September 2020:  Carrying On With Covid                                                                                                                    

By this time there are probably very few treatment programs that haven’t been directly touched by Covid-19, whether in students or employees.  And it’s a situation we’ve all had to quickly learn to prevent, address, respond to, and manage.  Kolob Canyon has thus far not had any students who have tested positive for Covid-19.  The collaboration and support between NATSAP programs has been inspiring as everyone is navigating this together. 

Here is what we have learned and what we've done...
  1. Employee temperatures are taken each day as they arrive at work.  Any employee with a temperature over 100 degrees is asked to go home.  Employees also fill out a questionnaire regarding symptoms before starting work each day.  
  2. All students are requried to wear masks especially during school hours.  All employees are required to wear masks.
  3. Social distancing is always encouraged.      
  4. Frequent handwashing and disinfecting surfaces is just a way of life now.
  5. If we do have any students with symptoms or if a student does test postive for Covid, they will be immediately quarantined.  
  6. We have an off-campus quarantine home for use if a student is having symptoms or tests positive for Covid.  
  7. If an employee tests positive, they immediately quarantine at home for the recommended 10-14 days before being cleared to return to work.  If they have tested positive for covid, employees must have a negative Covid test prior to returning to work.
  8. We are providing testing to our employees when they have concerns about symptoms or if they feel they have been exposed to Covid-19.  
  9. Student have been able to seamlessly continue with their schooling and therapy.  
  10. Our off-campus activity options are always being adjusted as necessary, as dictated by local levels of outbreak and CDC recommendations.  We have been able to continue participation in our Adventure Therapy Wednesday activities and monthly trips.  
  11. All new students enrolling, must be tested and have a negative test result before admitting and joining the other students on campus.  
  12. We continue to restrict tours on our campus.  
  13. Parent visits and home visits have enhanced testing and quarantining requirements to help increase the safety of everyone.  All students returning from a home visit or off-campus visit are tested and remain in quarantine with their parents or in our quarantine house until they receive a negative test result.
  14. We are coordinating the times of home visits and parent visits to ensure that testing can occur with results obtained in a reasonable amount of time.
  15. We are using a private lab in St. George for all of our testing.  This has helped make this process so much easier with results obtained in 24-36 hours in most instances.     

And With All of This....

Kolob Canyon has been able to continue safely enrolling new students, and we have had overwhelmingly positive feedback from our parents on our handing and communication with the pandemic.  None of us could have ever predicted the curve balls of 2020, but we're pretty proud of how it's going!  

August 2020:  Adventure Therapy During Covid-19                                                                                                

During this time of Covid-19, when so many schools and programs have been cancelled or have in some ways curtailed activities, Kolob Canyon has been able to continue our Adventure Therapy program.  Much of this is due to our location which provides us ready access to wonderous National Parks, stunning State Parks, lakes, hiking trails and so much more.  Because much of our adventure includes outdoor activities where our students are easily distanced from others they might encounter, students have been able to continue engaging in these amazing opportunities.  This spring and summer have been filled with hikes, paddle boarding, kayaking, exploring and rock scampering.  Each Wednesday brings a new adventure activity--outdoor activities, service projects or Academic Field Trips.  And once a month we have continued to experience our 3-day Adventure Trips including a fun river rafting trip on the Colorado River in July.  Adventure is such an important component of Kolob!  Why?  Because we believe that the more a student plays, explores, builds mastery, connects with nature and others - the more open they will be to making those adjustments towards a healthier, more balanced life. 

July 2020:  How Our Parents Feel We Are Doing Handling Covid-19                                                              

The safety of our students, their families and our staff is of upmost importance to us at Kolob.  In March we quickly put into place Covid-19 guidelines and protocols.  Over the past months, these guidelines and protocols have changed as needs arose or circumstance changed.  We routinely communicate with our parents to ensure that they are part of this process. Our staff are closely monitored when they arrive on campus.  Temperatures are taken and staff fill out a questionnaire about any symptoms before they start working each day.  Clinicians and teachers wear masks in the classroom and meetings.  Initially we cancelled off campus and home visits.  This was very difficult for our students and their parents. We have since reinstituted visits in the area as well as home visits for some of our students.  We follow strict protocols following a visit ensuring that students are tested for Covid-19 and then remain in quarantine until they receive a negative test result.  New students are also tested prior to admission and are quarantined until they receive a negative test result.  With these protocols we have been able to keep our students and staff safe and healthy. 

