Unpacking with Dr. Z

Fairbanks has a team of gifted experts who dedicate their lives to helping others and fulfilling the mission of Fairbanks. One of those gifted experts is clinical specialist Dr. Sigurd Zielke, better known as “Dr. Z.” Dr. Zielke has dedicated 15 years to Fairbanks and Hope Academy providing treatment and research.

Dr. Zielke created a recovery tool utilized at Hope Academy called “unpacking” that focuses on student relapses and identifies the events leading up to the relapse. At Hope Academy, an unpacking session with Dr. Zielke allows him to systematically record the student’s personal memories on a whiteboard using a step-by step process to determine what led to the relapse.









Dr. Zielke works with the student to create a plan of action by identifying triggers, providing specifics on what to avoid and positive steps to take towards recovery. He uses node-link mapping, a visual outline using different colors to display the various aspects of a problem, which helps the student visualize and better understand what led to their relapse.

“Unpacking is a free, dynamic form of node-link mapping, which graphically portrays the progressive aspects of a youth’s relapse or other significant event in accordance to the sequence of their memory frames,” Dr. Zielke said. “This is followed by a process of recording associated feelings in the same manner, which has shown extremely positive results for patients.”

This program benefits Hope Academy students by getting them back on the road to recovery, but it also assists the Fairbanks clinical team. Unpacking provides insight into the triggers associated with relapse and the minds of the adolescent in their ever-changing, fast-paced world. These unpacking sessions help our team create a customized action plan based on the students’ environment.

“Node-link mapping techniques have been found to benefit multi-problem individuals including adolescents struggling with addiction,” Dr. Zielke said. “It has a positive impact on motivation, efficacy, emotional control and focus.”