What is the admissions process and how do I apply?
After reviewing the general information provided on the website, we suggest you call the Open Sky office to speak with an admissions counselor. Should you prefer, you can submit the online questionnaire (parent or student) or fill out a contact us form. Once you have spoken with an admissions counselor to do a preliminary assessment of the student’s appropriateness, you will then use the online submission system to submit an application for a comprehensive clinical and medical review.
When will the family find out if the student has been accepted?
Once we receive your completed application and conduct a comprehensive review, we will provide you with an answer within 24 hours, in most cases.
Once accepted to Open Sky, then what?
Once the student has been accepted into the program, Open Sky admissions staff will contact you to review the details surrounding the enrollment process including selecting a start date, reviewing the logistics of getting the student to Open Sky, reviewing our billing and administrative procedures, and any other questions you may have about the enrollment experience.
How will I know if Open Sky is the appropriate program?
Open Sky will need to know about the specific issues that led you to considering a wilderness therapy intervention. We will ask for detailed information about the student’s social, emotional, and behavioral history as well as treatment history, medical history, and family history. If the student has ever had any psychological testing or other assessments, we also ask to review those documents. The more information Open Sky receives regarding your family, the better. All of this will help us to make the most informed decisions in the best interest of the student.
When can a student be admitted to Open Sky?
Open Sky operates year-round and enrollment may take place at any time. Students may enroll Monday through Friday and, in emergency situations, we can enroll a student on Saturday or Sunday for a nominal fee. If possible, families are encouraged to involve the student in the admissions process. However, this is often not possible and in these cases, Open Sky admissions counselors can provide families with referral information for escort and interventionist services.
What type of students does Open Sky work with?
Open Sky works with male and female teens, ages 13-17, and male and female young adults, ages 18-28.
Typical student issues at Open Sky include:
- Self-Esteem Issues
- Mild Eating Disorders
- Oppositional Defiance
- Drug Abuse
- Alcohol Abuse
- Bi-Polar Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Anger Management
- ADD & ADHD
- Learning Differences
- Social Skills Deficits
- Identity Issues
- Self Harm
- Chemical Dependency
- Relationship Issues
- School Problems
- Self-Destructive Behavior
- Social Anxiety
- Grief & Loss
- Family Problems
- Attachment Issues
- School & Work Problems
- Negative Life Patterns
- Gaming Addiction
- Adjustment Issues
- Adoption Issues
- Sexual Identity/Orientation
How long is a student normally at Open Sky?
The average length of stay for both adolescent and young adult students is between 9 and 10 weeks. The amount of time a particular student may need at Open Sky is dependent upon a variety of factors and input from each of the key members in the student’s treatment team. The treatment team in conjunction with the family, the student and other involved professionals will assess what needs to be accomplished for an individual student during his/her stay. The rate at which a student advances, unique family needs, and future plans after Open Sky for the student are especially significant factors that impact the length of student’s stay. Open Sky therapists are committed to the family and the student in supporting the best transition possible to the next setting, whether at home or elsewhere. Therapists will thoroughly communicate with parents, the next program, educational consultants, other involved professionals and/or home therapists to help ensure everything is in place for this transition. At times, and especially with young adults, the student is included in this discussion when it is deemed therapeutically appropriate.
What are the credentials and training of the staff and therapists working in the field with my child?
In having the most comprehensive and holistic treatment team available in wilderness therapy, the training and credentials of the Open Sky team are impressive. All of our therapists have at least a master’s degree in social work, counseling psychology or marriage & family therapy and the majority of our clinical team is also licensed. With Open Sky’s commitment to the total well being of the student, we employ an RN and an EMT field medic, who directly consult with our on-staff Naturopathic Doctor and MD. Our field guides have a vast and varied resume. Averaging about 30 years of age, 80% have college degrees, and several have master’s degrees. More than 50% of the field guides have previous experience in wilderness programming prior to joining Open Sky. Each team of students is lead by a Wilderness First Responder or EMT-trained field guide. Each and every field guide and logistics support staff are at the very least certified in first aid and CPR. The average senior guide at Open Sky has accrued about 200 field days in professional wilderness work experience.