Recently Executive Director, Jack Hinman sent our parents a survey to see how they feel we are handling Covid-19.  We were pleased with the results.  We now know what we have done well and what we need to improve.  A sample of some of the questions asked included:

Is the program meeting your expectations related to parent to program communication?


Answers/Choices Responses
Very Good 9
Good 11
Fair 1


Is the program meeting your expectations with parent to child contact during this pandemic?


Answers/Choices Responses
Very Good 13
Good 5
Fair 2
How much do you support the programs current COVID-19 visit protocols?


Answers/Choices Responses
Kolob has a good balance of health/safety while supporting parent contact 19
Kolob should do more to increase the safety of students and parents 0
Kolob's protocols are excessive 1


Since the pandemic do you believe your child is having a closer to a normalized experience/childhood being in treatment compared to their peers that are at home?


Answers/Choices Responses
Yes 15
No  4
Unsure 2


Due to the pandemic, do you believe your child is having a normalized academic experience compared to peers?


Answers/Choices Responses
Yes 20
No  0
Unsure 1



June 2020:  Adventure Trip to Tropic Reservoir                                                                                                         

In June Kolob Canyon students, therapists and teachers adventured to a new location--Tropic Reservoir.  It was a beautiful part of the state that we have not visited before.  The beautiful little reservoir is located close to Red Canyon where we enjoyed hiking on the first day of our 3-day trip.  We loved the amazing red rocks and scenery in Red Canyon.  The second day of our 3-day trip included a fantastic day at the lake where we paddle boarded, kayaked and swam.  Although the water was a bit cold, no one seemed to care.  Our DBT theme for this trip was IMPROVE.  Each night included a student led group where the DBT theme was discussed.  Students especially enjoyed hanging out around the fire each night bonding and talking.  Adventure Trips provide our students with the means to do hard things and work through those things with their therapists who are doing the same hard things with them.  We love our adventure trips so much!!!




May 2020:  Kolob Canyon Welcomes a New Kitten to our Animal Family                                                     

Kolob is always excited to welcome new animals to our campus.  Animals help provide our students with support--sometimes when no one else can.  Often you will see one of our students holding one of our cats during a therapy session.  And you can usually find a student sitting on the porch snuggling a kitty.  In the past few weeks we have made a home for 3 new kittens.  The first kitten arrived a few weeks ago and the other two arrived just this week.  The students named our first new kitten, Cosmos because they thought her fur looked like the night sky.  Cosmos is receiving a lot of attention which is understandable seeing how completely adorable she is.  





April 2020:  Resources for Parent Support During Covid-19                                                                               

Depending on your situation and where you live, you might be social distancing, self-quarantining, working from home, taking care of children not in school AND elderly parents in your home.  Wow, so much!   It is easy to feel overwhelmed and a bit out of control.   You aren't alone!  We hear you and want to help provide some support.   The good news is that Kolob Canyon and CERTS Parent Education have some wonderful on demand webinars that can provide you with much needed connection, information and support.  Recently our Executive Director Jack Hinman provided a LIVE webinar about Self-Care during this Covid-19 period.   

There are also the following webinars that parents can access for some daily support.  All of our CERTS Parent Education webinars can be located on our CERTS Parent Education Channel at

March 2020:  Celebrating Our Awesome Residential Team Leadership                                                 

We have some pretty amazing staff at Kolob.  This month our Residential Director Tiffany Neibaur celebrates her 15th year working at Kolob.  She has literally been with us from the very start.  Through all of the ups and downs Tiffany has been our rock.  Tiffany is a true leader, and an inspiration to our students and our staff.  She sets an example of what it means to be a caring mentor to the students we support.  Her dedication is felt every day by the families we feel so privileged to support.  Her staff are quick to say that she is the glue that holds everything together.  Thank you Tiffany!  


