Testimonials: Program Referrals

Our son went through Blackwater in the spring of 2015 at the age of 19. He was referred to Blackwater by Dave Rotenberg from Caron. One of the things that impressed us the most was the amount of communication that started on day one and continued even after our son’s treatment. Dr. Bright personally called us to gather some background on not just our son but also our family.

Once our son left for treatment we were assigned a family therapist and twice a week we would have a conference call on how our son was doing and how WE were doing. To us this was a very important piece of OUR treatment and recovery.

At the end of his treatment there was a family weekend that was one of the most emotional and powerful weekends our family has ever experienced. The amount of forgiveness and healing that took place was overwhelming.

Blackwater gave our son and us the tools and foundation for recovery. I would highly recommend this program to any parent whose child needs treatment or has been unsuccessful in other treatment experiences.
Brad E


Our son had been a patient at the Caron Treatment Center for almost three months when his counselor mentioned the Blackwater Outdoor Experience to him.  His treatment had been going well, but he was ready for a change of pace. He decided he wanted to give it a try, and we were supportive of the Blackwater Trip.  It seemed like a great way for our son to continue his sobriety and also reconnect with nature.  It turned out that we were right about this, but the trip turned out to be much more than reconnecting with nature.

The staff of Blackwater took great care to learn all they could about our son and his history before the trip even began, speaking to us, speaking to the therapist at the Caron Center and reviewing records.  We were kept well informed all along.  There was great communication between the counselor on the trip and the parent counselor who worked with us.  We were able to communicate our concerns and worries, and we benefited from the great insights of our counselor and the field counselor who worked with our son.  Through the keen observation of the field counselor and Dr. Bright, our son had a medication change while on the trip, and it went well. Dr. Bright spoke to our son’s psychiatrist at the Caron Center and the care was well coordinated.

It seems as if all of the counseling and therapy he received at Caron really came together on the Blackwater Experience.  He could see things more clearly, and the closeness of the therapist, field guide and other trip participants made him feel safe.  He could share things with them.  He gained much self-confidence, and it gave all of us some hope for the future.  As the trip wrapped up and we joined him and the other families for the weekend we were able to see how much we had all grown from the entire experience.  Our son returned to Caron after the trip for a few more weeks and he was able to finish up his time there peacefully. The Blackwater Outdoor Experience was a very successful addition and enhancement to his rehabilitation at the Caron Center.


Jane and Frank P


Blackwater Outdoor Experiences proved to be an excellent complement to our son’s treatment at Caron. We wanted more in-depth psychological support for him and for us, and BOE brought a highly skilled team to the table. The therapy team built trust with him in the field throughout the wilderness trip and challenged him to be honest and open about he was feeling and what he was thinking. This, in turn, gave us a deeper understanding of the context for his substance abuse, which helped us to address it more holistically. Our BOE therapist back at the office was also highly effective in interpreting what was evolving with our son and in guiding us to a new understanding of how he functioned and what he needed in terms of our support.

Our son told us that the trip helped him to reflect deeply on his decisions.  It also put him out of his comfort zone, which gave him new confidence in himself and his ability to work hard. During the family weekend, we could see this for ourselves: he was more self-aware, honest and engaging as well. The trek was well worth the investment, and I would not hesitate to recommend it for other -families concerned about their adolescent’s well-being.

The BOE trip that our son (19) participated in this fall was the right thing at the right time for his recovery. By bringing him together with a smaller, more intimate group than is possible in a traditional group therapy environment, and then developing trust through immersion and cooperation, he was able to find a group of peers with whom he could share and grow. He clearly enjoyed the healthy and active time outdoors, but more importantly it gave him a great counterpoint to what can sometimes be a grind in an inpatient setting- the long sessions indoors,  under artificial light. The family program at the conclusion of the trip was immensely helpful for our family’s recovery. It was the best weekend we have had together in a long time—and we grew and came together in ways that I would never have predicted. This ended up complementing the family growth and recovery that we are receiving as part of his inpatient rehab at Caron, again because it came it the same concept from a slightly different vantage point.

Our 18 year old just turned 19 year old son participated in the 3 week outdoor adventure in conjunction with his stay at Caron. The small group of 5 people and a counselor were immensely helpful to his recovery. He expressed that he got a lot out of the counseling sessions and enjoyed being outdoors and challenging himself in different ways. He said of his 3 day solo trip, “I could have done it for a week!” I personally got a lot out of the biweekly therapy sessions.