How does Open Sky ensure the safety of the students in the wilderness?
Safety is the single greatest priority at Open Sky. Our entire operation is based on maintaining the highest level of safety for our students and our employees at all times. We are devoted to maintaining the highest standards in the industry and thoroughly training our team to do so. Field and operations staff are selected and trained with this as the highest consideration. New field guides attend a 12-day training at the start of their employment, including eight field days. Training topics always include: wilderness risk management, emergency response, medication administration, first aid, run-prevention, self-harm prevention, managing weather conditions, and effectively deescalating aggressive students. Additionally, each team of guides is equipped with a full collection of state-of-the-art communication and navigation tools including satellite or cell phones, GPS units, 2-way radios and a current map set. We have full-time support staff a short drive away on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week monitoring the radio and phone at all times should there be a need for additional support in the field.
In addition to physical safety, we believe that an emotionally safe atmosphere is central to supporting each student’s growth and learning at Open Sky. Many students are anxious, resistant or afraid at the outset of this new experience so we make every effort to ensure that their individual needs are met to assist them in adjusting to Open Sky. Once in the team with their peers, each student is assigned a peer mentor, someone who has taken a leadership role in the group, to help in assisting the student in adjusting to this unfamiliar environment and new community. Peer mentorship is an intentional by-product of the continuous flow model whereby students come in as others graduate allowing for an environment of mentorship, leadership and peer role models for each incoming student. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the field guides and clinical team to provide the leadership that ensures the emotional safety of the team. Guides are chosen in part based on their ability to lead others in effective and respectful communication, problem solving and resolving conflict so as to maintain the highest level of emotional safety possible. Also, the clinical team regularly provides training and mentorship to guides in order to hone their abilities to deal with the social and psychological complexities inherent in working with teens and young adults.
Open Sky has two operating areas, one in the mountains of Colorado where students are located during the summer and one in the high desert of Utah where students are located during the winter months. Open Sky's operating areas are intentionally selected to provide the most hospitable settings available for a wilderness program in the southwest. Go to our location page on our website to learn more about the current weather conditions.
Each season has unique weather conditions and our students are outfitted with the best and finest clothing and equipment used in wilderness therapy. Each item is field-tested by our expert field guides prior to being selected as standard issue for our students. We do not cut any corners in keeping our students well-equipped and clothed so as to ensure that they are as comfortable as possible in the depth of winter and the heart of summer.
During especially cold periods, students will be taken to the Open Sky base camp. Open Sky operates two base camp facilities, one for the winter location in Utah and one for the summer in Colorado.
Each student is outfitted with brand-new clothing and equipment specifically designed for each season.
Clothing and gear included in cost of program (that are your property):
- Wind-proof Jacket (summer) or Insulated Jacket (winter)
- Clothing: t-shirts, pants, base layers, hats, etc.
- Underwear and socks
- Rain Gear: jacket and pants
- Footwear: hiking boots and camp shoes
- Sleeping bag; fleece blanket
- Stainless steel camp cup
- Nalgene water bottles
- Stuff sack(s)
- Personal Items: writing journals, pens, printed educational materials
- Personal Hygiene Supplies: toothbrush, comb, brush, feminine hygiene supplies, etc.
Clothing and gear provided to you that are owned /supplied by Open Sky:
- Webbing (for tying backpack)
- Sleeping pad- foam
- Snow Boots (winter)
- Group Hygiene Supplies: toothpaste, toilet paper, bug spray, sun screen, etc.
The following are the ONLY items that your Student should bring to Durango:
- Clothes to travel in
- Prescription eyeglasses (no contact lenses, please)
- A 60 day month of current prescription medication, as listed in the medical report
- Photo identification (e.g., Driver’s License, Passport, Student ID, etc.)
How much therapy does each student receive while at Open Sky?