Maria Fowler, our Assistant Residential Director was awareded with an Excellence in Service Award at the Southwest NATSAP Conference (National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs).  Fowler was nominated due to her years of tremendous and consistent support to our students at Kolob.  She is a good example and mentor to our students.  We were thrilled that not only do we know Fowler is special, those in the industry also see that she is excellent.  Our residential team leadership is wonderful.  


February 2020:  Parent Seminars Are Always a Highlight                                                                                    

Once a quarter we are excited to welcome our parents to campus for a 3-day Parent Seminar. Over the years we have found these weekends to be an incredibly important part of treatment for students and parents.  They provide parents with the opportunity to learn new skills and support each other.   Family therapy is an important part of parent seminar weekends and often families are able to participate in Equine Therapy together providing another layer to their family therapy session.  Parent/Teacher Conferences are equally essential allowing our academic team to catch up with parents about their student's progress.  And we never forget the Adventure!  There is nothing like hiking or tubing to remember how to have fun together.  Another essential aspect of parent weekend is time to spend together as parents and child reconnecting, practicing new skills and enjoying each other's company.  We had an wonderful parent weekend in February.  We love having parents with us on campus.



January 2020:  The Three Day Effect--Adventure Therapy Trips                                                                        

We have a tradition at Kolob Canyon...a tradition that we LOVE!  Every year, the first adventure trip of the season is spent at Ruby's Inn just outside of Bryce Canyon National Park.  There is just nothing as beautiful as snow on the red rock formations.  It just takes your breath away.  We love the winter activities this adventure trip has to offer including ice skating and cross country skiing.  And we love that we get to stay inside when it is a bit chilly outside--so cozy.  We look forward to our 3-day adventure trips on the horizon with our annual ski/snowboard trip to Brian Head in Feburary and Arches National Park in March. 

We have been asked, "Why do you go on 3 day adventure trips?"  Good question!  There is actually scientific research that demonstrates that for changes to be made in one's mood and overall emotional functioning, a person needs to spend 3 days consecutive days in the outdoors. David Strayer, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Utah put this hypothesis to the test. 

It immediately struck a chord with Strayer, an avid backpacker who noticed that some of his best ideas emerged after three days of camping out.

“Having hiked around the desert for years, I noticed in myself, and from talking to others, that people think differently after being out in the desert. Their thoughts are clearer, they’re certainly more relaxed, they report being more creative,” says Strayer. “If you can disconnect and experience being in the moment for two or three days, it seems to produce a difference in qualitative thinking.”

Strayer wanted to find ways to test what he started calling “the three-day effect,” a kind of neural reboot that might boost creativity. “I wanted to try to understand what was going on inside the brain," he says.

So, for a study published in 2012, Strayer and his colleagues Paul and Ruth Ann Atchley from the University of Kansas administered tests to 28 backpackers before and after going on Outward Bound trips. Immediately after a trip, the participants performed 47 percent better in a word-test game that measures creative thinking and insight problem-solving. The game is called the Remote Associates Test, or RAT. It poses a series of three words; for example, tug, gravy and show. The test taker has to come up with the fourth word that fits with all three; in this case, boat.

“A near 50 percent improvement is huge!” says Strayer.

What caused it? Strayer believes the frontal cortex (our executive taskmaster) of the backpackers’ brains got a much-needed break. Strayer often studies networks in the brain, especially the attention network, which typically gets pretty fried in the normal course of life these days. So many things demand our attention: emails, pings, deadlines, chores, grocery lists, elusive parking spots, and, as William Wordsworth put it, all the “getting and spending.” The world, wrote the poet, “is too much with us.” And that was in the early 1800s!

When the attention network is freed up, other parts of the brain appear to take over, like those associated with sensory perception, empathy and productive day-dreaming.