Brian and Sarah


In the spring of 2015, our 17 year old daughter, Shannon, was admitted to the Caron facility in Wernersville, PA.  Like most families afflicted by the heroin epidemic, we were completely terrified, confused, and overwhelmed at that point.  Shannon was extremely angry with us for forcing her into an in-patient treatment program away from home, which made us feel even worse about the situation.  But we knew that this step was necessary if we wanted to have any chance of helping our daughter escape the ruthless grip of addiction.

Although we were comforted that Shannon was in a safe and secure environment, the coming days and weeks remained difficult and most nights remained sleepless.  Shannon was resistant to being in treatment, and not yet willing to accept the changes that she needed to consider to allow her a chance to take a safer and less destructive path in her life.

After several additional weeks of confusion, frustration, sadness, and little change in Shannon’s frame of mind, we found ourselves in another checkpoint meeting with Shannon’s counselor and the Director of the Young Women’s Adolescent Program.  We were all struggling to figure out what else we could do to help Shannon.  After some discussion, the Director mentioned an organization in Virginia that had a unique and outdoor based approach designed to help troubled adolescents and their families.  We were immediately intrigued, as we knew that Shannon also had a real passion for nature and the outdoors.

Blackwater quickly began to feel like the potential breakthrough that we were all praying for and so sorely needed.  After the Caron team made the initial connection, the staff at Blackwater sprang into action.  From our first interaction, we were impressed with the thorough and personal approach that the team took in getting to know us, in getting to know our situation, and in getting to know Shannon.  We were even more thrilled to hear from Shannon after she spoke with the team that she was open to and even a little excited about the possibility of participating in the Blackwater program.

Caron and Blackwater did a great job of making the logistics seamless for our family.  This was so greatly appreciated by my wife and me, as we were both physically and emotionally exhausted at this point.  We were cautiously optimistic that Blackwater might be the added resource that Shannon and our family needed.  Before we knew it, Shannon was safely on her way to Virginia, to spend 3 weeks in the wilderness with several peers and the guides from Blackwater.  Shannon was nervous, but enthusiastic and ready to jump in.

It is hard for me to believe that over 16 months have passed since Shannon arrived at Blackwater.  I am getting chills as I write here that Blackwater truly was the game changer that our family needed.   This past summer, when I was on a hike with Shannon, she looked me in the eye and said Dad, I truly believe that Blackwater saved my life.

Shannon grew tremendously at Blackwater and had numerous breakthroughs during the seemingly brief time that she was there.  The change in environment seemed to relax her, and allow her to start to open her mind to the future and all that her world could possibly have to offer.  The emphasis on family inclusion throughout the program also helped us achieve several breakthroughs together, and begin to rebuild the trust and love that we felt had been stolen from us, and were unsure we would ever experience again.

The family weekend at the end of the Blackwater program was a very powerful experience. Although there were some difficult moments as we confronted family issues, living together as a group for 2 days in a natural setting, being with Shannon, and having the chance to be with her peers and their families and share their experiences, was extremely impactful.

We walked away from Blackwater with a cautious but much needed feeling of optimism.  The road ahead after Blackwater did not magically become a cakewalk by any means, but there is no doubt that the Blackwater experience was the catalyst that we needed.  It allowed Shannon to open her mind to her future possibilities and potential, which allowed her to begin the journey to move away from the crutch of addiction, versus constantly feeling drawn back to it for temporary emotional comfort.  That motivation helped Shannon leverage her inner strength and make a personal commitment to grow and pursue her dreams.  Shannon returned to Caron with a new outlook on her future and a more open minded perspective to begin to accept the help that was being offered to her.

Shannon spent several more weeks at Caron, and then moved to another in-patient, wilderness based facility in North Carolina where she stayed for 5 weeks until early October, 2015.  Upon leaving treatment, Shannon moved into a sober living facility in Asheville, North Carolina where she lived until July of 2016.  During that time, Shannon continued to work hard on her recovery, and plan her future.  After a wonderful trip back home for the entire month of August, Shannon began her freshman year at Brevard College, pursuing her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education.

We are so incredibly happy for Shannon that she has found the path to pursue her dreams, and that she has the opportunity to continue on that journey.  There will still be challenges that come up along the way, but the things that Shannon and we have learned over the past 19 months have strengthened us, and made us more confident that with faith and with our love for each other, we will overcome those challenges together.

As I look back on the difficult journey of the past few years, Blackwater will always stand out as the turning point that we so sorely needed.  We are eternally grateful to the Blackwater team, and their commitment to helping young adults and families like ours grow together, and regain the opportunity to realize our true potential.

Joe and Christine K