Nov 12

Intermountain Moment: Camden’s Story

Ten-year-old “Camden’s” mom was highly abused throughout her life. In fact, horrific abuse goes back three or four generations in their family. Camden’s mom is both hyper-protective and terrified of her children’s emotions. Camden and his mother needed help to keep their small family together. Intermountain’s Community-based Services provided that help.camden

Camden has a “light up the world” smile, according to his Intermountain therapist. When he first came into therapy, he had one emotion that he was willing to express: happy. As he progressed in treatment though, he became willing to express other big emotions. He learned to do this by hiding under his therapist’s desk and building a fort of pillows around himself. His therapist would try to guess his big emotion that day. When the therapist got it right, Camden would burst out of his fort, sending the pillows flying.

At the same time that Camden was learning how to safely express emotions other than happy, his mom was doing the same. She was taking Intermountain’s Circle of Security parenting class, learning to be “Bigger, Stronger, Wiser, and Kind” for her kids. In the past, her immediate reaction to her kids’ strong feelings was anger. She’s now learned how to talk to her kids instead of yell and scream. In a recent joint therapy session, Camden was able to sit in his mom’s lap and just “be sad.” It was a breakthrough for them both.

While it used to take almost an hour for Camden’s therapist to get him to express his emotions, it now only takes a few minutes. At home things are better too. Camden’s mom is continuing to improve the way she reacts to her kids’ strong emotions. She now has a steady job. She’s determined to break the cycle of generations of abuse in her family, and Intermountain’s determined to help her succeed.

When you support Intermountain, you are helping hundreds of children like Camden, and you help families be more successful. For more information or to support Intermountain, call 406-457-4804.




Oct 20

FREE Children’s Object Lessons for Advent (Year A)

Once again, I would like to make available to you and your church free Advent children’s object lessons! While written primarily for a Children’s Sermon format, these object lessons could be used in a Sunday school setting, youth group, or even as sermon illustrations! Though written as a companion and a resource to couple with change CFC-logocans, none of the lessons are dependent on Change for Children (CFC) participation! Our desire is that they would be a gift to you and a thank you for your support. If you choose to dovetail CFC into these lessons, it’s as simple as contacting us and requesting our prayer cards or setting a goal of numbers of cans returned by Christmas!

Click here for: CFC 2019 Children’s Sermons – Year A in Lectionary

In my twenty-three years in children and youth ministry, the object lessons I have used for children’s sermon times have been a very effective way of communicating the truth of God’s Word.  Many of the adults in the congregation would tell me they preferred my children’s sermons to my “regular” sermons!  Jesus taught in object lessons and word pictures, too, so it should be no surprise to us that this method is highly effective—surely Jesus knew what he was doing and set an example for us to follow!

These lessons have been carefully crafted around the stories of the Advent season (Revised Common Lectionary, Year A) and how the message of God’s love for us in Jesus impacts our hearts and lives. I hope this resource blesses you, saves you time in preparation, and makes your workload a little lighter. So, enjoy these lessons, and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you and build a stronger relationship between the chaplain’s ministry at Intermountain and the good work you are doing in your church and community.

Chaplain Chris Haughee

Oct 11

Guest post: Proactive Parenting by Tracie Dahl, LCPC

Parents can easily describe many pressures from their own “tween” and teen years which bring back awkward memories and cringe-worthy recollections. However, the world has changed exponentially in the last several decades and continues to undergo rapid changes at an erratic and unpredictable pace.

