garden house with blue door surrounded by plant seedlings

The Ranch Program

Life at the Ranch in Cuttingsville centers around the upkeep of a diverse Vermont farm.

Each day, residents and staff in small groups participate in all the work involved in keeping a community of nearly 70 people going. There are four crews which engage in five hours of work each day. Our Farm Crew takes care of our cows, sheep, chickens, goats, and pigs, and runs the haying operation every summer.

Gardens Crew tends our vegetable gardens, lends a hand in the kitchen, oversees our year-round farmers market booth in Rutland, and does most of the holiday preparation. The Woods Crew busies itself in our 700 acres of forest – felling, limbing, bucking, splitting, and hauling the wood needed to heat our buildings and run our substantial maple sugaring operation. On the Shop Crew, residents build and repair furniture, fix tools, and keep our engines running. Other projects include sewing, weaving, cleaning, painting, landscaping, and all kinds of other work required to keep the Ranch running through all seasons.

For many, the Ranch is the first and most intense taste of community in a world that increasingly shifts people farther apart. The idea of shared efforts and accomplishments can be alien, leaving more than one resident to wonder aloud what good the community is doing them. It’s a question answered by time and acclimation to living life among others who know and respect them: community is the antidote to the isolation of illness and addiction. To depend on others – and have them depend on you – is an experience often under-appreciated in a quick-fix society.

Every member of the Ranch community can contribute in some way, and every small contribution adds to the vibrancy of the group as a whole.

We emphasize community involvement from the moment residents arrive at the Ranch, asking them to brainstorm ways that they can contribute. One might be a fitness buff who can advise other residents on exercise and staying in shape. Another might be a meditation enthusiast who invites others to share the practice of creating a quiet space in the morning. 

The Spring Lake Ranch approach is one of teamwork.

Residents have a clinician, psychiatrist, dietician, program coordinator, and mentor that make up their team, which brings a depth of therapy that residents value greatly. This group supports the resident in creating an action plan with goals and strategies specific to their needs. Through working with a consistent advising team familiar with each resident, and with input from the community, residents learn to recognize and manage the symptoms of illness and the hallmarks of addiction, acquiring the tools to reduce the impact of these forces on their lives.

Over time, the resident becomes more responsible for recognizing triggers and managing the stresses of life. The more involved and informed a resident is in the course of their treatment, the more likely they will be able to use this experience beyond the Ranch to realize the dream of a richer life.

We employ Mary Ellen Copeland’s Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) for both mental illness and dual diagnosis. This is a system of guided self-discovery, helping residents proactively manage their own wellness.

The clinical aspect of our program, supported by our master’s level staff of clinicians, provides a wonderful complement to the work therapy.

Though our approach is largely humanistic, we recognize that psychiatric medications, used properly and thoughtfully, are an important tool for wellness. We handle all types of medications in close concert with our consulting psychiatrist, who is available to meet with residents and their advising teams weekly and is on-call in the interim. 

Residents also meet one-on-one with their clinicians for hour-long therapy sessions, and the rich environment of the Ranch allows for more integrated and genuine therapeutic relationships. Clinicians are part of the daily milieu in the community, which includes working on crew, dining with residents, singing together in morning meeting (or at open mic night), playing games, sports, and practicing yoga.

Treatment plans can go beyond the office walls here at the Ranch because of our integrative model.

As part of a working and living community, clinicians gain deeper knowledge of residents and can see the “whole” person as they experience daily interactions. This in-depth model allows for treatment to be individualized and become the catalyst for change each resident is striving for.

Residents also have the opportunity to attend our many clinician-led groups such as Hearing Voices, Processing Group, Life Skills, Smoking Cessation, Yoga & Mindfulness, Wellness, AA/NA, SMART Recovery, and General Recovery.

Medication as part of recovery

Mental illnesses are brain diseases. People coping with mental illness and their families and therapists need to fight stigma whenever possible.

Recovery is possible with hard work and commitment; the cure is in the person, not the pill. The purpose of medication is to help regulate mood and damp down distracting and draining “brainstorms” such as mania, psychosis, bottomless despair, or dissociation. Managing this by willpower alone requires massive amounts of psychic energy, which are then not available for inner growth, connecting with other people, or having healthy fun. Declining to include medication in the treatment plan can result in settling for a life well below an individual’s potential and hopes for themselves.

At Spring Lake Ranch they have the opportunity to try new things or rekindle old passions.

We recognize that residents need time for their own creative pursuits, to find a sense of self often lost through illness, and to learn to handle unstructured time. 

The Ranch setting lends itself naturally to outdoor pursuits – hiking, snow shoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing, swimming, camping, canoeing. To add to the variety of outdoor physical activities, there’s also a gym with a newly-renovated fitness center, tennis court, basketball court, and game room with billiards and table tennis. 

For residents whose interests are more craft based, we have facilities for pottery, yoga, music, sewing, knitting, and art, as well as a wood shop where folks can try out their skills.

With input from the recreation staff, residents frequently plan and lead organized activities both on and off the Ranch. Access to events in Rutland and nearby towns include AA and NA meetings, theatre, concerts, movies, yoga classes, dances, and sporting events, as well as a casual cup of coffee with friends.

Each house forms an intimate community, housing from two to eight residents. While common areas and bathrooms are shared, resident bedrooms are single and private, and are simply but thoughtfully furnished, often with Ranch-made furniture. All houses are staffed with program coordinators who not only sleep in the homes, but work on crew, offering residents round-the-clock support.

Each house is more than just a place to sleep, it is a smaller culture within the Ranch with regular house meetings to address issues, as well as house events like dinner out or movie nights.

CARF Accredited: Spring Lake Ranch programs are CARF accredited. The CARF accreditation signals our commitment to continually improving services, encouraging feedback, and serving the community.

Spring Lake Ranch is a member of the American Residential Treatment Association (ARTA). ARTA members are dedicated to providing extraordinary care to adults with mental illness.