These client stories are dramatizations based on our extensive experience guiding teens. They contain no details of specific client stories.
“I am at my wit’s end …”
“I’m a single parent and my son Bobby is threatening to drop out of school when he turns 17 in September. It’s like he’s trying to fail in school, and yet he is a very smart boy. I’ve tried military school and psychiatry, and nothing changes. In fact, things are getting worse.
“When Bobby was eight years old, his father committed suicide,” this mother told us. Since then, the boy had been “clingy” with his mom at times, and extremely defiant at others.
“He hangs out with the wrong friends and I suspect he’s doing drugs. He is definitely digging himself a deep hole. All he wants to do is hang out in the shop where his father used to work, and I know he is both depressed and angry. He refuses to take his medication. Last week, he pulled a heavy mirror off the wall and slammed it onto the floor in response to something I said. He’s making life miserable for both of us,” she said.
“Can you help us?”
When Bobby’s mom made the decision to act, she placed him in a carefully researched wilderness program for six weeks. He complained a lot at first and begged his mom to come and get him. She held firm. In his third letter to Mom, he wrote: “I know I need to be here. I’m making new friends, and I really like my therapist.”
After participating in the Parent Workshop at the mid-point of the wilderness program and reviewing the results of the psychological assessment, the mother chose to transition Bobby to a therapeutic boarding school in New England. He graduated high school on time in May 2015 and is now back home, working part time and taking courses in community college.
“I feel like I’ve got my son back, and I am very grateful,” she said.
“Our daughter is going way, way down …”
In our first meeting, the distraught parents told us, “Amy had a high IQ, and had done well in school until middle school when she started to complain about having no friends and being bullied. Then, in the 7th grade, she started cutting herself, being rude to everyone, and claiming ‘no boys will ever want to date me.’ She eats junk food or nothing at all. We‘ve seen wild anger outbursts over nothing, and she lies about everything, blaming everything on us. We caught her sneaking out with older boys and staying up late to be online with boys she doesn’t even know.
“She’s been hospitalized three times—the last time because of a suicide attempt. We hospitalize her, she comes home, and nothing changes. All this despite the fact that Amy has always been athletic, good at math and art, and involved in horseback riding, basketball, and kickboxing. We keep her in the things she enjoys whenever we can.”
With parents equally concerned and ready to act, we went to work to identify best residential options. These parents wisely chose a safe, highly professional wilderness program to start. The healing process took root as Amy slowly began to accept support from her compassionate, clinically informed instructors. She learned to be at home in the woods, wrote every day in her journal, and began to exchange letters with her parents with love and respect. It was not an easy process but it prepared Amy and her family for the next step—a reputable boarding school in the South with strong academics and a results-oriented therapeutic process.
When Amy graduated from boarding school, she returned home to finish her junior year. Her mom wrote: “It’s hard to believe how much better things are. She is actually talking with us now, working hard in school, and seems happy with the changes she has made. So far, so good, and we are very grateful.”
“He has a good mind and heart …”
“Frank is 21 years old, and he is completely hooked on video games, which he plays night and day. He often does not show up for his college classes and his grades have nose-dived. We are very frustrated,” his parents reported.
We set up a series of face to face coaching sessions with Frank, made a good connection with him, and engaged him in an inventory of his personal strengths, issues, and short and long range goals. He acknowledged his desire to break his video game addiction and that he felt powerless to do it by himself.
After several meetings, Frank decided to take a break from college in order to work on his issues and break his addiction. He entered a creatively designed wilderness-based program for young adults where he made significant gains over a period of nine months. He made new friends, developed the habit of daily meditation and journal writing, engaged in community service projects, and emerged as a respected leader in his group of peers. Today Frank is living independently, has a good job, and plans to return for his senior year in college this fall.
FEEDBACK from Clients & Professionals
“It is hard to believe how much better things are. We are very thankful.”
—a grateful mom
“Whether in the wilderness or the boardroom, John Huie uses his substantial skills to bring diverse people together around common issues. I’ve experienced his creative leadership first hand and up close.”
—Arthur Sulzberger, Publisher, The New York Times
“John, you are and have been a lighthouse for my sons. I mean that – you have been there as a kind of beacon for them to see from afar and to be guided and reassured by—steady and strong.”
—a grateful father
“John is so committed to helping kids and he is passionate about this in a way that would be hard to put in words. He knows SO much and is incredibly dedicated and will find a program that is a proper fit.”
—K. McCabe, mother
“Needless to say we are ecstatic and very thankful to you for your support. We could never have done this without your leadership and sound empathy.”