Our program model is based upon a continuous and ongoing therapeutic experience. Each student’s therapist is generally in the field two days a week doing individual and group therapy sessions. In addition, the field guides are trained to implement the therapeutic objectives created for each student when the therapist is not in the field. Open Sky is designed to offer many different and ongoing opportunities to build life skills, improve self-esteem and increase self-awareness. Each day a student will be presented challenges and opportunities to build a successful experience upon. We offer a structured, yet flexible, daily schedule to allow for whatever might come up with a student, letting us process in the moment and handle issues as they arise. Whether hiking, setting up camp, cooking, doing yoga and meditation, confronting an issue in the group, or exploring the reasons for being at Open Sky, each moment of each day presents with numerous opportunities for personal growth and development.
What are exclusionary student issues for Open Sky?
Issues that are not well served by the Open Sky program and are exclusionary for admissions include: psychosis, patterns of severe violent behavior, pattern of severe suicidal behavior, uncontrolled diabetes, severe conduct disorder/antisocial behavior, severe borderline personality traits, IQ below 90, other medical conditions deemed unsafe in a wilderness setting.
What issues are assessed on a case-by-case basis?
Issues that the Open Sky team assesses on a case-by-case basis include mild to moderate self-destructive behavior, borderline personality traits, thought disorder symptoms, eating disorder symptoms and body image issues, a history of suicidal thoughts/gestures, sexual perpetration and medical detoxification issues.
What does a student need to bring?
Open Sky provides all clothing, gear and equipment the student will need while in the program, including a backpack, hiking boots, and a complete range of clothing. We ask that each student brings only the clothes they are wearing, as well as the following: 1) eyeglasses (no contact lenses due to wind, sand, and risk of loss); 2) a 2-month supply of all current prescription medications; 3) a doctor's prescription for all medications; and 4) retainer (if applicable).
What does the first day look like?
Students arriving by plane will be met by Open Sky personnel at the Durango-La Plata County Airport, in Durango, Colorado. We ask that flights are scheduled to arrive at the airport as early in the day as possible. Open Sky team members will greet the student and remain by their side to support them throughout the welcoming process and make themselves available to answer any questions the student might have. After arriving in Durango, the student will be taken to the medical office to receive a physical exam to ensure that he or she is absolutely physically prepared to endure the rigors of outdoor living. We will also provide an opportunity for a good meal prior to heading out to the field. After getting a meal, the student will go to the Open Sky operations facility to be outfitted with gear and clothing needed for the duration of the student’s stay. Then the student will be driven to the campsite location of his or her group and meet with the welcoming field guides who will provide a program orientation. Within a short time of arriving in the field, the student will meet with a peer mentor, a veteran student that has earned the respect of peers as a leader to greet the student and answer questions pertaining to the Open Sky student experience. Understanding this is an anxious time for families as well, Open Sky will communicate with parents and loved ones to inform them when the student has arrived as well as following up with relevant information about any noteworthy progress during the first day.
Will health insurance cover the Open Sky program?
Open Sky has had numerous families get a portion of the program reimbursed by insurance. The amount varies widely and depends on the stipulations of your plan. However, with the passage of the Mental Health Parity Act and the Affordable Care Act, insurance reimbursement is more favorable than ever. Open Sky does not accept insurance but will provide you a detailed statement of services upon completion of the program for you to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement. As well, Open Sky highly recommends you work with Denials Management, an independent company devoted to advocating for your family to get what you are entitled to under the stipulations of your policy. Denials Management can submit your claim, help you with pre-authorization requirements, and should your claim be denied, help you with the appeal process. They can be found online at http://www.denialsmgt.com For more questions, please call and speak with an Open Sky admissions counselor.
What is expected of the parents?
Family is a crucial centerpiece in each student’s life. Research suggests that a student’s success in treatment is greatly impacted by the role that parents play in the student's treatment as well as in the work that they do themselves as parents. Open Sky is a family-centered treatment program and we have a strong expectation that family members participate in program activities, including family workshops (wellness weekends, graduation, optional family quests), weekly support group phone calls, weekly phone calls with your child’s therapist, letter writing, therapy assignments, and weekly sessions with a home family therapist. Within a day of the student’s enrollment we will send each parent a packet of information and the family pathway outlining their role in the Open Sky treatment process. The two cornerstones of the Open Sky family experience are the wellness weekend and the graduation. Parent participation in these events has shown to be extremely impactful on the progress each student makes.