The world today is filled with what can only be perceived by teens as unsafe events. War, bullying, gun violence, natural disasters, and the constant stream of reporting of these events via every available media source from television to internet streams; there is a never ending, shock provoking flood of horrifying news.Boys-on-phones-Proactive-Parenting-post

Adults must help adolescents learn how to navigate the perils, reduce anxiety, and build the strength and tools they will need when their instinct is to protect and shelter them as the adult response to the very real threats in the world today may also be an increase in fear and anxiety. Here are three suggestions:

  1. Start by using supportive problem solving which gives adolescents the opportunity to learn to think for themselves instead of making decisions for them. Any setbacks or mistakes become learning experiences, while successes allow children the ability to feel truly capable of handling difficult situations. As a result, both their resilience and confidence will grow. Oftentimes, I have coached parents in my practice to ask their kids when they present a problematic situation to them to respond with the question, “Do you want me to help you with this or do you just need to vent?” Kids want someone they trust to listen as they search for the answer themselves.
  2. Be a model of responsibility and allow children opportunities to help others. A child’s intrinsic need to help triggers anxiety while feeling helpless to improve the state of the world we live in. Conversely, having the ability to actually help others reinforces both responsibility and a sense of empathy while giving kids a sense of ownership and investment in their own destiny. Serving others gives tweens and teens an appreciation of how their actions affect and impact others, and a genuine feeling of positivity and success.
  3. Approach the world with a healthy dose of optimism, hope, and courage and model this for your children. We must remember that what is reported on the news and coming across our social media platforms is largely negative, so it is apparent why anxiety, fear, and depression are triggered. As adults we can choose to be optimistic about situations, people, and the future. We can choose hope while instilling courage in adolescents. The solution lies in changing our mindset, shifting our view, and promoting individual strengths instead of weaknesses.

And, remember… no one is perfect! You are doing your best as a parent, and if it ever seems to much it’s okay to ask for help! Perhaps Intermountain can be a resource for you? Call Intermountain at 406-442-7920 to see what we offer for parents and children.

-Tracie Dahl, LCPC

Day Treatment Director

Sep 01

Guest post: A look into the classroom with Kathy Brandt


It is difficult to define success in the classroom, especially in a Residential Treatment Center. Mostly because many of the students who come to our program have not previously experienced success in areas that reinforce healthy development such as; social interaction, academic growth, being able to self-monitor behavior, and general school work.

I have had the pleasure of watching every one of my students grow in all of these areas. Through this I have found joy is watching students begin to take risks on challenging tasks, initiate and maintain friendships, accept difficult feedback and mentor around unhealthy choices. Above all, joy is watching these students begin to trust that they are competent and valued.

Over the course of a year, our students learn they can achieve success by becoming less dependent on adults and more confident in their own ability to sets goals and meet them. My students have an end of the day self-reflection where they can assess whether or not they were able to be safe with their body and words, responsible with school work, and respectful in their interactions with both peers and adults. This allows them to take ownership of their school day and visually see their personal growth with a sticker chart. By the end of treatment, the student can see that the reward really isn’t a sticker, or a positive reward, but rather it is an intrinsic one of feeling good about their daily choices and hard work.

Looking to the year ahead, I hope that the classroom will be an engaging, challenging and rewarding environment that students want to come to everyday. Also, that each child discovers how they are smart. Whether that is in math, interpersonal relationships, nature, athletics, all kids have gifts and talents they possess, so it is just a matter of getting to know each student both academically and emotionally. One of my favorite quotes that I keep in my desk is by Michelangelo. ‘I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’ I find being a teacher is a very similar process of carving away the unhealthy patterns, or beliefs in a child’s life and helping to bring out his/her value that was already there from the beginning until the end result is nothing less than a beautiful masterpiece of a child being free to make mistakes, learn from them and have hope for a positive future.

–Kathy Brandt, Special Education Teacher

Intermountain Residential

Aug 09

Flashback Friday: “My Tears in His Bottle,” a devotional by Pat Hays

Pat Hays has written a devotional book that gives wonderful insight into the joys and struggles that parenting a child with emotional special needs presents. Her book, My Tears in His Bottle: prayers from the heart of a special needs’ mom, contains excerpts from her personal prayer journal as she worked through the last fifteen years of

My Tears in His Bottle, by Pat Hays

My Tears in His Bottle, by Pat Hays

balancing her calling to be an adoptive parent with the roadblocks she encountered in her neighborhood, friendships, school district, marriage, and church as she sought understanding, acceptance, and peace for her and her family.

