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036 - Austin Davis

Updated: Jun 2, 2021

Austin Davis joins us from Clear Fork Academy. Their mission is to lead adolescents to a new legacy. They do so by passionately admonishing the idle, encouraging the fainthearted, helping the weak, and being patient with everyone. They use narrative therapy, family systems, and the “God of the Bible” as their higher power. Enjoy.

The Illuminate Recovery Podcast is about Mental Health, Mental Illness, and Addiction Recovery. Shining light on ways to cope, manage, and inspire. Beyond the self care we discuss, you may need the help of a licensed professional. Curt Neider and Shelley Mangum are a part of Illuminate Billing Advocates ( They are committed to helping better the industry and adding value to the lives of listeners by sharing tools, insights, and success stories of those who are working on their mental health.

Transcript (no grammar): austin davis joins us from clear fork academy their mission is to lead adolescents to a new legacy they do so by passionately admonishing the idol encouraging the faint-hearted helping the weak and being patient with everyone they use narrative therapy family systems and the god of the bible as their higher power enjoy welcome to the illuminate recovery podcast we shed light on mental health issues mental illness and addiction recovery ways to cope manage and inspire beyond self-care we will discuss you may need the help of a licensed professional my name is kurt knighter i'm a husband father entrepreneur a handyman and a student of life i avoid conflict i deflect with humor and i'm fascinated by the human experience and i'm shelley mangum i am a clinical mental health counselor and my favorite role of all times is grandma i am a seeker of truth and i feel like life should be approached with tremendous curiosity i ask the dumb questions i fill in the gaps the illuminate recovery podcast is brought to you by illuminate billing advocates make billing and collections simple with leader in substance abuse and mental health billing services verification and analysis of benefits pre-authorizations utilization management accurate claim submission and management denial and appeal management and industry leading reporting improve your practice's cash flow and your ability to help your clients with eliminate billing advocates today shelly and i are joined by austin davis from clear fork academy their mission is to lead adolescents to a new legacy they do so by passionately admonishing the idol encouraging the faint-hearted helping the weak and being patient with everyone which is an awesome tagline if you ask me so thanks for being here austin appreciate it you tell me more about you tell me more about clear fork academy how'd you get here well uh man it's a um a fast story i guess if you will you know it's uh i really thought i was gonna be a youth pastor most of my life um that was sort of that god's initial calling i believe and that really just translated as as i got more and more and working with with teenagers my my undergrads and pastor ministries and so i worked in the church for a couple years and went went back to seminary um started taking you know theology classes doing a masters of the divinity and but most of that was like counseling oriented and all my electives and stuff so that was the stuff i was using with teenagers like in crisis and you know when a kid burns the house down they don't they don't need you know uh hermeneutics or anything like that you know they they need something really crisis oriented so i was using those skills um and so i switched over did the counseling degree um got my my masters in counseling did all the hours and prep work and uh really kind of fell into the substance abuse world and when i did man i was like these are my people uh these are the folks that kind of know they're screwed up and are asking and needing help and i just i just blossomed and so about five years ago um kind of tied my youth pastor roots with my uh clinical skill and and clairefort came about man and that's kind of what we get to do each day is sort of uh mentorship and discipleship tied with clinical best practice interventions you know from from all the all the you know schooling and training and stuff like that so that's kind of in the nutshell man so did you have to leave the pastoral college did you switch colleges in order to to make that change so actually uh our seminary i was in had a licensed counseling track and so i went to my dean um you know and it was basically just a handoff i sort of forfeited 80 hours of bible and theology at the master's level to to do another 48 of clinical work so i extended my stay quite a bit dang it but pretty pretty smooth transition generally it sounds like because it i mean what zero explaining that that sounds to me like a pretty big shift right to go from all right i'm gonna be a pastor to clinical therapist right that's a pretty big jump yeah it was it really was you know the setting at the time didn't change so that was good uh you know i had i had an immediate transition and vocation because i was able to now go and i worked at a psych hospital for a couple years during during all that time so um you know it was vocationally changed pretty rapidly but my setting and school did it so it's pretty cool yeah and especially when it comes to substance abuse and some of these mental health health issues those teen years are just so critical right i mean that's yeah and that that's kind of the story of why you know i started adolescent treatment and you know because