Phases of Change

At Discovery Ranch for Girls, we believe in different tactics when it comes to program advancement. Our main goal is to provide our girls with the tools to succeed beyond the therapy sphere. The system that we use, our Phases of Change mirror the levels of development in a healthy maturing young adult. These real-life phases help our students mature and grow in a natural way. This type of leveling is a unique aspect of Discovery Ranch for Girls in that we emphasize practical application of skills. The phases that our students advance follow the order that humans develop: Caution, Duty, Justice, Trust, Love. These Phases of Change ask the question: when you do the right thing, why do you do it, each level representing a different kind of motivation. 

As a person matures, he or she goes from being a dependent child to an independent adult. Beyond independence, a mature healthy adult will become interdependent. It is this goal we have in mind with our Phases of Change. Interdependent people participate in the community; they help others and learn to accept help in return. Discovery Ranch for Girls is designed to follow this path of dependence to interdependence. The first two phases Caution and Duty begin with external motivation, progressing, the third phase, Justice, stems from internal motivation, finally, the fourth and final phases, Trust and Love, require a deeper sense of internal motivation. These phases move our girls toward the end goal of interdependence and healthy relationships with others.

Our Phases of Change is something that sticks with the girls as they move out of our program and into the real world. Their experience at Discovery Ranch for Girls will mirror other experiences that they have throughout their lives. By participating in our program, students gain a visceral sense of what the phases of change feel like. They will learn that it feels better for them to act out of love than caution. 


Fear can be a motivator for good. It might seem like an odd concept, but a healthy dose of caution keeps one safe. Our first phase, Caution, represents making choices out of fear of negative consequences. It’s the most basic motivator in a person’s journey. Many of our girls come to us without trust in their therapeutic journey. This step asks our girls simply, “Can you keep yourself safe?” For many girls, a fear of the unknown or negative consequences is the only thing keeping them in treatment, and that’s okay. This is our starting point. 

Caution represents the dependent phase as our girls rely on others for motivation. As our students learn to recognize and examine their own internal motivations, they progress through the phases and develop the proper skills to make healthy life decisions. 

Each phase has different specific goals in mind in Residential, clinical, and academic life. In the Caution phase, these are the lessons our girls pursue:


  • Exercise healthy caution and keep herself and others safe
  • Comply with basic Ranch and House rules and expectations
  • Complete her Orientation Packet
  • Finish her quilt


  • Complete her Outcome survey
  • Complete her True Grit survey
  • Finish reading the student manual
  • Complete What can you accept? What can you commit to? paragraph


  • Attend school
  • Complete Initial Academic Testing and Interview
  • Meet with Academic Mentor

Getting Their Boots

At the completion of each phase, girls receive different rewards that personify the things they have learned throughout each particular phase. At the beginning of the program, students receive their boots. Symbolically, these boots represent a barrier between the wearer and the world. Practically, these boots help keep the wearer safe taking part in the everyday workings of ranch life. 

As our girls participate in ranch life and begin to progress, they understand that yes, life is full of potential dangers, and it’s important to protect themselves. However, as our students move beyond this phase, they begin to see that although being cautious is a valuable tool, it is only the most basic form of motivation and shouldn’t be their only means of connecting with the outside world. Complete dependency on outer influences is just the beginning of the journey. 


As a student of Discovery Ranch for Girls, ranch living becomes the everyday norm. Our girls learn quickly the ins and outs and challenges that come with this. Students develop a strong sense of duty by doing daily chores and taking part in other ranch-related responsibilities. They also learn horsemanship, which is the fundamental metaphoric connection to each of the different phases. 

Duty becomes a natural next step in the therapeutic process by teaching our girls responsibility for themselves and others. This phase represents a move from dependence to independence as students understand their roles in the ranch experience. The goal is for our girls to choose to take on the responsibilities of the ranch with a positive attitude. 

This phase of the program fits in perfectly with the inner workings of the therapy plan. As our girls settle into the ranch and figure out their places, they are simply learning the basics of how to live and how to meet the obligations of this community. Because Duty is an early phase, it is designed so as to only expect the most basic of societal expectations when it comes to relationships. Girls who are dutiful may still have resentments and unhealthy attitudes. What’s most important at this stage is just that our students make the decision to accept that they are a part of a larger community, that their membership in the community carries duties and obligations, and that they will fulfill them to the best of their ability.

During the Duty phase, certain expectations are set in the residential, clinical, and academic spheres.