As a chaplain at a residential facility working with children with special needs (kids on the spectrum, emotional disturbance, trauma recovery, etc.), Pat Hays’ story feel very familiar. Nearly every family I meet at intake says, “We were going to church until…” and then proceeds to tell a story about how they looked for comfort and healing in the church and they had a hard time making connections and feeling understood. Worn out from advocating for their children at school, in the neighborhood, with doctors and nurses, therapists, and many others that come into the lives of a special needs family, Pat Hays holds out hope that some pastors and some churches really to “get it” and want to support and uplift families of special needs children.

That’s why I am so enthusiastically supportive of this book! Honestly, it does what coaching and training in trauma-informed principles can’t do… it expresses the heart of a mother seeking to make sense of the parenting challenge God has given her. Only when that empathy is built can a community of faith make the leap from seeing special needs children as a challenge to endure to a blessing for the church.

I would love for churches, small groups, and individuals who have a “Pat Hays” in their life to read this book and meditate on the scriptures she pairs with her prayers. Pat masterfully walks the line between holding out the hope we have in Jesus Christ while embracing the reality that discipleship often means suffering, difficulty and the loss of what we envisioned for ourselves and our families.

There are no Hallmark card pithy platitudes within the pages of this book, and in embracing the grittiness needed for true Christian discipleship, it has the ability to provide the “comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted” (2 Cor. 1:3-5). It’s an amazing book and I couldn’t recommend it more highly!

If you are interested in My Tears in His Bottle, you can order the book through by clicking this LINK.

Jul 30

IM Moment Video: Perseverance and finding joy while working with challenging children


In this post, I thought it would be good to share a pair of clips from conversations I had with Steff Turner and ML Rutherford, two key leaders at Intermountain in Community-based Services and Residential Services. Together, they represent decades of experience in working alongside parents, foster parents, grandparents, educators, therapists, and other caregivers to provide care and support for struggling children and families.


Parenting and caregiving–the general act of raising a child– can be difficult, even in instances where the child or family are not in duress. The perceived need to be strong and persevere when addressing the special needs of a trauma-affected or emotionally disturbed child makes caregiving that much more exhausting. This need can also be a source of extreme joy… Yes, you heard me right! JOY.


Joy can come from the deep satisfaction of being  what a struggling child desperately needs. The words, “I love you” from a child that struggles to trust and attach in relationships means so much more knowing just how hard those words are to say for them. Joy also comes from finding your own soul’s unfinished work in the process. This is something that can allow you to be more authentic and real before God and others.



So, to all those caring for struggling children… hang in there. In the end, your perseverance could lead to joy. In those hard, sometimes soul-crushing moments, hold on to the hope that God is with you and loves both you and the child you are caring for more than you could imagine.


And, to those who are not currently caring for a child or a teen in need, look for ways to encourage, support and lift up those that are engaged in the ministry. Remember, listening can be a more powerful tool than offering advice and providing practical help (run errands, provide respite, offer to help with a meal or anything else the family might appreciate) can give a much needed break.


Also remember that Intermountain supports all those struggling to find joy. We are here to help build healthy relationship so if we can help in any way, please let us know!

Jul 08

Intermountain Moment: Ice cream for “Amber!”

Ice Cream for “Amber”

Intermountain’s Summer Program allows kids to continue the work they had been doing in their school-based program into the summer months. One of the most important things the program does, the director says, is give kids “normative childhood experiences.” He calls them “firsts.”girl-ice-cream

For eight-year-old “Amber,” it was eating her first ice cream cone. “I’ll never forget the smile on her face,” the Intermountain therapist says. Amber ordered three scoops in three different flavors: chocolate with red hots, bubblegum, and coffee.

It couldn’t have tasted very good together, but she ate every bit and she, “probably said thank-you 150 times.”

