Porter-Starke Services is committed to tackling behavioral healthcare in a variety of ways. While they are dedicated to serving individuals, they also help to empower different groups of people, from teammates, to coworkers, to classmates. Kyle Otten heads up the Beyond Boundaries Division of Porter-Starke Services as its director.
Beyond Boundaries is Porter-Starke’s team-building program that works to strengthen groups with various, well-rounded approaches. Regardless of the approach, the underlying goal is to help group members communicate better, boost morale, and increase their confidence in working together.
“We design tailor-made workshops, sessions, and experiences depending on the unique nature of each group,” Otten said. “We try to help them connect, reconnect, enhance teamwork, listen to each other, support each other, and love one another. We can do that in a variety of ways.”
The most notable option is the Beyond Boundaries Challenge Course located at 2400 Valley Drive in Valparaiso. Otten described the course as a low-ropes course where groups work through a series of initiatives. The course is around the same height as a typical playground and is located in town, unlike many other courses that are located in the woods.
“I sometimes refer to our challenge course as a metro course because it’s right here in town,” Otten said. “That can be really helpful when working with schools because the teacher can see all the kids. We don’t have ticks, snakes, or poison ivy.”
While the challenge course is available by appointment to groups of differing ages and focuses, Otten particularly enjoys working with groups from elementary.
“The teachers get to see their kids in a very different way and see some of them shine on the challenge course who don’t necessarily in a classroom setting,” Otten said. “One of my favorite things is to watch the teachers react.”
Newfound talent in children is not the only way Otten has seen school groups benefit from the course. Otten recalled there was one teacher who became nervous when two boys who did not get along were placed in the same group to take on the challenge course initiatives. Otten reassured the teacher, saying that was exactly what the course had been designed to improve.
“At the end of the day, one of the kids put his arm around the other kid and said, ‘You know what? You’re not as bad as I thought you were.’” Otten said.
The Beyond Boundaries Challenge Course is not only successful with children, however. Otten has found that it is sometimes more effective for adult coworkers at getting them more invested than some of Beyond Boundaries’ more traditional team-building options.
“If I present a PowerPoint to a group on teamwork, many in the room would not actually be there mentally,” Otten said. “If that group comes out on the challenge course and they’re lifting their coworker over a 13-foot wall, they’re present. When they can experience that presence and togetherness in that moment, they can practice being like that in their normal settings.”
Whatever the group and however foolish they may feel during the challenge course initiatives, Otten knows that the lessons learned on the course still hold in other settings.
“The skills and what it takes to do these silly, made-up challenges on the challenge course is the same wisdom that will help them to be effective in school, the workplace, a sports team, or wherever they may be,” Otten said.
To learn more about Porter-Starke Services’ Beyond Boundaries Division and the team-building activities they offer, visit https://www.porterstarke.org/resources/beyond-boundaries.