May 16th: Fammunity
Family + Community: it’s the people that make a difference. At our early summer company picnic yesterday, kids and adults played basketball and volleyball and we recorded video and photos to send to one of our community members in the hospital. Part of the Open Sky family for nearly 6 years, this beloved woman fell while rock climbing and is in the hospital paralyzed. The outpouring of support has been huge and makes such a difference in recovery. We are all blessed to have such a strong network of caring people.
May 9th: Guide and Student Relationships
The relationship between field guide and student is a special one at Open Sky. Guides navigate through the back country, check feet for blisters, advise on dinner menus and are often the comic relief and boundary holders, all in one. An essential part of the treatment team, field guides live with our students 24 hours a day, 8 days a week and oversee the primary therapist’s clinical goals. (Our guides work 8 days on, 6 days off.) Becoming a field guide is a highly competitive process; we select our guides from a wide pool of applicants who have extensive experience both therapeutically and in the wilderness. Guides are constantly pushed to grow with weekly feedback, medical, field and clinical trainings, and a comprehensive Professional Development Fund.
But being a field guide is more than just having an impressive resume or being able to bust a bow-drill fire. It’s about developing professional and authentic caring relationships. Guides become so much to our students: mentors, role models, confidants. Guided by the Clinical Therapist, the genuine and heartfelt relationships that develop between student and guide go deep and have long lasting impact.
Watch the complete webinar about about how we select, train and work with our field guides.
April 30th: Spring has Sprung
While we are still getting the occasional cold toes night, spring has decidedly come to the Open Sky course area. Birds are returning, desert plants are as lush and green as they can be, and it’s getting undeniably HOT in the day time. The farm in Mancos is jumping off with starts in the green house and a marked increase in egg laying. We will soon move to our mountain course area and are looking forward to a summer among ponderosas. Check out our gallery of Colorado photos as well as find us on facebook for current updates!
April 25th: Tracking Change
Every student at Open Sky is unique and comes to the wilderness in a different way. Some are excited, some are angry, others are overwhelmed and shut down. As the time passes, they change. Substances they’ve been using fade from their bodies to be replaced with healthy, whole foods and clean air and water. They start sleeping, stretching their bodies, becoming stronger. They are fed physically as well as emotionally, surrounded with strength and support, love and boundaries. This change is palpable you can see it in their faces, in their eyes and in their smiles.
April 18th: Shout it Over the Mountain Tops by Micah Hammond, Clinical Intern
I had the pleasure of working with adolescent girls over the summer and when they arrived I would see bright, talented, and beautiful girls. Then my heart would sink as they told stories of self-loathing and crippling insecurities. Low self-esteem is often a normal, painful part of being a teenager, I remember it well, but for these girls it had led to risky behaviors to numb the pain. During their weeks at Open Sky I watched as the girls began to take pride in their accomplishments, such as completing a difficult hike, leading a meaningful ceremony and being truly vulnerable during therapeutic groups. Seeing these girls redefine their sense of self-worth through open and honest sharing of past pains was amazing. One girl was given the challenge to lead a self-validation group each day during which each girl shared three things she had done really well. The girls loved the group so much they continued it for the rest of the summer. I appreciate this work because it allows me to remind young women that loving and caring for themselves is the path to healing. I’ll always cherish the moment along the Colorado Trail at 12 thousand feet when each girl shouted out over the mountain tops, “I LOVE MYSELF!”
April 11th: The Open Sky
Our name invokes a lot of different ideas: the huge horizons of our course areas, the limitless potential of our students and families. And the name Open Sky has another meaning that is tied to our mindfulness practices.
When we teach mindfulness practices in the field, the lesson is to be aware of what arises and then let it go. To recognize we are thinking, hearing or feeling, and then return to our breath. In the sky, there are many things that come and go. The sun, moon, clouds, storms, rainbows, even planes and satellites. If you watch the sky for long enough, you’ll see all these and more passing through. And yet none of them stay, none are permanent or definitive of what the SKY really is. No matter what arises, it passes away and the sky remains, limitless and unchanged.
We are like the Open Sky. Our emotions, thoughts and life circumstances like the phenomena we see passing through. Just as the sky is not the sun, we are not our emotions or our thoughts. We are something larger, something harder to define and more complex than we could ever imagine.
The next time your internal world feels like a thunderstorm, or the blackest of dark nights, remember that it will pass. Take a breath and remember the Open Sky beyond all your experiences.
April 4th: Alumni Poem
Thank you so much to our beautiful alumni who have been sharing their experiences! Here is another sweet note:
I’m afraid I don’t have what it takes
To be loved.
I’m afraid I’ve broken too many hearts
And lied too many times
To be real
To show love
To care for someone more than myself
To let myself be vulnerable
Let myself into the open
Unsheathed by secrets or mystery or lies
Bare and naked
Exposed and true.
I’m afraid I’m not human enough
Not strong enough
Not brave enough
And not smart enough
I’m afraid I’m empty inside
And that emptiness will disappoint everyone
And all I’ll be left with
Is little old me.
As I reread this tears came to my eyes and spilled over my cheeks. I remembered feeling that emptiness so vividly. I was so sure that the behaviors of my past would define me forever. But I was wrong. It was the incredible healing power of the wilderness, the community of amazing peers and staff at Open Sky, and my
brilliant therapist who helped me find a place of peace within my heart.
Open Sky allowed me to get in touch with the strength and grace I carry today to live my life. I try to live honestly; I accept and validate my emotions; I work through problems with awareness, and I am able to connect with those around me wholeheartedly and with compassion. I am so filled with gratitude for this experience. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think back to it with love. Thank you.