Eating an ice cream cone on a summer day is something most of us take for granted, but for Amber, who had been placed in eight different homes in the same number of years, it was a “first” and will hopefully be a good memory she’ll always have with her.

Thank you for supporting Intermountain with your prayers and faithful support.

Chaplain Chris Haughee


Click HERE for a bulletin insert to share this story with your congregation:

July-August-2019-Intermountain bulletin insert-Ice Cream for Amber

Jun 20

“Give Me A Harvest… Brother Van: Pioneer Methodist Preacher” video from First UMC, Billings

This wonderful video produced by First United Methodist Church of Billings, Montana, chronicles the amazing life and ministry of Montana’s best known pioneer preacher: Brother William Wesley Van Orsdel. “Brother Van” as he was known, founded Intermountain 110 years ago with the help of the Deaconesses who ably cared for the children, helped raise money, and administered the services of the school and boarding house in those early years.

The video concludes with a sing along of the hymn “Harvest Time,” a favorite of Brother Van’s. He was known for his singing an boldness in championing the gospel and the cause of those often overlooked, including the children of Montana. The people of billing’s First United Methodist Church hope you enjoy this video, and I am thankful to have such an excellent telling of Intermountain’s founder to share with you!

Sincerely, Chaplain Chris Haughee


Jun 10

Guest post: “Good-Enough Parenting” by Katie Harlow, LCPC

Life often feels like a competition, and unfortunately so does parenting at times. How do you know if you are doing the right things when there are so many different opinions being thrown at you via our ever connected world every day? How do you know if your family relationships are healthy? Is it ok to admit you might not know what to do?

The good news is that you don’t have to be perfect in order to have a healthy relationship with your child. In fact, mom-and-daughter-god-enough-parentingresearch tells us that if we accurately respond to our child’s needs only 30% of the time, our child will have a healthy attachment to us- and have the foundation needed to build healthy relationships with others later in life. You don’t have to be the perfect parent in order to have healthy family relationships. What a relief. Making mistakes is ok, and can even be healthy. In fact, one of the best parts of parenting is that it is truly beneficial for your child’s development for you to not be perfect!

We often expect so much from ourselves as parents, but when we take a step back and consider what we want for our children, do we hold the expectation of perfection for them? We are the most important role models for our children; they look to us each and every day to see what is expected of them and how to grow into the people that they will be. If we think in that context, do we want to model the ruthless expectation of perfection or do we want to demonstrate a little bit of grace and flexibility with ourselves, and in turn with our children?

When we are able to model healthy expectations of ourselves, and in turn hold balanced expectations for our children, we are able to continue to sup-port their growth and development. We can model skills that will be vital for our children to learn and practice as they grow. That isn’t only “good enough” parenting, it’s ideal parenting in a world that can be difficult to navigate for all of us, parents and children alike.

– Katie Harlow, LCPC

Clinical Supervisor, School-based services

May 21

Renewed faith and greater connection: a testimony to God’s grace in Michael’s life

We recently received this wonderful testimony from Andrea, Michael’s mother, after a home visit her son took as he nears the end of his time in residential treatment:

“Prior to his stay at Intermountain Residential, our son Michael was struggling so greatly that he had stopped attending religious education sessions and was not able to even attend church services. He was in such pain that he felt hopeless, rejected by God, and was losing his faith.  He has now been at Intermountain for just over a year, and in this time has participated in the Chaplain’s Program and in a Catholic mentoring program.

Michael is now on a better path, thanks to Intermountain

Though he entered these with trepidation, the support from these programs has helped him to grow into a renewed faith and a much closer relationship with God. He has better understanding of his religion and has learned how to find comfort in his spirituality.
Our family recently attended a special Mass where his sister received two sacraments. Michael not only participated in the service, but he was able to sit quietly in prayer and then rejoice for his sister. It was very moving for us to see that he is now able to find peace within his church community and is open to experiencing his faith.”

–Andrea, Michael’s mother

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