i was i was working for about six years in an adult facility and i was clinical director and kind of ran everything inside the four walls and i'm sitting with a 45 50 year old man you know inevitably we get five six weeks into treatment and i said hey you know when did that trauma thing happen i was like 12. you know when did your parents divorce well it was 11. when did you move from california to florida man it was 16. so everything sort of you know kind of not to be too freudian but like goes back to like that really developmental stage in life so and that just you know there's a a vacuum of resources for adolescents and so it was just like why not you know everybody told me it was dumb and adolescents are crazy and it's like you know it's all right that's exactly the point right that's the that's the point of those of us who are trying to work with crazies we're looking for crazies not running from crazies right crazy is kind of a for sure a taboo word to use but uh that's the kind of thing that's kind of weird that somebody outside the industry would tell you right especially somebody who's worried about your future or career but doesn't necessarily understand the treatment world yeah yes it kind of laughs and use some some softer language sometimes to make it powerful right because what we do is so hard uh it is so hard so what's the do you have this is a little personal do you have your own recovery story not um like dad mom you know aunts uncles grandparents like cousins um i kind of tell people i'm the black sheep of my family but kind of in the other other direction um but i have all the same tendencies right and and a kid walks in he's 15 he's all bristling he's like well you're a normie you you can't help me i was like did your parents divorce yeah did your brother die yeah did you get kicked out of a church yeah cool so all that other stuff we can identify on um i just don't do cocaine or heroin or smoke marijuana every day right and so my coping strategies have been more compulsive more you know um i don't sleep a lot like you know like normal people so it's it's you know so i have to work the steps myself in other ways right it's just not alcohol is not the god that i've put on the throne it's it's myself and many other times yeah they what's what's the phrase everybody's in recovery from something yeah that thing yeah that's cool um tell me about clear fork how's clear fork different what are you guys doing there to to kind of shake things up and and be an industry leader man i i think there's there's three things that really just kind of i think separate us um number one we're we're boys only right so that's like 50 of the market off the top so it's 13 to 18 boys only um and then we're longer term and so we have a kind of a we have a 13 week set schedule with a scope and sequence that that stacks and builds upon one another we we address a lot of things like narrative therapy and and heavy family systems work um you know a lot a lot of like uh man's search for meaning and and victor frankl kind of work so really trying to get our boys in that 13 weeks to look at a whole picture not just stop smoking weed every day um so really really trying to dive into that and then then really sort of the the biggest sort of thing that ostracizes us is we're faith-centered um so my youth pastor kind of background in seminary um we bring that into treatment when we interpret god of our own understanding it's god of the bible and we don't do that in a evangel evangelical kind of way but it's but it's a part of who we are and in our interpretation of the steps and so uh we we have a church service on sunday and we do a kind of a leadership type of chapel on tuesday and um so those are kind of three things that that really kind of give us i would think a foothold you know especially in texas but also nationwide which was kind of interesting too because you know when you when you talk about the god of the bible there's a little bit of like maybe i'm reading into it a little bit too much but it feels like there's a little bit of a protectiveness of that right like yeah and and it's 20 21 in america god's under assault you know to a to a large extent but it's kind of interesting to think like a lot of the programs really rely on this higher understanding or this higher power right and like you said the god of your understanding but to any human especially a teenager to leave that as super vague kind of seems like it could add some uncertainty right not necessarily like you're trying to create this person where you're going to put in faith but if it's completely ambiguous that's really challenging right where with you you've got like you said the god of the bible and obviously there's you know a thousand different churches who are interpret that differently but at least with with the way that you're doing it there's a framework where you can say not only is there a higher power but here's who he is let me tell you a few things about him right which adds a lot of kind of inspiration and structure to why this person is important or this deity not really a person but which is kind of cool you know and i hadn't really thought of that right i think a lot of people lean in that direction of you have a higher power but you define who it is as opposed to i like the idea of structure right especially for someone who's young and isn't necessarily have the tools or the capacity to just create higher power on their own you know when you started talking the idea of a plumb line just i used to do construction and and work on things so if you think about any project