In Balance Expeditions

[1] International Trips | [2] Fellowship of the Spirit Conferences
[3] Horse Treks | [4] Havasupai Trips | [5] Sweat Lodge Trips
[6] Snow boarding trips | [7] Level Specific Trips | [8] Positive Peer Culture Trip

Here at In Balance we strive for excellence in all that we do. Same is true of our Expeditions program. We have developed a program at In Balance that rates among the top expedition programs in the country. This is not just because of the types of trips we do, but rather because of the purpose that each trips serves for our students.

What we know about the majority of students that we get to work with is that they come to us as wounded, selfish, disenfranchised youth. These trips are meant to connect them, connect them to nature, connect them to each other, connect them to the people of the reservations that they get to serve, connect them to orphans halfway across the world, and ultimately connect them to their higher power. It is by harvesting and rebuilding these connections that we start to heal the wounds, abolish the entitled sense of self, and enfranchise the disenfranchised.

Our students will get many opportunities to accomplish just this. Between Havasuapi, Snow boarding, Sweat Lodges, Service Weekends, Fellowship of the Spirit Conferences, Positive Peer Culture Weekends, Horse Treks and our International trips we give the students something to look forward to almost every month of the year.

These trips all are coupled with both the therapeutic and 12-step elements of the Ranch. On all of our International trips, Horse Treks, Havasupai trips, and Positive Peer Culture weekends we will have a licensed psychotherapist accompany the students. We have found that these trips create many healthy opportunities for therapeutic processing. Whether that’s a student facing his fears during a waterfall jump or learning humility from his horse after a 4 day ride. Much of which exists for your son will inevitably present itself during these experiences, the importance of a clinical social worker to be there and guide the processing so that no lessons go unlearned is invaluable.

  These trips also serve a very important 12-step role for many of our young men. While camping next to a 200 foot turquoise waterfall in the middle of the Grand Canyon or volunteering at an orphanage in a village where most live on less than $1 USD a day, it presents a significant opportunity for many of our students to finally feel truly grateful and become better connected to their higher power.

Below you will find a brief description of each trip as well as some student testimonials. Please read through it, it is our attempt to capture the intangibles of these experiences. Although, we will ultimately fall far short of doing so, it should give you a better idea of what your son will experience throughout his stay at In Balance.


International Expeditions:

For the last four years we have done five international expeditions. The first two were to South Africa, the third to Kenya/Tanzania, the fourth to Nepal, and our most recent was Peru. The formula for success on these trips is simple: we bring a therapist, experienced expedition staff, and peer mentors that are working a strong program.  These trips are based around the idea of Voluntourism, which for us, normally involves cultural experiences, seeing places of worth, safari, trekking, and service.  We try and combine history, nature, fellowship, adventure, and service all into a single experience.  It should be noted that these trips are not considered a handout, in order for a student to become eligible for one of these experiences there is a considerable amount of work that he needs to do first.  This is including but not limited to: reading 2-3 books on the area of interest, completing multiple essays both before and upon returning, planning and participating in various fundraising activities to help augment the cost of their own trip and for a donation to the orphanage we serve, but most importantly they must be working a strong program here at In Balance. 

You can imagine the amount of risk that we as an organization accept when doing these types of trips, we will only bring the caliber of student that is appropriate. He needs to be a leader in his milieu, be current and excelling in his academic work, and living a life of recovery and integrity, so as to warrant us trusting him halfway across the world outside of ranch setting.  These trips are not to be given, but to be earned.

Here is a student testimonial from our trip to Kenya/Tanzania in August:

Africa was the trip of a lifetime. It was absolutely amazing. The things that I saw and got to experience were beyond incredible. From being 8 feet away from a male lion sleeping underneath a tree in Kenya, to being on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, to falling asleep with a little boy from the orphanage on my chest under a tree. These are just some of the many wonderful things that I got to enjoy while I was there. If it were not for the support I received from In Balance and my parents, I would have never been able to experience this.

Africa was a life altering trip. Something inside me changed upon returning to the United States. I was, and am, filled with an immense amount of gratitude. I discovered that I took the small things in life for granted. Small things such as water pressure in the shower, toilets and toilet paper, quality meat, a washer and dryer, and safe drinking water. All of these are normal parts of our daily living that we tend to forget about through the busy lives that so many of us lead. However,when we stop to think about what we have compared to others, and the lives that we are so blessed to live, we then understand and acknowledge how fortunate we really are.

