In a program that literally has “continuous improvement” as its name, Kaizen is always striving to get better. One important measuring stick for us is whether we’re actually making a positive impact. Isn’t that what it all comes down to? Are we really making a difference?
Numbers can paint part of the picture. It’s important to conduct research throughout the treatment process, and beyond, to provide information on success/recidivism rates, etc. Collectively, quantitative data within groups can provide tremendous insight on trends, overall impacts, and unique patterns. Standardized assessment instruments can show individual progress on specific elements such as the level of depression, anxiety, disruptive behavior, etc.
But sometimes, the qualitative nature of a good ol’ interview puts it all in perspective. It’s raw. It’s personal. It’s real.
Recently, I interviewed a Kaizen alum (“KG” = Kaizen Graduate), who graduated a year ago, and wanted to share HIS perspective. Did we make a difference? You be the judge, but from my view, it’s pretty clear: ABSOLUTELY!
CH: Looking back, what was the best thing about Kaizen for you?
KG: I loved that we built a “brotherhood” as well as some meaningful one on one relationships. And, overall, the work at Kaizen got me where I am today – a much better, happier place!
CH: What other things about Kaizen do you remember as really helpful?
KG: Experiential work was awesome. Traditional groups were helpful, but mixing it up with experiential activities with your therapist was great. I think it helped me get to a point where I could be really vulnerable, put it all out there, and get things off my chest. It was really helpful, but what made it possible was the culture – a sense of community that could be supportive.
Getting out in the community was super helpful as well. That “real, human interaction” was a good way to ease in to life outside of treatment.
CH: Is there anything that you hated then, but looking back you realize it was actually a good thing?
KG: Everything. Just kidding. I remember that some of the boundaries, rules, etc. were a pain then, but looking back, I realize they were super helpful and kept everyone safe. I really appreciated the relationship-approach. They cared enough about me to explain and teach about the rule, and helped me get it. It was important to follow the rule, but I felt like I was more important.
I also really appreciated that there were individualized strategies – you know, things specifically for me. Sometimes what I needed was different from what “Billy” needed, and having staff – and a program – that recognized MY needs was awesome.
Sometimes, I didn’t want to participate in some things (like group and some activities). But afterwards, I almost always was glad I went.
I also liked that I was pushed to be a leader. I didn’t feel ready at times back then, but I realize that being challenged to lead by example helped me, helped my peers, and it helped the culture there as well.
CH: How have you been able to maintain safety around you?
KG: Communication. Being open when I’m struggling, and really use my healthy coping strategies (playing the guitar, exercise, etc.). Basically, finding a hobby that can distract you, but also is really interesting and something you want to get better at can be a really healthy distraction. And Kaizen helped me find those.
CH: Are there any specific tools you learned at Kaizen that are still helpful today?
KG: Emotional regulation tools. Specifically knowing how to break things down into smaller parts, organizing my thoughts and feelings; a BIG thing was learning how to sit with people and empathize with them, without taking on their pains, stresses, etc. I also learned some awesome bike maintenance skills! OH, the three key principles too! Grit, growth, and compassion! I think I have learned to push through the tough things.
Looking back, Josh (Miller) was the best therapist I’ve ever had – and I’ve had a lot of them.
CH: What have been some of the most difficult challenges since leaving Kaizen?
KG: Controlling my urges was a big challenge – it’s tough to see how well you do when you’re limited – in the structure of the program, staff all around you, etc. I’ve realized that my struggles don’t define me. You may deal with difficult stuff, but that doesn’t make you a bad person.
CH: What have been some of the most rewarding successes?
KG: I realize I can actually do it – be successful. Looking back, seeing the hard road I’ve had to travel makes me realize I’m stronger than I thought. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t really want to do, but they’re good for us, and I’ve been able to do it. It’s empowering.
CH: How – if at all – has your relationship with your parents/family changed because of the work at Kaizen?
KG: 100% better! I wouldn’t be anywhere NEAR as close to them as I am now. The way family therapy was structured was super helpful; we also had a lot of opportunities to be together, practice how to be together in healthy ways. I had to get to the point where I realized how much of a support and resource my parents are (emotionally, everything) – that came from our work together at Kaizen.
Family and true friends are supposed to make you BE better, not just feel better.
CH: What advice would you give to students who are currently at Kaizen?
KG: Take the leap. The sooner you really start, the more you’ll get out of it. Trust the process, and trust the people working with you. Take advantage of ALL the resources!!
CH: What’s in your future? What are some of your next steps?
KG: By next year, get into college – aviation!! I actually got excited about aviation from a Kaizen staff. He taught us a lot about the science of it, we had simulators at Kaizen, and his passion was contagious.
CH: What would you say to a parent who is considering Kaizen for their son?
KG: First, I’d thank the parents for their courage – it’s gotta be tough to send your child away to treatment. Then, I’d talk about the general run-down of the program. I’d encourage them to have an open heart and open mind. There may be some unpleasant disclosures, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel! There are a lot of success stories!
I consider myself a success story, even though it hasn’t always been easy since I’ve left. I can honestly say I have no regrets for going to Kaizen. I regret that my behavior made me lose time with my family, but I feel like I gained it all back, plus a lot more!
Like any program, we may not enjoy successful outcomes with every young man. But we’re thrilled to recognize that most Kaizen graduates have similar experiences to the one just shared. It’s an honor and privilege to travel this road with these young men and their families as they reclaim hope, and experience profound healing.