Building brighter tomorrows
for the boys of today.

Psychology Group

Psychology groups take place 1 hour a week and take the form of psycho educational groups. Topics covered include: Substance Abuse Prevention, Anger Management, Self-Esteem, Social Skills Training, Coping Skills Training, and Adoption Issues.

Psychology Integrated Treatment Model

Cherry Gulch’s program model integrates several well-known treatment approaches. The sound theoretical foundation is quickly familiar to both the clinicians employed by the program and the educational or clinical professionals who refer young people to the program. This familiarity generally brings confidence in the program results.

The key components of the Cherry Gulch treatment model include:

    Positive peer leadership
    Process group therapy
    Guided Group Interventions
    Individual therapy
    Family therapy
    Structured residential milieu
    Psycho-educational classes
    Experiential Learning
    Intensive parent workshops


The Equine level overlay expands the boy's horizons to the horse barn and beyond. Aside from general knowledge of barnyard chores and animal care, the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program has been adopted to guide us through levels of horse wisdom.

Cherry Gulch has a membership to Parelli's Savvy Club, which enables us to use the Parelli level criteria to learn and sharpen skills of the 4 savvys of horsemanship: on-line, liberty, freestyle and finesse.

The boys will experience the Parelli games and tasks relating to them during some of the EAP therapy as well.

The equine level work overlay incorporates the Parelli 7 games, both on the ground and in the saddle. The Parelli Savvy Club information also teaches about 'Horsenalities' which helps people to understand the difference between confident dominance versus confident willingness as well as unconfident flight or brace--versus yield and trust.

It can be a great learning curve when experiencing the needs of these different horsenalities and coming to understand how to build the strengths that come with each type of behavior.

Upon graduating as Trail Boss the boys should be able to demonstrate skills in the Parelli level 1 and 2 ground play and riding. Our motivated students will be able to demonstrate many level 3 skills according to the Parelli self assessment checklist criteria.

Parelli Natural Horsemanship is a trademark of PARELLI NATURAL HORSEMANSHIP, INC. which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this site.

Neurological Technology

Cherry Gulch currently offers the following programs with the purpose of giving our students the additional resources they need to be successful in our program and throughout their lives. These programs are not intended to be a replacement for face to face therapeutic  intervention, but rather a tool to work alongside other aspects of the program.


Neurofeedback is a program that has also been called EEG Biofeedback. Neurofeedback is a direct training of brain function. We observe brain activity while the student is controlling a video game with his level of concentration and relaxation. The game is used to reward the brain for changing its own activity to more appropriate patterns. This program is designed to train the brain for self-regulation of arousal levels. Neurofeedback addresses problems of brain deregulation. Neurofeedback research has seen improvements in many areas including the anxiety-depression spectrum, attention deficits, behavior disorders, various sleep disorders, headaches and migraines, and emotional disturbances. You can find more information about Neurofeedback at

Play Attention

Play Attention was developed by a Master Educator whose techniques have been proven in over 450 school systems, thousands of homes, learning centers, hospitals, and psychologist’s offices, worldwide since 1996. Play Attention has been used for more years and by more people than virtually any attention training system or memory training system available. It has been featured in the national news media on Good Morning America, NBC News, Woman’s World, The Boston Globe, and many other national and international media ( A series of games are used to teach the student what it feels like to be fully focused for a long period of time. This is particularly helpful with ADD and ADHD, but is used by many people that don’t have a disorder and just want to increase concentration skills.


Cogmed Working Memory Training is a computer-based program designed to improve the working memory. Using a series of computer-based games and activities, the student exercises his working memory through challenging tasks involving number, letter, and light sequences. The Cogmed program tracks the student’s progress and gives a final margin of improvement after the program is completed.

Alpha Stem

Alpha Stem is a small machine with two small clips that are placed on each ear lobe. Tiny electric currents are sent through these clips that are similar to those found naturally in the body, using a method called Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES). The tiny electric currents that are sent through the ear lobes are designed to regulate the electrical activity of the brain resulting in relief from stress, anxiety, insomnia, and depression.

What Is Occupational Therapy?

In its simplest terms, occupational therapists help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with varying abilities to participate fully in school, play activities, and social situations. With the help of occupational therapy, students can learn to master day-to-day skills and be engaged at school and at home. Occupational therapy services typically include:

    an individualized evaluation, during which the student/family and occupational therapist determine the person’s goals,
    customized intervention to improve the student’s ability to perform daily activities and reach the goals, and
    outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan.

Occupational therapy services may include comprehensive evaluations of the student’s home and other environments (e.g., school), recommendations for adaptive equipment and training in its use, and guidance and education for family members and caregivers. Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment to fit the student, and the student is an integral part of the therapy team. Occupational therapy is a science-driven, evidence-based profession that enables people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health and prevent—or live better with—illness, injury, or disability.

Fine Motor Skills Development:  This group is designed to work on fine motor skills development, bilateral coordination skills, in-hand manipulation skills, upper extremity strength and endurance, as well as, visual-motor skills development.

Candidates: Include students who demonstrated poor fine motor coordination, poor sequencing skills, poor handwriting skills, and poor keyboarding skills.  Functionally, these students may demonstrate difficulties with tying shoes, buttoning, latching zippers, holding cards for a card game, shuffling cards,  turning one page at a time with books or magazines, difficulty lining up numbers with math problems, dropping things, etc.

Handwriting Skills Group: This group is designed to work on handwriting skills development with focus on letter formation, spacing, legibility, visual- motor and/or visual perceptual skills and functional use of writing utensils.