  • Consistently complete personal and community duties
  • Have orderly and conscientious handiwork and presentation
  • Not seek opportunities to cut corners or cheat
  • Not contribute to negativity
  • Do not keep secrets
  • Try to show patience and persistence in the face of frustration
  • Make a good-faith effort to process, even when discouraged
  • Meet basic expectations of honesty
  • Meet basic expectations of respect for peers and community
  • Use a day planner


  • Complete a Family Autobiography
  • Compete the Why Am I in Treatment journal entry
  • Receive Impact Letter from parents and process it appropriately
  • Read Man’s Search for Meaning and complete assignment
  • Complete How Does Hope Impact Me and My Treatment? assignment
  • Develop three to four specific Treatment Goals with a therapist
  • Consistently complete Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Diary Card
  • Begin to willingly explore and take responsibility for reasons for treatment
  • Begin to give respectful feedback and accept it non-defensively


  • Consistently meet academic expectations
  • Be respectful to staff, students, and the academic environment
  • Maintain a well-organized school binder

Earning their first Rein 

At the completion of the Caution phase, our girls receive their first of two split reins. Representing much more than just a set of reins, this reward symbolizes the route each student takes on their individual therapeutic journey. Our girls personalize them in ways that represent their unique characters. 

A large part of Discovery Ranch for Girls is the learned skill of horsemanship. Reins are used to direct a horse in the direction you want it to go. Duty, representing the first set of reins, helps direct the girls on where they wish their lives to progress to. However, like life, we can’t always force a horse to behave in the way we wish it to. Most importantly, true horsemanship lies in relying less on the reins and more on our relationship with the horse. Similarly, the most fulfilling moments in our lives will be those that are less about applying a specific set of skills and attributes and more about becoming a more loving, relational person. As our girls progress throughout the phases, they will learn how to develop those crucial interdependent relationship skills that are vital to a healthy community. 


When we refer to Justice at Discovery Ranch for Girls, we really mean a sense of what is right and wrong. Duty can only take one so far, as historically, many people committed terrible things in the name of duty. When our girls learn and master a sense of duty, we can then begin to instill in them a sense of justice. It is in this phase that our girls start to take a more active role in their therapeutic experience. 

When our students first come to Discovery Ranch for Girls many of them feel that therapy is something that is imposed upon them and their commitment is often minimal. Around this phase in the program, our girls’ motivations become internalized. They start to take ownership over their progress. It is this new willingness to change, that starts the real healing process of therapy. 

In order to complete their Justice phase, our girls have to meet the following residential, clinical, and academic goals.


  • Understand and seek what is good and healthy
  • Demonstrate excellence in all lower level responsibilities
  • Take a proactive role in-house, ranch, and Peer Leadership Program (PLP) tasks
  • Be a successful Manager in the PLP
  • Consistently and independently follow the rules
  • Exceed basic expectations of honesty and mutual respect
  • Demonstrate an ability to set firm and healthy peer boundaries
  • Make a conscious effort to build meaningful relationships
  • Own Therapeutic Goals
  • Do not engage in therapy-interfering behaviors


  • Complete Family Autobiography
  • Finish Wall assignment
  • Complete Willingness and Willfulness assignment
  • Read the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens and complete an assignment
  • Complete How Does Passion Impact Me and My Future? assignment
  • Complete a successful overnight family visit
  • Use Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Diary Card independently
  • Be vulnerable and proactive in all areas of treatment
  • Begin to demonstrate the transition from external to internal motivation
  • Do not engage in therapy-interfering behaviors


  • Take initiative in academic planning
  • Take ownership of academic goals and outcomes
  • Challenges herself to full academic potential
  • Averages 3–4 concepts per week in the recommended subjects

Earning Their Second Rein

When our girls advance to the Justice phase, they receive their second split rein. As the first represents Duty, the second represents Justice, reminding our girls of the importance of recognizing right from wrong. They come to understand that if they know the difference between right and wrong, and hold firmly to what is right, they can keep their lives on the paths they have chosen.


When students come to Discovery Ranch for Girls often their need for therapy is born out of an inability to make and keep healthy relationships. An all-around sense of trust is lacking. Our phase system creates a natural progression of one phase to the next. When our girls master Caution, Duty, and Justice, gaining necessary independence and a new sense of responsibility, they are ready to work toward building interdependence through Trust. Relationship building with peers, with the Discovery Ranch for Girls community, and with clinical staff is gained in this phase. 