“That first day in nature, your mind is recalibrating and you start to notice things a little bit, to unwind from the modern world,” says Strayer. “You notice cloud patterns, sounds and smells, and it becomes really acute. You don’t need a watch anymore. You forget what day of the week it is.”

The Strayer team’s results caught the attention of some other neuroscientists, such as University of Nebraska researcher Frank Ferraro III, who normally studies addictive behaviors. Curious to see if he could replicate the creativity findings, he gave a similar RAT test to college students before and after a six-day canoeing trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota. This time he also had a control group, a bunch of students who would take the test six days apart in a classroom setting. The earlier results were confirmed: The campers showed a 50 percent improvement after the trip, but there was no meaningful change in the control group.

An older study suggests the cognitive surge isn’t just a vacation effect. In 1991 psychologist Terry Hartig and colleagues tested backpackers as well as people taking sightseeing and other types of vacations, and found increased performance only in the backpackers.

Now Strayer is drilling down further to a part of the attention network, the midline of the frontal cortex, where theta waves become active when we are performing demanding cognitive tasks. He already has data indicating those waves quiet down out in nature, but not, notably, if you’re using your phone at the same time. (

His advice: Go outside for three days, and turn the phone off.   So 3 days it is!



December 2019:  Wow! It Has Been One Incredible Year at Kolob Canyon                               

As 2019 comes to an end, we at Kolob Canyon are so incredibly grateful for this past year.  We were excited to welcome new therapist Virgina Sanford to our clinical team.  She has brought so much energy and caring to our team.  We were also happy to welcome a new Admissions Director Wendy Penrod to our Kolob family.  Her authentic warmth is so needed as parents navigate the admissions process.  With our breeding program, Kolob welcomed three new baby horses this past year.  There is just nothing as cute as little foals and colts frolicking on campus.  We also started a fostering program in association with a local horse rescue.  It has been a priviledge to help horses in need.  Our students have especially loved this opportunity to serve--although it can be very hard to say goodbye when a horse finds a permanent home.  Kolob earned Gold Status as a Research Designated Program in March.  Our committment to data collection and outcomes remains a top priority.  During 2019, Kolob was thrilled to be one of the founding members of SUPA (Southern Utah Program Association).  In September Kolob along with the other CERTS Programs was instrumental in organizing the first SUPA tour for Education Consultants.  Our clinical team received training in Natural Lifemanship, a trauma focused psychotherapy.  This therapy based on connection and attachment will be an integral part of the Kolob Canyon program.  And let's not forget our adventures--something we do so well!  Students, therapist and academic staff enjoyed trips to Arches National Park, Great Basin National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Valley of Fire State Park and so much more.  In the summer we enjoyed hking, camping, swimming, cliff juming, river rafting and paddle boarding.  In the winter we loved downhill skiing, cross country skiing, ice skating and snowshoeing.  What a truly amazing year!  We can't wait to see what 2020 brings our way.



November 2019:  Fostering, Adopting and Service To Animals Is Important To Our Students 

Students at Kolob Canyon are involved with animals on a daily basis.  Horse chores, Equine Therapy and Horsemanship Classes are an integral part of our program and our student lives.  For many of our students they will share their feelings with a horse before they will with their therapist.  Every 6 weeks our students are able to provide service at Best Friends Animal Santuary or at Dust Devil Horse Rescue.  These service projects are often a highlight for students and our team members.  We recently took our relationship with Dust Devil Horse Rescue to another level when we started to foster some of their horses on our campus.  Students have worked diligently to provide a caring and nuturing environment to horses that are malnourished and often experiencing their own anxiety.  Helping these horses regain health has been so impactful.  It can however be hard on the day when a fostered horse is healthy and is ready to move to a new adopted home.  Our students feel happy that a horse has recuperated and sad as they say goodbye to a horse that they love so much.  

