Blogs written by and for ACA Members.

Find our member blogs by member name here!

Chris Allen
May 23, 2011

Jim and Fran Week 1 Days 0-1

What follows is the beginning of a fictitious example of what a couple’s stay at the Vine and Branch can look like. Over the coming months, my intent is to show how elements of Counseling, Psychology, Psychiatry, and Social Work can successfully be integrated into a ranch / vacation resort setting to help Veterans and their families. Some posts will be longer than others, so thanks for your patience.

Day 0:
Note: Remember from the last blog that “TPME” stands for Task, Purpose, Method, and End State. In some way or another, information will be shared in this manner among V&B’s network of providers and associated volunteer organizations. Privacy concerns will obviously need to be addressed. Initially, I’m thinking of some sort of tracking number system, as opposed to names. Not sure how this would work, and it’s just an idea that popped into my head.
Mel (TPF) Review of Initial Screening Notes

T: Mel will review Jim and Fran Smith’s initial screening notes entered into V&B’s database the month prior during an initial session with New Hope in Chicago. This task will be accomplished prior to the Smith’s arrival at Houston International.
P: Simple, Mel will want to know something about the Smiths prior to him picking them up from the airport. Knowing something about Jim and Fran before their arrival will make Mel’s job as a Counselor easier, and his actions will be more targeted and relevant. Not only will Mel act as a better Counselor, but he will also know what the Smith’s expect when it comes to enjoying a first class vacation.
M: On V&B’s secure database
E: Mel learns about the Smith’s family history, initial goals, and presenting concerns. He also learns about Jim and Fran’s favorite foods, hobbies, interests, etc… Mel will use these types of things to help him tailor a Vacation Plan that best suits Jim and Fran prior to their arrival to the Ranch. For example, Mel will stock the Smith’s cabin with their favorite foods and will also ensure that both the Gardening and Fishing Leisure Focus Group Leaders are aware of the Smith’s interest. Jim enjoys fishing while Fran enjoys gardening. LFC’s and Individual Counselors regularly compare notes and collaborate during the course of a guest’s stay on the Ranch. Future blog posts will hopefully illustrate this dynamic.

# of hours dedicated to Jim & Fran = ½ hour
Mel (TPF) P/U Jim and Fran Smith from Houston International
T: Pick the Smith’s up in V&B Van number 2 from Houston International at 8:00am.
P: Simple, build initial rapport with the Smiths and take them to the Ranch. The ride should also be considered the Smith’s first initial counseling session.
M: Van
E: The Smith’s have established an initial bond with Mel and understand that Mel will work as an intermediary throughout their stay on the Ranch.
# of hours dedicated to Jim & Fran = 2

Jim and Fran begin their vacation by flying into Houston International Airport. They are greeted at the Terminal by a V&B Trip Planner / Facilitator (TPF). The V&B Trip Planner will serve as their tour guide and will also act as an intermediary between leisure and treatment staffs throughout Jim and Fran’s vacation.

During the two hour car ride to the ranch from Houston International, our Trip Planner (Mel) immediately begins to build a relationship with Jim and Fran. So much is being said and not being said on this long ride, but Mel is trained in active listening. Without Jim and Fran knowing it, this is their first “counseling session.”

Mel, Jim, and Fran finally arrive at the V&B. It’s a beautiful place. There are rolling hills; cottages intermixed with trees all around, privacy, a lake with a beach and a dock. People are fishing. The sun is beginning to set as the group drives onto the ranch. Mel drives Jim and Fran right to the cabin they have selected while in Caroline’s office a month ago. There are chocolates on top of the bed and a vase of roses on the nightstand. There’s even a bottle of Champaign chilling on the dresser. Jim ordered it when the Smith’s visited New Hope.

There’s a huge tub built for two in this cabin and a small fire is burning in the fireplace when they arrive. As the couple settles in, Mel show’s Jim and Fran the stocked refrigerator. He also lets them know that there’s a “community potluck dinner being held tonight in our restaurant” and that they are invited if they would like to attend. Jim and Fran look around the room and at what it has to offer for the evening and decide to spend some time alone. With a knowing smile on his face, Mel doesn’t blame them. He does remind Jim and Fran that he will be stopping by the cabin at 1000 in the morning so that he can take them on an extended tour of the Ranch. House cleaning also arrives at 1000 to “re-make” the cabin.

Day 1:
1000-1200 Tour of Ranch
T: Mel conducts guided tour for the Smith’s upon their arrival to the Ranch. Schedule spa restaurant appointments if desired.
P: Familiarize Jim and Fran with V&B amenities, activities, and with other guests and Staff as available.
M: Golf cart 2 is reserved from 10:00-1300 if needed.
E: The Smith’s are familiar and start to become comfortable with the Ranch and what it has to offer. Mel also observes the Smiths to see what interests them beyond what’s been spoken previously during the day, no different then what you all do as Counselors with you Clients. You pay attention to what’s unsaid, almost as much as to what’s said. Mel’s observations will be documented and passed onto Kamiah (the Smith’s primary Counselor).

# of hours dedicated to Jim & Fran = 2
1200-1400 V&B Picnic w/ Other Guests at Ranch
T: Smiths, along with other week 1 Guests, attend a potluck lunch.
P: Guest and Staff have the opportunity to meet and interact with each other. Fun and material is always generated. Opportunities are explored.
M: Cooking, Gardening, Hunting, and Fishing Groups put on the lunch.
E: The Smiths experience a sense of community and are more comfortable with their surroundings.