Rives (Rivie) Jacaruso
March 28: Teenagers Lie, by Dr. Fred Peipman, Clinical Therapist
“Yes, if we were prepared to be honest we might rid ourselves of much self deception.” Moliere
Teenagers lie. They do so frequently and often with skill and finesse. They probably lie more than most of us expect or realize. Why? The answer to that question can appear deceptively simple: they want privacy, individuation, and to experiment with behaviors of which adults do not approve. Teens will sometimes lie in situations where they never lied before, which parents find perplexing.
Corey’s sister stares into the refrigerator “Where is the rest of my Thai food? Who ate it?” She glares at her brother while saying this. Corey yells back “I didn’t do anything! What are you looking at me for? Someone probably threw it out!” Mom, witnessing the whole scene, knows Corey ate the food and is baffled about why he is lying about it.
Parents find their kids lying about seemingly insignificant things. Teens try out lying to see how well they succeed at deceiving the adults around them. The easiest analogy to make is to slot machines, where the reward can happen at any time and can vary in terms of the amount awarded. If children lie and get away with it they will often then generalize that one success to other situations. When applied broadly, the reinforcement is that there is a chance to win along with the risk of losing. This is why teenagers will lie, even when it seems illogical to the adults around them.
When lying and deception does happen, parents need to be very clear that it is unacceptable. A key part of this is modeling one’s own behavior so that teens can’t say, “well YOU lied about…” It is also important to clearly let teenagers know that lying, leaving out the truth, and otherwise deceiving parents is wrong and warrants consequences that are unpleasant.
Another recommendation I give to parents is to be mindful of when you are placing a teenager in a position where he or she would be most likely to lie. After every initial session I have with a teenager, I ask “On a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being completely honest; how honest were you with me today?” I am delighted when I get anything less than 70. My response is “Well, now you are being honest with me for real.” Sometimes a student can only feel good about being honest with me about the degree to which she was lying to me, which is okay as it involves the first steps in being more authentic and honest with one another.
March 21: An Alumni’s Words
In April of 2011, it became clear to myself and to many that love me that my life had become unmanageable. Ever since adolescence, I had been battling with self destructive behaviors- drug use, eating disorders, negative thoughts patterns, lack of self esteem and cutting- anxiety ran my life and I did not realize that I had the power to make different choices for myself. My family became concerned for my future and I continued to abuse their trust and steal money from them.
My mother made a difficult decision and offered me an ultimatum: she said I could get help or she would need to practice detachment out of emotional exhaustion and love for herself and for me. I started doing online research into therapeutic programs and my therapist and I both agreed that Open Sky might offer the care and attention that I needed.
What followed were a series of realizations and changes in perception. I learned forgiveness and healthy coping skills. I took responsibility for my actions and an attitude geared towards living an honest and fulfilling life. I learned mindfulness and loving kindness practices. I was given the tools I needed and taught how to use them. The environment stripped away all the distractions I had used to treat the pain and avoid the grief I was feeling, and I learned that the grieving needed to happen in order for me to grow emotionally. I developed a new sense of self awareness (which I am cultivating every day and will for the rest of my life), I realized how I’ve affected others, and I forgave others and myself. I acknowledged old traumas and began the life affirming passage through my adolescence and into this, my adulthood. I learned what self care means and I became versed in assertive communication skills.
The wilderness is an amazing thing- there is some indescribable medicine in the sand and the grit and the hummingbirds as a witness. Nature speaks a language of love, compassion and of letting go, and I learned to listen. I let the earth hold me. I was challenged physically, backpacking in Utah in late Spring, and began to understand and value a life with structure. I realized that I was exactly where I needed to be.
March 14: Carrying it All with You
There is something about a backpack. Something about radical self reliance and team reliance, knowing that everything you need to survive is with you: shelter, food, warmth, the tools to make a fire. At first, many students struggle with the lack of material belongings they have become so accustomed to in life. They might miss TV or their iphone or a video game. But that tends to fade and surprisingly fast. Three weeks in, students rarely bemoan the material things they are missing.
Instead, they come to rely on what they have. Some students are impeccable with their gear while others let socks get muddy or burnt. They learn to rely on the guides and each other to be honest when someone is acting entitled, to bring joy in the form of simple games, to be vulnerable so wounded areas can heal. And most importantly, they learn to rely on themselves, to know that they have everything they need within themselves. The empowerment that comes with this lesson is not something that can be seen on the surface but is carried everywhere they go.
March 7: Photo Blog
Here are a few snippets from our company wide meeting:
Norman busting a coal, smiling faces from the office, burning insense to honor past students, the whole company as tigers, and team members in a moment of silence.
Quotes from the day and the debrief following:
“We are contributing to the betterment of the fabric of our society.”
“I enjoyed spending time on the land with our community…and tending our relationships.”
“Our entire civilization comes from fire!”
“I love community!”
“To be in the dome was amazing.”
“Our core values: quality, community, innovation.”
February 28: SOTU
We had our annual company wide meeting today, affectionately referred to as the “State of the Union”. While it maybe wasn’t as widely viewed, today was way more exciting, engaging, and encouraging than any presidential speech I’ve ever seen. We spent most of the day in our beautiful new grow dome, discussing where we’ve been as a company and where we’re going. Aaron shared the story of how Open Sky came to be and introduced Ed Morlan from R9, who took a chance and gave Open Sky our financial start. