come in with a fresh perspective and outlook for today, just like God does with me. It is my prayer that over time the girls at CRA will come to know how much God loves them, and that’s why I do what I do.

-Callie Willoughby, CRA Family Teacher

How is Sand Tray Therapy Used in Treatment?

At Compass Rose, we use a variety of experiential treatment models to help our students heal. One of these treatment models is sand tray therapy. 

What is sand tray therapy?

Sand tray therapy utilizes miniatures to allow the client to create scenes or worlds within a tray of sand. The scenes or worlds created reflect the client’s own life as they see it. This treatment model, most often used with children, is especially helpful with clients dealing with trauma or resistance to treatment as it gives expression to non-verbalized emotions or struggles. 

How does it work?

To begin this process, the therapist introduces the sand tray and miniatures. The therapist will then invite the client to create a scene or world, using whatever miniatures the client chooses. The client can choose however many they want. If the client seems overwhelmed by the lack of structure, the therapist can make a suggestion as to what the client might make a scene of, such as “Make a scene of how you feel about your family.” The therapist simply observes while the client builds their scene, noticing details like order and placement of the miniatures. 

When the client finishes creating their scene, the therapist asks the client to describe it to them. After an initial explanation, the therapist may ask more questions about specific areas of the tray or individual miniatures. The therapist can then ask the client if there is anything they would like to change in their scene or build another sand tray. Therapists are advised not to take apart the scene until the client has left the room, so the scene can remain intact in the client’s mind for them to process further. 

Sand tray therapy is just one of several treatment models we use here at Compass Rose. We are excited to have an expanded space to store and display our collection of miniatures on our new campus, and we would love for you to contribute to our collection! You are welcome to mail us miniatures or bring one (or several) next time you visit campus. We would like to have as many as possible for our students to choose from as professionals suggest having a minimum of 300 miniatures available. Here are some examples of the types of miniatures we need:

  • Figurines representing people of different ages and ethnicities
  • Animals
  • Buildings
  • Transportation
  • Vegetation
  • Fences/Gates/Signs
  • Bridges/Shelters
  • Superheros
  • Fantasy items
  • Religious symbols
  • Money/treasure
  • Household items
  • Medical related items

These can be found at dollar stores, yard sales, thrift shops, or online. We look forward to seeing what you find!



Boik, B.L. & Goodwin, E. A. (2000). Sandplay Therapy. New York:
  W.W.Norton & Company.

DeDomenico, G. (1995). Sandtray world play: A Comprehensive guide
  to the use of the sandtray in pscyhotherapeutic and transformational
  settings. Oakland CA: Vision Quest Images.

Homeyer, L.E. & Sweeney, D.S. ( 2011). Sandtray Therapy, 2nd
  edition. New York:Routledge.

Zhou, D. (2009). A Review of Sandplay Therapy. International
  Journal of Psychological Studies, 1(2), 69-72.

Social-Emotional Learning in the Secondary Education Setting

The Academy at Compass Rose incorporates a variety of social-emotional learning opportunities for students as a part of our curriculum. Here are some concrete examples of how we incorporate this into our academic structure. 

Morning Meeting: Each day, our teachers hold a morning meeting with their students during the first fifteen minutes of the day. During this meeting, teachers check-in with each student individually to see how students are feeling about the day, discuss classroom concerns or issues and participate in a devotional. This time allows students to feel connected and safe upon entering the classroom environment. 

Weekly Goal Setting: Each week, students set academic, social/behavioral, phase and spiritual goals. These goals are student-driven, helping students to maintain ownership over their goals. However, academic staff members provide feedback to students on what type of social/behavioral goals that students might need to be aware of. 

Consistent Feedback: Each day, teachers give students specific feedback in regards to how they are doing both individually and in interactions with peers. This feedback is derived from the Teaching-Family Model, an evidenced-based, trauma-informed model of care which we use to identify specific skills that students are displaying. 

Classroom Community: Throughout the school year, teachers are intentional about integrating activities that help to build community within the classroom setting. Students collaborate to create classroom expectations, which are displayed in the classroom, and participate in various service projects together. 

Healthy Confrontation: While enrolled at CRA, students are taught the 8-step confrontation model. This model is used when students need to confront a peer or staff member about something. The steps include: step into grace, state the conflict clearly, own your part, hear the other, state your win/win request, natural consequences of no change, return to grace and check back in in twenty four hours. 

Focus on Relationships: Teachers often attend lunch with students and participate in activities outside of the classroom such as program graduations, recreational activities, parent weekends, etc. Strong relationships with academic staff members aid in students building trust which enables them to feel safe and secure in their classroom environment. 

Compass Rose students engage in social-emotional learning daily at The Academy. As you can see, the importance of social-emotional learning can’t be overstated as it increases interpersonal skills needed for future employment while also boosting self-esteem.

-By CRA Academic Director, Katherine Kelly

Teens Finding Their Voice: Self-Advocating or Manipulating?