—M. & N. Calloway, parents, Connecticut
“My sons and I would not be where we are today without your guidance and encouragement. We are blessed to have found you in our paths. We are forever grateful!”
—T. G., Hickory, NC
“We were truly lost, yet you were there to guide us towards that dim light that we couldn’t see.”
—P. & P. Michelet, parents
“I can recommend John Huie with the highest confidence. As a former headmaster, teacher, college professor, coach, and school director, John brings wisdom and kindness to this work. Parents and others who turn to him for assistance will know they are getting the very best. It gives me pleasure to recommend this servant-leader who knows and lives out the Outward Bound motto: ‘To serve, to strive, and not to yield.’”
—Josh Miner, Founder of Outward Bound USA
“Thanks for everything John, I don’t know what we would do without you.”
—Amy G., mother
“Thank you for the compassion and intelligence you brought to your work with our team. We are all very grateful to you.”
—Geraldine Plato, Head of Spruce Pine Montessori School
“John Huie speaks and leads with compassion and good will. He is an inspiration for all of us who strive to be responsible leaders and good corporate citizens.”
—John Raynolds, former CEO, Ward Howell International
“When parents face vexing decisions with their struggling teenagers, I simply give them John Huie’s contact information and say: ‘Here’s the man you need to talk to.’ As a former head of school himself, John has the experience and wisdom parents can trust. He knows the landscape, he listens with compassion, and he guides parents to solutions that bring hope.”
—Dr. James Hendrix, Interim Headmaster, St. John’s Academy, Houston, Texas
“The professional and caring way you navigated the world of wilderness therapy and therapeutic boarding schools on our behalf was masterful. You are the best, and we are eternally grateful.”
—T. & B., parents of 17-year-old son, Kentucky
“Thank you, as always, for your support and sage counsel.”
—C. Jarrell, mother
“Thank you. You are simply the best.”
—E. Isley, mother
“John works at the point of confluence where education, career counseling, philosophical conversation, and life coaching come together. He helps people to help themselves by seeing their situation clearly and then claiming their inner gifts and strengths. He inspires people to take responsibility for their choices and actions and to understand that, as Viktor Frankl says, ‘We may not be able to choose the situation in which we find ourselves, but we can always, always, choose how we will respond.’”
—Dale Roberts, Career Counselor, Warren Wilson College
“We certainly couldn’t have done this without your help. We feel incredibly grateful and so fortunate that our paths have crossed. Thank you for your guidance and support.”
—mother of 15-year-old son
“Thanks for our talk today. Your perspective and insight are always so valuable.”
—a grateful father, Winston-Salem NC
“John, words cannot express my thanks for your assistance. I look back on the
series of events and speed with which things fell into place once I stopped fighting
the process. It is all pretty unbelievable. Much appreciation to you.”
—mother of 15-year-old daughter
“I really like John Huie. He is so committed to helping kids and he is passionate about this in a way that would be hard to put in words.”
—mother of teen daughter
“I have grown from boy to man here. I am extremely happy with the fact I have been given a second chance.”
“Yesterday, I met a couple through my job, and I found myself discussing my son’s situation with them. Their response was that I needed to immediately contact a man named John Huie. I laughed and said I had managed to already do that. Apparently, you helped them with their son a few years back. They were highly complimentary of you.”
—a relieved father
“Thank you—you are simply the best. And I am thrilled to know you and Jesse Quam are now working together.”
—mother of 18-year-old
“Your radically genuine approach to connecting with families is inspirational.”
—Clinical Psychologist, Chief Clinician for residential treatment center in Vermont
“I tell people about you and you continue to be an inspiration to me in my darker moments. It is amazing what you did and still do.”
—father of 16 year old, Connecticut
“Thank you all so much for assisting me to find the perfect therapeutic boarding school for my son. I am truly blessed to have had you all in my corner, I had the dream team combination! A kind and knowledgeable therapist who not only guided and supported my son but also looked out for my well being. Two amazing Educational Consultants that worked so well together, they got to know my son and worked hard to find a perfect fit …where my son will continue his healing process and have an individualized academic program. Thank you all for going above and beyond what I ever expected; tonight when I count my blessings I will be saying your names!”
—mother of teen son
“John, thank you so much. We are all in your debt and you have been a wonderful resource and friend to my family. Personally I believe that your advice saved my son from almost certain disaster. My sons and our family are lucky to know you.”
—mother of teen sons
“We can’t thank you enough for your tireless work on our son’s behalf, or for the incredible kindness you have shown to all of us. You are the best of the best.”
With great respect and fondness,
—T. & W., parents