This trip offered by In Balance helped open my eyes through firsthand experience, transform my values and beliefs for the better, as well as expand my perspective of the world we live in. In conclusion, I would like to thank everyone that is a part of the In Balance team from the bottom of my heart for everything that they have done to make this experience and prospect a reality for me.



Fellowship of the Spirit Conferences:

Here at the In Balance Ranch staff are always trying to explore new ideas as a means to ignite and foster the passion for recovery in these young men as a means to propel them forward from addiction to enriched, sober lives. A facet of the experience we offer them comes by the way of traveling to spiritual retreats full of like minded individuals looking for a way out of the addiction problem- one that really works. We plan on doing four Fellowship of the Spirit Conferences this year; California, Colorado, Washington, and Louisiana. This will allow each one of our students the opportunity to participate in at least one of these incredible experiences.

These weekends are rooted among people from all different walks of life who have found a common solution by way of working the steps from The Big Book of alcoholics anonymous. Speakers from various parts of the country are flown in to share their experience, strength and hope with all who participate, and panels throughout the weekend are most helpful in providing instructions with how to work and implement the steps into a daily way of living.

“Fellowship of the Spirit west challenged me to look deeper into myself to make a commitment to really doing this thing, this time not for my parents but for myself."- In Balance Student

Here is a student testimonial from the Fellowship of the Spirit Conference in Los Angeles, CA:

Before I went on the trip to LA, I was on the fence about the NA and AA program, whether or not I wanted to be sober, and what I thought about sobriety. This trip has changed all of that for me. As soon as we got to the hotel, people started to come up to greet us, talk to us, and make sure we felt welcome at the convention. This was a big surprise for me, because I have never been anywhere were people were so kind and welcoming. Throughout the weekend, I have learned new things about myself. I tried to take in a meeting every day, a choice that I made, not that staff made for me. This surprised me at first, because there were other things going on that I could have done, instead of going to a meeting. I chose to go to the meetings because they were inspiring, and for once, I genuinely cared about what the speakers had to say.

Another thing that happened on the trip was I realized how much I am able to accept myself now. I had a little incident on the dance floor while I was dancing with one girl, and I surprised myself with how I reacted. I was also able to go up and just talk to anybody I wanted to, something that a lack of confidence had previously prevented me from doing.

Lastly, this trip has showed me just how much fun you can have in recovery. I think this trip was more fun than I have had in the past few years. Just being in the atmosphere where everybody was achieving a common goal, everybody was happy, and most importantly, everybody was kind to one another, has been a major factor in helping me decide what I want to do when I leave the ranch. I feel that the saying "My worst day clean is still better than my best day using" applies in this situation. Even when I wasn't doing anything on the trip, I was still having more fun than when I was using.  

In conclusion, this trip has completely changed my mind about what I want to do when I leave the ranch. If for nothing else, I want to stay sober just so I can keep going into those rooms, meeting new people, and helping others along with their recovery. Of course, I want to stay sober for myself. I think that this trip has shown me all the great things that AA/NA has to offer, what a clean life would be like, and what I can have if I want to take it. And I want it all.


Horse Treks:

This four day campout is a unique and amazing adventure for the students. Our equine staff is supported by therapist Garry Nix or Clinical Director Shannon Petrovich, to create a meaningful, therapeutic and fun experience. Utilizing the natural challenges involved in camping and trekking with horses, including a cattle drive on the second day, students bond with their horses and work through whatever ongoing issues they may be having with their horses. As stated in the Equine Therapy section, horses reflect our inner relationship struggles and in correcting how we come across to our horse, we are practicing improving our relationships with others. Students are asked by their horses to be aware, honest, genuine, caring and assertive leaders;  truly what we hope they will become in all aspects of their lives! Another activity during the weekend helps students get back in touch with their parents’ deep and unconditional love. Often in the midst of the acting out and addiction, the distances may have grown.

The students will also spend some solo time thinking about what is in the way of them being in a solid recovery. When you add campfires, s’mores, steak quesadillas, pancakes, bacon, and capture the flag, it makes for a wonderful adventure getaway woven with therapeutic meaning.


Havasupai, Grand Canyon:

Havasupai, Grand Canyon is described as Arizona’s best kept secret or the "Shangri-la of the desert." First inhabited by the Havasupai Tribe this incredible oasis has become the destination of interest for people all over the world. Havasupai translates to "people of the turquoise water" and this translation is quite literal. The multiple falls hidden within this canyon, some over 200 ft tall, find themselves tucked in between a red rocked canyon, surrounded by a lush tropical forest, emitting a color of brilliant turquoise.