During the Trust phase, our students experience various opportunities to trust and be trusted. At this point in the program, girls have increased program responsibilities and more confidence is placed in her. She might also appreciate the personal trust and leadership expectations of her staff and in her student relationships. In addition, she might value the great freedoms and privileges she enjoys in her daily life at the ranch. She finds opportunities to experience trust and demonstrate her trustworthiness every day.

The following principles in residential, clinical, and academic need to be obtained for our students to progress from the Trust phase.


  • Be trusted with  freedoms and responsibilities
  • Be a positive influence in a wide range of daily interactions
  • Seek opportunities to be relied upon
  • Show healthy confidence in herself, and also her own insights, and abilities
  • Demonstrate commitment to DRG values and expectations
  • Genuinely seek meaningful connections and communication
  • Approach difficulties as opportunities for personal growth
  • Excel in all Therapeutic Goals
  • Develop and lead a Forget About Me (FAM) project


  • Complete Family Autobiography
  • Finish Family Roles and Teenage Decision assignments
  • Complete Personal Values Assignment
  • Conduct an effective therapy group according to the established protocols
  • Read Anatomy of Peace and Stop Walking on Eggshells and complete assignments
  • Complete What Role Will Perseverance Play in My Success? assignment
  • Complete a successful home visit
  • Consistently demonstrate honesty and integrity
  • Demonstrate the ability to challenge herself and others while accepting faults
  • Proactively address her own treatment concerns and likewise encourage others


  • Do not require classroom motivators or supervision to work
  • Understand and take ownership of academic goals and progress
  • Challenge self to full academic potential
  • Average 3–4 concepts per week in the recommended subjects

Receiving Their Buckles

When our girls advance to the Trust phase, they receive buckles for their split reins. While the reins may have represented things to take hold of in life, such as Duty and Justice, those concepts alone are not enough. The buckles represent a connection: physically, with the horse itself, symbolically, with other people around them. The Trust phase is the time where the ability to create and maintain healthy relationships is strengthened. Just like horses that have personalities, strengths, fears, weaknesses, and fears, our girls must learn to navigate the human experience with others that have different personalities, strengths, etc. of their own. The most genuine, fulfilling relationships will form when our girls know that those around them have come to expect duty and justice from them, creating that necessary and healthy bond of trust.  


The Love phase represents a sort of culmination of all of the other phases together. It goes beyond acting a certain way and into becoming a better person. The goal of this phase is for our girls to become their best selves. When we are our very best selves, we don’t require any sort of internal compass to do what’s right. We just do it, without thinking otherwise, because that’s who we are.  Love, however, is a motivation that isn’t always in everything we do. As human beings, we still often rely on the other phases and that’s okay! Our girls learn the ultimate motivation though, and that is, of course, love. When our girls learn how to maintain healthy relationships with themselves and those around them, they truly become better people. Girls in the Love phase want to be genuinely good and true. They want a life of meaning and interconnection. They are not dependent or independent—they are interdependent, working with others and building relationships. They learn that those relationships become the most fulfilling journeys in life. 

In order to complete their Love phase, our girls must meet  the following goals in residential, clinical, and academic life.


  • Be motivated by a genuine concern for others
  • Be invested in the success of her peers
  • Become an integral part of the DRG community
  • Balance self-acceptance and regard with the needs of others
  • Seek mutually beneficial solutions to problems
  • Do not require supervision
  • Do not engage in quality-of-life-interfering behaviors
  • Make constructive use of privileges and freedoms
  • Exhibit an active curiosity and zest for her life beyond DRG
  • Exemplify Hope, Passion, and Perseverance
  • Develop and lead a Forget About Me (FAM) project


  • Complete Family Autobiography
  • Complete What Does Trust Mean? journal entry
  • Complete What Does Love Mean? journal entry
  • Complete a Transition Plan and presents in a group
  • Read the Four Agreements and completes an assignment
  • Exemplify personal and DRG values
  • Exemplify and can articulate Hope, Passion, and Perseverance
  • Do not engage in quality-of-life-interfering behaviors


  • Do not require classroom motivators/supervision to work
  • Understand and takes ownership of academic goals/progress
  • Aspire to full academic potential
  • Average 3–4 concepts per week in the recommended subjects

Putting the Pieces Together

When our girls begin the Love phase, they are given a box to keep their reins and other keepsakes in. The box is a representation of love as it is a culmination of their entire Discovery Ranch for Girls experience. Inside the lid of the box is a mirror that serves as a reminder that the most important keepsake from their journey is the confident, amazing young woman staring back at them; a girl that can choose and become whatever and whoever she wants to be.