# of hours dedicated to Jim & Fran = 2
1600-1630 TPF and Individual Counselor Note Comparison
T: Share observations with Individual Counselor
P: Continuity of care and better preparation for initial session with individual Counselor on Day 2
M: Simple Meeting over coffee
E: Kamiah is better prepared for Day 2 session
# of hours dedicated to Jim & Fran = ½ hour

Jim and Fran had a great night and are up early. They are both so used to getting up at 0600, that they don’t know what to do with themselves. Fran enjoys making big breakfasts, so she decides to whip up some biscuits & gravy, eggs, and bacon. She is nervous about what the day will bring, and so is Jim. While Fran makes breakfast, Jim goes outside to view the lake from the wooden deck. Forever the master of his surroundings, Jim tries orient the map Mel gave him the day before to the terrain he sees before him. There’s just one problem: the map doesn’t reflect the reality. “It doesn’t match the %^#$% terrain” Jim muddles to himself.

Mel knew this fact the night before. Mel also knew that during the interview Caroline had with Jim and Fran last month that Jim has control and anger issues. Mel is using V&B’s surroundings to generate material and shared experiences for later use. The episode about the map is temporarily forgotten by Jim because the smell of bacon and coffee is wafting from the open kitchen window
Breakfast is served and Jim and Fran sit down together. They don’t talk much at breakfast. They don’t need to. Inwardly they scream to themselves, helplessly and alone that NOTHING IS EVER GOING TO CHANGE! Fran can tell that something is bothering Jim but she hesitates to ask and doesn’t want to spoil the moment. She’s angry but lets it pass. It’s a cycle that continues, even in a beautiful place like the Vine and Branch. They both love each other but wonder how they’ve drifted so far apart over the years.

10:00 arrives and Mel is not at the cabin. Instead, he arrives 20 minutes late. At about 10 minutes past 10am both Jim and Fran are in agreement. The V&B staff is unprofessional, and just like the rest of the world, the staff doesn’t seem to care.

Mel arrives at the cabin and notices that Jim and Fran’s body language is conveying anger and confusion that’s not being expressed. Patterns of interaction are actively being displayed. Mel makes mental notes that he will later pass on to other V&B Counseling Staff members; the observations he makes will also provide material for him to work with during subsequent group and individual counseling sessions.

Similar interactions are occurring all over Vine and Branch with other guests participating in day 0. These interactions are specifically targeted to address concerns / goals stated in previous “reservation interviews.” Everything is intentional and relational.

Mel continues with his guided tour of the Ranch. He shows Jim and Fran the horse stables, trails, gardens, live stock areas, lake, spa, gym, restaurant, meeting hall, counselor offices, boat house, gives an overview of the hunting / “geocash” area, fire pit areas, high ropes confidence course, and the picnic grounds. He answers their questions during the two hour tour but does not provide an explanation for being late. He wasn’t confronted about his lateness and knew that he wouldn’t be, not yet anyway. Confrontation will happen once trust and respect is built.

Mel leads them to a picnic held specifically for day 0 vacationers. There’s a ton of food, all prepared by people vacationing at the ranch, people that find cooking to be therapeutic and fun. The site, smell, and people are instantly inviting. Even though guests are visiting V&B for different reasons, there’s a common bond among the guests that’s easy to embrace (the military experience.) Lunch is complete and the guests help each other clean up.

It’s now 2pm and Mel bids his fair well to Jim and Fran for the day. They are now free to enjoy the vacation they have hoped for. Before leaving though, Mel gives them a correct V&B map. Confused, Jim and Fran don’t ask any questions, nor do they seem to care at this point in the day. They are tired and yet exhilarated at the same time with the experience they just had together. With the map, Mel gives Jim and Fran a card that indicates that they have an appointment with Kamiah Simms for 10am on Day 2.

While Jim and Fran are off enjoying their first full day of vacation, Mel is busy compiling typed notes for Kamiah Simms (LPC, LMFT). Mel compares the notes from his own observations and from the previous Initial Interview in Chicago (Intake if you want to call it that) / Vacation Scheduling so that Kamiah has some background information and recommendations to start with in her 10am Day 2 session.

Chris Allen is a counselor and an Army Officer just returning from Afghanistan. He is passionate about developing counseling practices that best address Veterans and their families. Blog comments are not representative of the Army or Department of Defense.

Contact Name

Contact Title

Contact Email

Contact Phone

Related Info


  1. RadEditor - HTML WYSIWYG Editor. MS Word-like content editing experience thanks to a rich set of formatting tools, dropdowns, dialogs, system modules and built-in spell-check.
    RadEditor's components - toolbar, content area, modes and modules
    Toolbar's wrapper 
    Content area wrapper
    RadEditor's bottom area: Design, Html and Preview modes, Statistics module and resize handle.
    It contains RadEditor's Modes/views (HTML, Design and Preview), Statistics and Resizer
    Editor Mode buttonsStatistics moduleEditor resizer
    RadEditor's Modules - special tools used to provide extra information such as Tag Inspector, Real Time HTML Viewer, Tag Properties and other.

Join/Renew NOW!