Candidates:  Functionally, these students have poor or messy handwriting, take an extra amount of time to complete written work, often avoid written work, have a dysfunctional pencil grip, etc.

Cooperative Play/Social Skills: This group is designed to work on cooperative play and social skills development through use of activity and play.

Candidates:  Functionally, these students have difficulty working with others, sharing, turn-taking, cooperating, assertive communication, reading others’ body language and social cues, reading and understanding the social world around them and how they are observed by others, etc.

Individual OT Services:  Individual OT services are designed for students who need individualized treatment. Recommendations for individualized OT treatment are generally based on initial OT Screen, OT evaluation, clinical observations, chart review, and teacher, therapist or parent request/recommendation.  Individualized treatment is generally recommended for students demonstrating difficulties with: sensory processing, sensory modulation, self-regulation, motor planning, auditory processing, fine and gross motor coordination, handwriting, visual-motor and visual perceptual, executive functioning, attention and concentration, etc. Also, students who have difficulties with verbal expression of feelings and emotions.

What is Social Thinking?

Social thinking is what we do when we interact with people: we think about them.  How we think about people affects how we behave, which in turn affects how others respond to us, which in turn affects our own emotions.  When we share space with another human, whether we are with friends, sending an email, in a classroom or at the grocery store, we take in the thoughts, emotions and intentions of the people we are interacting with.
Most of us have developed our communications sense from birth onwards, steadily observing and acquiring social information and learning how to respond to people. Because social thinking is an intuitive process, we usually take it for granted.  But for many individuals, this process is anything but natural. And this often has nothing to do with conventional measures of intelligence.  In fact, many people score high on IQ and standardized tests, yet do not intuitively learn the nuances of social communication and interaction.  Cherry Gulch professionals utilize a treatment framework and curriculum developed by Michelle Garcia Winner that target improving individual social thinking abilities, regardless of diagnostic label.

Social Thinking strategies share common traits with "social skills" teachings but differ in that Social Thinking builds specific thinking strategies that occur prior to social communication and interaction.  Social Thinking strategies include teaching students:

    How their own social minds work - why they and others react and respond the way they do;
    How their behaviors affect the way others perceive and respond to them;
    And how this affects their own emotions, responses to and relationships with others across different social contexts.

The goal in teaching students at Cherry Gulch Social Thinking is that students will learn to recognize that they and others have different perceptions and abilities to process social information.  They will also learn to navigate social interactions and communications in order to adapt and respond positively to the people and situations around them.

Currently Cherry Gulch has encompassed the Social Thinking model throughout the program by establishing a common vocabulary for staff and students, weekly Social Thinking groups, parent education and in the moment coaching.  Moving forward the interdisciplinary team at Cherry Gulch is invested in expanding the Social Thinking model.

Cherry Gulch seeks to provide the best learning environment for our staff, students and the families that we serve. In order to help create this physically and emotionally safe learning environment, we have implemented an emotional literacy program that reduces bullying, increases attentiveness in the classroom and creates an emotionally safe learning and living environment for those that we serve. As the first therapeutic boarding school to implement the program, we have found it both rewarding as well as effective in its implementation and have realized the tremendous impact that it has on not only our students but their parents and our staff as well. The program is designed to help individuals recognize their emotions and regulate them. The RULER Approach is made of four different anchors that build upon each other to create emotional literacy and in turn, an emotionally safe environment. The four anchors can be found around Cherry Gulch’s campus in the vocabulary of our staff and students, but also throughout the structure of our school. The Charters pictured are one of the four anchors and were created by our staff and students. Our goal is to provide early intervention and prevention to help these boys reach their full potential and to become well-rounded prosocial young men.

The RULER Approach is a comprehensive emotional literacy program that helps to empower and teach individuals to regulate their emotions and find success in their daily endeavors. Mark Brackett, the co-founder of the RULER Approach has been studying emotional intelligence for his entire professional career and has done over a decade’s worth of studies on the program and how it affects classrooms and corporations. RULER teaches the fundamentals for recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing and regulating emotions The end result is significantly reduced bullying, higher test scores, and more success in personal and professional endeavors.

The Ruler Approach is an outgrowth of decades of research on emotional intelligence conducted by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. This research has proven that emotional skills are integral to personal, social, and academic success. Research supporting the RULER Approach has shown an 11% difference in end of year grades, and a 17% difference in school problems. Hundreds of schools in the United States and abroad have adopted The RULER Approach to successfully integrate social and emotional learning since its’ start in 2005, but Cherry Gulch is the first therapeutic school to implement the program.
The RULER Approach and Bullying Prevention

The RULER Approach and Bullying Prevention

Bullying is not tolerated at Cherry Gulch, and the RULER Approach is an effective tool in preventing the behavior. The tragedies of bullying are rooted, in part, in a failure to regulate emotions effectively. Teaching children how to manage their emotions and how to create and maintain healthy and supportive relationships often is not considered part of the standard school curriculum. But if children cannot handle the many emotions they experience throughout the day—jealousy, anger, excitement, curiosity, loneliness, disappointment, boredom, fear—how can we expect them to concentrate on learning and being kind to others? If children cannot feel empathy for peers who may look, act, or feel differently than them, how can we expect them to critically analyze a character in a text or take other’s needs into consideration? We cannot and we should not. Children need to learn healthy and compassionate options for expressing the range of emotions they experience throughout the day, and The RULER Approach teaches the students the skills needed to accomplish this.

Sources: Letter from Susan E. Rivers, PhD. Co-Developer of The RULER Approach to Social and Emotional Learning