June 20, 2016 Marion MacDonald

High Ropes Course Challenges Families to Develop New Dynamic

As part of Mirasol's family program, both clients and their families participate in high ropes challenge courses, including zip lines, high "V" and giant ladders.

"We've been doing the challenge course for several years now, and it has become a really important part of our program," says Mirasol Executive Director Diane Ryan.

"It's a great metaphor for what the clients are going through in treatment. Recovery from an eating disorder is a huge challenge, but clients learn that they're stronger than they think they are, that they can access different resources, learn to ask for support, and find out that they're not in this all by themselves."

Since the challenge course was so powerful in the normal course of treatment, Ryan decided to incorporate it into Mirasol's three-day family program.

"The exercises help women and their families see how they relate to one another," says Ryan. "We talk a lot about things like enmeshment and enabling. But it's one thing to talk about it, and it's another to climb 40 feet in the air, lean on each other for support, and find out that one of you is holding back and unwilling to trust. Or discover how you can push through it by encouraging each other and being clear about communicating what you need."

In the "High V", two people clasp hands and traverse a set of cables in a "V" shape, each walking on one of the cables. The farther they traverse, the more they must lean on one another. The only way for them to succeed is to put their total trust in each other.

"Adding the challenge course has created a whole different dimension. Families often tell us that it was the highlight of the program. It helps them feel connected and learn to communicate in a different way. So it really does what we want family program to do, which is put them in a place where they will have a whole different relationship going forward."