This trip is used to highlight the journey of recovery. Coming into the canyon the students have a 10 mile hike, descending over 1,000 ft with packs and all. Even for experienced hikers this proves to be very difficult. Throughout the hike most complain, some fall, and a few try and quit. But through the helpful care of their peers and the promise of better things to come, all make it.  At the end of this hike they walk into one of the most beautiful sights this world has to offer. It is here that they will stay for another four days, with the people of the turquoise water, 2 miles away from their village that has gone virtually untouched for the last two-hundred years, at the foot of 200 ft falls, in the wild.


Sweat lodge Trips:

This trip consists of camping up at Cochise Stronghold for the first day and a half. While at the Stronghold youth take a short hike up to Counsel Rocks where they hear the history of Chief Cochise and his band of Apaches that fought and lived there. Everyone makes a sacred object such as a spirit stick, shield, staff, or mask which helps them in making a connection to their spirit. It is something they can take with them on their journey of recovery. The next day youth participate in a spirit run which prepares them for ceremony later in the day. We then travel to a new site where youth set up camp including putting up a tipi. They then prepare themselves for the evenings ceremony, a sweat lodge.

  This ceremony has been used for hundreds of years in helping people to reconnect with their spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional self. It is also used for people in recovery to heal. The lodge gives a person a place to honor and offer up prayers to creator, family, community and themselves. The lodge is about living life in balance in a clean and sober way. The lodge allows a person to speak one’s truth, to let go of issues surrounding one’s life and enables one to look at and receive the good that is offered to us. Not only does the lodge cleanse you physically but also cleanses you spiritually. It is a powerful way of helping people with recovery.


Snowboarding Trips:

Four times a year In Balance Ranch Academy will take our students on a skiing/snowboarding trip to the White Mountains. This experience is used as an opportunity to build the relationships between our students and their milieus, as well as to cultivate their passion for the outdoors.  We believe that recovery is a program of attraction, therefore, the more we can offer our students these fun, sober activities, the more attractive a life of recovery will become.

But this weekend is not just about fun. It lends itself to create moments of brotherhood, service, and accomplishment. For instance, every trip we offer our advanced skiers the opportunity to go in the advanced group or help with the beginners. Without fail every time we'll see one or two students volunteer and spend the day teaching rather than playing. This creates a special opportunity for both the beginner and the advanced student.   The beginner is forced outside their comfort zone, they must let go of ego, remain vulnerable and open to learn. The advanced student has to remain patience and empathetic. Near the end of the day, when the beginner is finally able to navigate the slopes unassisted, there is a shared accomplishment between the two. The advanced skier is elated with feelings of service and pride; while the beginner is grateful and excited to have learned to ski.


Level Specific Trips:

In Balance Ranch Academy Students will be able to participate in 4 level specific trips while attending the academy. The level 1 trip is the sweat lodge trip previously discussed. The level 2 trip is the amazing aforementioned horse trek. The level 3 leadership trip is ran by Sarah Ochoa, LAC and takes place at the In Balance Cabin in the White Mountains. It is a beautiful, serene getaway where the boys can develop leadership skills necessary to transition into the leaders on campus that they are capable of being. Lastly, we offer a level 4 trip to Sedona, AZ known as one of the spiritual capitals of the world. The level 4 trip revolves around transformation and how the boys have transformed into healthy, responsible, young adults ready for the next steps in life. 


Positive Peer Culture Weekend:

The purpose of this four day retreat is to focus on personal and leadership development within each person and with a milieu as a therapeutic group. The weekend is staffed by assistant clinical director Garry Nix, life coaches and alumni staff. Through cognitive restructuring strategies, adventure-based challenges, team building activities, hiking challenges, group process, and other fun activities, the guys learn greater self-awareness and how they impact others. They talk about and take an honest look at how their apathy, control, impatience, lack of tolerance, or other self-centered attitudes, affect others. They offer each other feedback on how they see each other, and work on how they can lead from a more caring, kind, assertive, consistent and genuine place. They learn a great deal about emotional intelligence and practice it throughout the activities of the retreat. These are the cornerstones of the Positive Peer Culture and through teaching, practicing and offering feedback to one another; students form the solid foundation upon which to build their many successes during their stay at the Ranch.


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