Peer Leadership Program

Peer Leadership Program

One of the core values at Discovery Ranch for Girls, is therapeutic fluidity, meaning that experiential therapy runs in and through everything we do. Everything is an opportunity for experiential learning. Everything is a prospective teachable moment. Everything is potentially therapeutic.

The Peer Leadership Program (PLP) is an extension of that value. Every residential treatment program has basic chores that need to be done so that students can learn some practical life skills, take ownership in a clean and orderly environment, and have responsibilities—just as they would at home. Chores are a universal aspect of the residential treatment experience. But at Discovery Ranch, the PLP maximizes the experiential and clinical growth opportunities that chores present.


In the PLP, students can apply for “manager” jobs, overseeing the various areas of responsibility at Discovery Ranch: rooms, laundry, kitchen, etc. The jobs are available every eight weeks. Once a student acquires a job, she is responsible for ensuring that the job is completed consistently and to a high standard. This often requires managing and directing other students. It may require designing and implementing systems. It may require “hiring” and training an assistant to help complete her duties.

The PLP has implications for a wide variety of treatment goals. Some students are excellent leaders but have trouble taking direction from peers. Some students do fantastic work along but have difficulty as part of a team. Some students are quiet or reserved and have trouble asserting their needs or giving direction. Students can choose when to start participating in the PLP, but because the PLP is written into Discovery Ranch programming, students reach a point where they can only progress by taking on those responsibilities and challenges, and as staff monitor, assess, process, and report on the students’ progress, a wealth of therapeutic opportunities and information emerge.

Finally, at a very basic level, the PLP is, for many students, their first experience with a job. One of the things many students miss while in residential treatment is the experience of that first, teenage job: filling out an application, doing a job interview, and showing up for work. The PLP is designed to mimic some of those practical experiences. Staff are trained to take the interview and supervision process as seriously as they would any job and help the students learn the life skills that come with job hunting in the real world. Furthermore, some of the specialty PLP jobs with our horses and feeder calves give certain students opportunities to gain even more in-depth knowledge and practical experience with the assessment, medication, and intensive care of animals.

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