During a recent visit to Best Friends Pet Santuary, our students fell in love with an older dog, Sparrow.  Sparrow has had multiple placements and had difficulty with these previous placement opportunities.  He struggles with separation anxiety and it was hard for him when past owners had to leave him at home while they went to work.  Sparrow had also been in an accident and lost one of his front legs.  This also made it more difficult for him to be adopted as well.  Our students felt an immediate connection to this sad and anxious fella.  So in November, Sparrow became the newest member of our campus.  He is still adjusting, but has 12 students and numerous staff who give him daily cuddles.  He is welcomed into therapist offices to support students during therapy sessions.  Sparrow is learning to trust us and we are finding that our hearts are big enough to love another animal in need of nurturing.  

OCTOBER 2019:  "EVERY BRILLIANT THING"....WAS BRILLIANT                                                                                                                                                                     

There is a play with a life-affirming message so powerful that the Utah Shakespeare Festival is offering it to every public high school and university in the state of Utah to help stem the tide of youth suicide. Every Brilliant Thing, by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe, is an ingenious, heartfelt, highly theatrical one-person show wherein the narrator interacts directly with the audience.

Audience members learn that when the narrator was a child, his mother suffered from depression and attempted suicide. The narrator decided to make a list of all the things that make life worth living to persuade her to live, starting with #1, “ice cream,” and continuing to one million. This inventive, beautifully rendered theatrical experience is unique in the way the audience becomes a support community for the narrator and gains rich insights along the way about the things hiding in plain sight that make life worthwhile and wonderful.

On October 16th, students at Kolob Canyon were able to participate in this theatrical experience at the OTC Training Center.  Our students were part of the play both as actors and as they shared their own "brilliant things" throughout the show.  Because this play deals with the significant topic of suicide prevention, we spent time processing with our students following the play.  We feel very fortunate that our students had the opportunity.




Kolob Canyon is pleased to welcome Wendy Penrod as our new Admissions Director.  Wendy comes to Kolob Canyon with a wealth of experience.  She has been working with youth for the last 13 years in both the private and public sector.  Wendy actually worked as a mentor at Moonridge Academy many years ago and we are thrilled she has returned!   Most recently Wendy collaborated with local officials and educators implementing mental health preventive measures in schools and developing programs for students in risk.  Wendy is trained in DBT, Motivational Interviewing, Procedural Justice, and Trauma Informed Care. Wendy earned a Bachelor's of Fine Arts in classical acting from Southern Utah University.  While at SUU, Wendy met and fell head over heels in love with TJ Penrod.  The two just celebrated their twelfth wedding anniversary. Together Wendy and TJ sponsor an annual acting competition for teens.  Wendy believes with her whole heart that a comprehensive, compassionate approach with families is the most effective way to help youth become their best selves.

Five fun facts about Wendy....

1. Wendy loves improv theatre. She and her husband TJ own and operate a non-profit improvisational theater in Cedar City. They do weekly improv comedy shows and have traveled all over doing improv. Wendy is also the camp director for Camp Improv Utopia West, a weekend summer camp for improv artists from all over the world.

2. Wendy loves thrills. She loves super high rollercoasters and has been skydiving three times.

3. Wendy loves to travel and has been to 45 states, three countries, and plans to add even more numbers to those totals.

4. Wendy loves painting her nails and has a nail polish collection that could rival any professional nail salon.

5. Wendy's favorite color is leopard print. You name it, she's got it in leopard print.


KOLOB CLINICIANS TRAIN IN TRAUMA-FOCUSED EQUINE PSYCHOTHERAPY                                                

Our Clinical Team works tirelessly to enhance their skills so they can improve the lives of our students.  Our therapists have long been trained in Equine Therapy and have seen the benefits that it brings to the lives of our students.   In late September our amazing clinicians participated in additional extensive Trauma-Focused Equine Psychotherapy.  The training was provided by Natural Lifemanship.  Since 1986 this group has helped people overcome trauma and toxic stress by teaching clinicians how to help their clients form healthy relationships, with the help of horses.  Our clinical team Craig, Virginia and Ruth along with our Equine Director Anndi felt that this opportunity and training will provide even more support to our students who have experienced trauma.