that you do there's always a reference point there's a baseline and you know if you lay a foundation you got to put the level on it to make sure it's on great if you you know i love working on cars so like you know if you put an axle in you can't have it crooked or doesn't drive straight so like anything you do it begins with a foundation and so that's that's what the bible is is is like the capital t truth for us and so that's what we try to do is take some of the ambigu ambiguity out of who god is and what god does and how that applies to their life so and it changes that purpose too right like there's additional framework that comes from that right like you said the man search for meaning thing it's it's more than just is this the way you want to live your life and how do you want to feel every day which is a little bit kind of how some of the programs i think can be you know what's your what's your contentment level right now versus what's the point where we going like what's that what's the end game to all of this right which is super cool the other thing is you mentioned where um you know narrative therapy and family systems um on our podcast the way we've got it set up shelly's a therapist she knows everything i'm not i'm kind of new to the whole game and so i like to kind of come in and ask what would otherwise sound like dumb questions because i think our audience values that definition from time to time so what's narrative therapy tell me more about that how is that a good basis as far as you know you brought up three things and that was the first one what's what's narrative therapy well we're all you know michael white you know created that that sort of concept that we're we're all telling this story and sometimes the version of my story isn't the real version you know it may be deluded it may be substance induced it may be um just just a bastardization of like the real truth and so writing down what we try to have our kids do is start and do a timeline right so a visual representation we know getting out of our head getting it on paper we do it on big butcher paper and they do it on the wall and so you see this pictorial you know narrative that they do and then we take a second stage and um and those are very cool by the way so you know it's this winding path and they draw a car you know and it's a car wreck and then there's a needle and then there's a coffin because grandma died and you know you see the progression of their like 15 years and then then they put it in narrative form and so in that narrative form we want them to really try to identify the key players and the roles in their life because you know right now they walk into treatment they're pissed at mom and dad they hate them right and probably pissed at god and pissed at me right the people who try to help them in their life and so reframing that narrative and go wow like mom really wasn't a bad person through all of this you know and so it's it you know really just trying to help them tell their narrative almost in a third person way so they could they can narrate the story um in a new way and hopefully there's a there's a second or a third chapter sort of on that like here's where i was here's where i am and then here's sort of a futuristic where i want to be and so we really encourage like what do you want the next three to five years to look like in your life and kind of kind of moves into almost a solution-focused kind of um you know task you know vision board yeah i bet that's fascinating especially because so they draw this out but do they also write it out in words yep they write it out and you know it's three to five pages long and then then we have them stand up and read their story and and i've watched kids um you know who they've written the whole story but it's never impacted them and their heart right it was all a cognitive assessment and then when they read it out loud to their peers it's like overwhelming right the emotion hits and then two or three other kids were like oh my god that's my story too i forgot that let me get my pen and rewrite it in my story because i totally forgot about you know and it's usually something big like a a trauma or you know a major incident and somebody else says it out loud and you know i'm a firm believer that we're like overcomers by our testimony right like when we share and not just like heals my heart but it but it connects to somebody else's and and you know they they share their story and they get healed and so you know i think that's the story of aaa is like you know people raise their hand and say hey i'm austin and here's my story yeah it's a it especially in like an aaa it's it's a shortcut to connection right it's a it's a it's a way to get connection from building on kind of a trust of similar experiences type thing yeah it seems like it would be really interesting when reading those stories to look at the tone right because on on one level when it's a picture it's just like event event event event and then when they have to actually write it and there's a narrative it's easy to see okay is somebody a victim in this story right are they did they create all of the problems that are in this story or were they caused to them which it seems like it would give you a pretty good basis as a therapist to to know like okay where is this individual coming from and then it's also that next level that you're talking about that's super interesting i don't know why what it is about us humans but for some reason when we think we're the only one with a problem it's just devastating it's insurmountable and then like the second