Therapeutic Approachcompassionate therapy

Our clinical therapists are academically trained and experienced professionals here to offer keen insight to underlying issues and effective guidance sensitive to each person's individual needs.  At Open Sky, we believe that the family system is a key component to the success of our students and our therapists assist families in growing and learning alongside their child.  Guided by compassion and authenticity with the aid of nature's inherent healing capacity, Open Sky therapists see remarkable success with teens and young adults that are historically resistant to treatment.

Learn more about Open Sky's Therapeutic Approach:

Authentic Compassion

We believe therapy is first and foremost about authentic relationships. Open Sky therapists skillfully combine compassion and assertiveness to give our students an accurate reflection of their life experiences, decisions and subsequent consequences in the context of the startling lessons and gifts of wilderness living. With intentional guidance from our therapists and field guides, our students learn proper ways to manage frustration, share emotions, develop healthy relationships and appropriately meet their unique personal needs.

Each of our team members has a long history of working with people in crisis and distress prior to joining our team and have demonstrated tremendous capacity to support students and families during this time of turmoil and opportunity.  Compassion is a hallmark of each Open Sky therapist.  We believe firmly that genuine concern for the suffering and hardships of others is inherently beneficial to all involved.  Our therapists are chosen in large part because of their innate ability to relate to students and families during these difficult times.

Back to Top

therapist and student review pathway objectivesProfessional & Experienced

Each of our clinicians has received a master's degree or higher, is licensed, and continues to pursue training opportunities to stay current and increase their effectiveness. Open Sky clinical therapists are trained in the most current and research-proven methods, including assessment and diagnosis, adolescent development, cognitive behavioral therapy, attachment theory, transpersonal psychology, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR), substance abuse treatment, Motivational Interviewing, and Gottman's Marital Therapy.

Our clinical team has accumulated decades of experience in the field of wilderness therapy helping students and families. Several of them began their career years ago as field guides.  Our current clinical team has a combined 60 years of experience working in wilderness therapy.

Back to Top

Individualized Care

Open Sky therapists begin to develop a therapeutic relationship by communicating in a nurturing, honest and direct manner. Therapists individualize their work with each student. A session with a less verbal student may include something more active, like making a bow-drill fire together. As trust develops the therapist becomes more challenging about past negative choices and helps the student identify the underlying needs that may be driving their behaviors. A main therapeutic goal is that students discover and practice healthier, more effective ways to have their needs met.

Each Open Sky therapist spends two days a week in the field. During that time, he or she will meet individually with each student for approximately one hour and facilitate a therapy group with the student’s entire team.  As the treatment team leaders, Open Sky therapists meet with field guides twice a week to direct therapeutic interventions and discuss the student's progress.  In addition to these sessions, the therapist will spend some “down time” with the group sitting around the fire, enjoying a meal together, hiking and participating in daily activities.

Back to Top

Wilderness-basedstudents sitting by fire

The high desert and mountain wilderness of the Southwest inspires profound growth and change. Teens and young adults are surprisingly open with wilderness therapists because of the experiential environment inherent to wilderness therapy. In the wilderness setting students naturally develop resiliency, resourcefulness, and accountability. Research shows that the relationships that develop in a wilderness setting are uniquely powerful and amplify a student’s change process in a way that is unparalleled in any other treatment setting.  Because the program is experiential, students tend to be more actively involved in the therapeutic process and are constantly improving their relationship skills and learning appropriate ways to cope with stress.

Back to Top

Family-Centeredfamily together at graduation

The family is the centerpiece of the Open Sky program experience. We believe that it is crucial for family members to fully participate in the program while their son or daughter is enrolled with us.  Research has proven repeatedly that a student's success is proportional to the involvement and growth of the student's family.  As a result, Open Sky provides the most comprehensive family experience available in wilderness therapy led by our clinical therapists and wellness team.  Family phone calls with Open Sky therapists are scheduled once a week.  During the weekly call, the therapist will discuss your student's progress, review family assignments from the family workbook, and help you take the appropriate steps to create a successful aftercare plan. You will also have your therapist's telephone and e-mail address for questions or concerns that arise between phone calls.

Back to Top


The Open Sky therapist oversees the treatment team of professional providers for each student.  Therapists supervise the activities of the field guides in accordance with each student’s individualized treatment plan.  Day in and day out, field guides will work with each student to follow through on specific assignments and interventions designed by the treatment team. Field guides run daily group sessions, teach curriculum, and oversee the varied program activities throughout the week.  Field guides are really the heart and soul of the program, taking advantage of the host of teachable moments that present themselves each day. For example, if a student becomes frustrated at not easily succeeding at a given task, the guides are there to coach them through to a successful experience. From the hardship caused by a rainy day to the strenuous demands of a hiking excursion in the noonday sun to the tearful processing group around the campfire the field guides are there with students every step of the way.

Back to Top