Incorporating Culture into Treatment

Raven's Way Standards of Care

The Raven's Way youth substance abuse treatment program was created in 1989 to be responsive to the needs of Alaska Native youth through the following components:

  1. The focus is on building strengths in a balanced way, using the medicine wheel as a foundation. This is referenced on the Raven's Way Certificate of Completion, which reads: "Long ago our ancestors knew what it was to be strong. To be strong in body and in spirit. Their strength came from training and discipline. Those who were not strong did not survive. Our ancestors knew the survival of our ways is in the strength of our young people."
  2. The program uses a learning model rather than a disease model of treatment. Participants are called "students," and focus on learning new skills for healthy survival. Learning is experiential, through group and individual challenges in wilderness environments. This is consistent with Native methods of learning-by-doing in natural settings.
  3. Students learn problem-solving, self-care, life skills and conflict resolution through daily challenges and natural consequences. They learn their importance in the group, and receive frequent feedback from peers and staff.
  4. Learning is in the context of a family-style environment, with close relationships with a small cohort of peers and staff. Students learn leadership skills through being Leader of the Day several times during the course.
  5. Experiential learning in wilderness environments provides opportunities for success for non-verbal students and students for whom English is a second language. This works well for Native students who may be bilingual or from small rural villages.
  6. Respect for themselves and others is part of daily life. The strength-based treatment model, family style environment, opportunities for student leadership, and valuing of different cultural backgrounds supports self-respect. This is a core value across Native cultures.
  7. An opportunity to learn about different cultural backgrounds as well as the chance to participate in cultural activities promotes cross-cultural respect and pride in their own cultural heritage.
  8. Cultural opportunities include: talking circles, sweat lodge, smudging, pouch making and ceremony, drum-making and powwow-style drumming, cultural guests, Native recovery stories, Native books and stories, rites of passage including a three-day solo expedition, participation in subsistence and local cultural activities and role-modeling by Native and non-Native staff.


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