you know everyone else has the exact same problem i don't know why you know what it is about that that makes it all of a sudden easier to deal with which is super interesting and then the family systems one how do you work through family systems with these individuals because they're here as an individual right the whole family is not there so how does that process work uh we spend a whole week um working with family systems so our we've got two therapists that are solely licensed marriage family therapist so they're working with our kiddos they do a whole week of work with them genograms doing all the family constellation and that kind of work but every seven weeks we do a three-day intensive with our parents so parents fly in from all over they they're in the same room for three whole days you know two days by themselves and then uh about a day and a half each you know without kids and with kids um you know we're putting them through all the all the paces and so there's kinesthetic activities there's talking thera talk therapy type stuff there's uh little breakout groups so we're really really just challenging uh the beliefs that they hold because they come in a lot of times pointing the finger at their kid and when mom and dad really have been you know disjointed for 10 years right and that that kid is just kind of the fruit of that marriage being really really strained or you know some other things and so it really helps um bring the family into the recovery process and begin to take care of their own stuff because we know what we often laugh is like hey just leave the kid at home and mom and dad you come live with us for 90 days and i bet our outcomes would be the same you know because it's like we change the system one way or the other it's like you have dominoes that are all lined up you either hit it from the left side or the right side they're all going to fall down uh just one starts in at the opposite end so um yeah it's really intentional there's a lot of follow-up work that that follows that i mean our families are engaged every single week uh by our therapist um on on some facet of treatment um so it's it's pretty intense is that required is that visit required it is um you know it's it's like you know what what really um it's the we we've got the carrot not the stick you know to to encourage them but most of our families you know it's a it's a huge value add to the treatment process yeah that's fascinating i'm trying to think of if i've because we've talked to a lot of facilities now i'm trying to think of if i've talked to a single facility where there was a multi-day kind of family member you know either either option or requisite and i mean that value seems like it could be huge right yeah that's pretty awesome i i would i would imagine that they're surprised by those teachings and the change as the individual from 90 days you know it seems like a lot of times it's that this is the child's problem mentality as opposed to this is the family's problem mentality so yeah that seems like an eye-opening eye-opening process to be a part of so that's amazing kudos on that well what else uh what else you got going on what are you passionate about whether it's inside of the industry or outside you know what's what's something that you're focusing on and learning about in your own life oh man well i mean clear fork is is a lot of my life right and so we're we're trying to continue to expand and grow we you know we're licensed for 40 beds right now we have an inspection for 24 more coming up next week so you know growing expanding and meeting the need of our families and communities is is really my passion man outside of that i've been married for 16 years this summer uh my kiddos i have two daughters uh one is five one is seven and then my son is nine uh and they're my world you know we do soccer on the weekends we we do trampoline after dinner you know we um you know when i'm not at clear fork i'm dad and husband um you know play the guitar whenever i'm not doing those two things so it's um you know if it was if if i had a ton of free time i would be in a race car somewhere um a couple of couple years ago gotta got a chance to start driving a race car through baja mexico um and that's just kind of ignited a passion and kovitz slowed that down but uh we're getting back into some training and stuff like that so i don't know it's it's a it's a big hobby so it's a different high isn't it yes i don't know if i don't know if that's technically like a natural high but more more natural right no that's kind of one of those things that you know i connect with people on right there's only on the race car i'm not on earth you know it's there's i'm locked into somewhere different yeah that's awesome well it's it's a cool program um you know if any of our listeners or you know any of any of this our crowd in in texas wants to get a hold of you what's the best way to get a hold of you how do they get involved with clear fork yeah easy on our website you know we've got our social stuff clear fork academy um that's just the easiest way our our call center folks there you know five of them in there um they'll answer anything any question anytime if there's ever a concern even if it's if it's not appropriate to us right we've got a rolodex of folks to refer to and connect with and partners and we're we're just our passion is to help people and we try to do that in this setting every single day that's awesome well thanks for taking time for us absolutely man thank you so much and good luck with everything

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