Struggling teens often lose their voice. Teens that are traumatized are often too scared or anxious to use their voice. Teens battling depression or other mental illnesses lack energy to use their voice. And teens in difficult relationships frequently don’t believe their voice has value or worth.  All this leads to teens doubting themselves and losing trust in the validity of their voice. 

One of the goals we frequently set for these teens is to “find and practice utilizing their voice.” This starts with small things like sharing their likes and dislikes such as their favorite movie or music genre. And then grows to more challenging tasks like expressing differences while staying in relationship, practicing healthy confrontation, or identifying their needs and asking for them to be met. We often use self-advocating to describe this latter process. The goal being that they know and trust themselves to advocate for their needs to be met in healthy ways.

However, we frequently experience an “over-correction” when a teen begins to find their voice. They sometimes are enthralled with the power of it so much that they wield it for more than getting their needs met. This is the shadow side of self-advocacy: manipulation.

So, what’s the difference between self-advocating and manipulating? And how can you encourage your teen to use their voice in a healthy way?  Here are some tips to help distinguish and encourage self-advocacy:

  1. Manipulation misuses power. This might seem obvious, but it’s helpful to consider how much power your teen actually has. Teens should have more power than children. If teens experience caregivers as controlling or coddling, they will often resort to manipulation to experience a bit more power. On the other hand, teens should not have all the power of adults in their lives because they aren’t fully developed enough cognitively to handle the resulting responsibilities.  Families can help minimize manipulation by giving teens an age appropriate dose of power.  
  2. Manipulation is weak. It’s the easy way out, it’s a win for the teen only, and usually quite selfish. It shortcuts ownership, responsibility, investment in relationships, and might even emerge as entitlement. Self advocacy actually takes initiative. The hallmark of this is that life is actually improved for everyone involved, not just the teen.  Of course there are sacrifices. Life won’t be easy as the caregiver of a teen. But families that foster win/win scenarios and reward initiative are more likely to develop self-advocating teens. 
  3. Manipulation creates distance. If you feel yourself being pushed away, that’s a good indicator that manipulation is occurring. Self-advocacy will actually bring the relationship closer. Sharing needs and wants is a vulnerable act, and in healthy relationships, that will actually create more warmth and empathy. Families that help create the safety for needs to be expressed will experience more “felt closeness.”

Your teen’s voice is valid and valuable! Creating a family culture that honors their voice helps cultivate bravery, initiative, and trust, all of which are key ingredients necessary for teens to find their voice and learn to self-advocate. 


-By CRA Clinical Director, Stacey Ruberg, MA, LMHC

The Growth Model: The 3 Necessary Ingredients to Heal and Grow

At Compass Rose Academy, we are known for our work using The Growth Model. While this is a research supported and neuroscience proven approach, we also find that this path to healing and growth is consistent with what we find in Scripture. There are a few fundamental ingredients to growth that are woven throughout biblical themes and the life of Jesus. Those three key ingredients are grace, truth and time, and all exist within the context of relationship.

Much of the literature in the field of mental health and counseling, regardless of theoretical orientation, point to the importance of being “client centered” and maintaining “unconditional positive regard.” This all has to do with having a stance that is for the client. Taking this “for you” stance provides the fundamental and necessary ingredient of grace which is required to grow. In this way, science supports what we know inherently as well as from Scripture: to heal and grow, people need grace. One of my favorite quotes from author Bob Goff states, “People grow where they are loved.” We see this time and time again in stories from Scripture, such as the story of the woman at the well, the adulterous woman who faced stoning, and many more. The ultimate example was shown when, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Grace had to come first. With our clients and in our relationships, grace has to come first. 

Once grace has been administered, truth is necessary. Often as Western Christians, we tend to hear truth with a harsh, even judgmental tone, which is far from what we actually see in Scripture. Since “there is now no condemnation for those in Christ,” we have to shift our understanding of truth away from the legalistic and punitive tones and toward its rightful place in the realm of reality and boundaries. Truth provides reality. With all grace and no truth, we’re left without any push toward growth, and grace without truth is permissive enabling. However, truth without grace is harsh and punitive. Both must be present, and grace must come first. In the context of love and acceptance administered through a safe relationship, we’re able to then hear and grow from boundaries and truth. This is what Scripture is referring to when it talks about speaking the truth in love. Without love and grace, not only can the truth be punitive, but it also won’t actually get in.

The last of the ingredients is time. We have formed our unhealthy coping patterns and defenses over time, and it takes time to heal. Furthermore, those unhealthy or no longer helpful responses that are now causing us pain were developed in relationships over time. Just as relational experiences void of grace and truth over time caused us to learn that the world isn’t safe, we aren’t enough, etc, only relational experiences full of grace and truth over time can heal these wounds. We are relational beings, created for connection and belonging. Many negative relational experiences cause pain and regression, and it takes many healing relational experiences to heal and grow. 

Just as is evidenced throughout the Bible, with both grace and (then) truth, over time, we are able to experience healing and growth. 

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