The Heroic Journey


The therapeutic curriculum at Cherry Gulch views the process of change through the lens of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. Throughout history, every culture has had stories, myths and metaphors of heroes that follow a similar path. The most basic steps of which are: leaving home on an adventure, overcoming challenges and transforming, then returning home a better version of themselves. Joseph Campbell recognized this path and named it the Hero’s Journey. In learning from the stories of so many that have come before, both in fiction and reality, we begin to recognize the journey in our lives and the necessity to become the hero of our own story.

The Hero’s Journey provides a framework for the process of change that occurs in each of our students and families during their time here. The journey follows ten steps that allow the student to confront their weaknesses, make positive change and learn what they have to offer the world. Finding the hero within is the greatest journey that we can embark on in our process of change and something that will open up windows and doors of opportunity to find our bliss where before there was none. Seeking after bliss and recognizing how that differs from instant gratification, sets the framework for creating a life of joy, fulfillment and purpose and in many ways outlines the work that Cherry Gulch provides each day to help our boys find and become the truest version of themselves.

When each therapeutic objective related to their current phase on the journey has been completed, all academic, residential, and clinical objectives have been met, and based on their ability to demonstrate behaviors and attitudes consistent with their current phase, the students will then become eligible for advancement. We have found that when students have persevered through the ups and downs of their journey and have allowed themselves to complete the process of change as outlined in the Hero’s Journey cycle, they are more prepared to face the world with all of its challenges as a more heroic, more courageous and more confident young man.


The Call

The moment a hero is called on a quest is known as his/her call. The hero may make a deliberate decisions to start a journey or he/she may have no choice.


Individuals who assist the her during the journey are known as allies. They may be acquired at any point during the journey and may be family members, friends, guides, animals, or even gods.

The Preparation

The hero needs to prepare for the journey. His/her needs may be physical (e.g. training, supplies, etc.) or they may be knowledge-based, such as information. Occasionally the preparation is psychological. For instance, the hero may have to muster courage to begin his/her great adventure.

Guardian(s) of the Threshold

The hero encounters obstacles which interfere with or delay the start of the journey. The obstacles may be literal (e.g. physical barriers or individuals who oppose the hero) or figurative (e.g. fears and doubts).

Crossing the Threshold

The hero actually begins his/her journey, crossing over into a new and unfamiliar world. Often the hero realizes that in this new place, the "underworld," he/she must acquire new skills or knowledge to function well.

Road of Trials

The hero faces a series of difficult experiences which test the courage, strength, intelligence, determination, and wisdom of the hero in the "underworld." It may even seem that he/she has no hope or chance of getting out of a dangerous situation.

The Saving Experience

Just when things are at their worst for the hero, he/she meets a special person, has a powerful experience, or receive a special gift that "save" him/her, enabling him/her to achieve the journey's goal.

The Transformation

The hero is changing, now understanding the "underworld" around him/her and adapting accordingly. The transformation of the hero is sometimes physical, often mental, emotional, and/or spiritual.

The Return

The hero returns to the "normal world" but now sees life differently because of the journey.

Sharing The Gift

The hero shares the gift of experience, knowledge, and wisdom - gained through the journey - with the broader community.

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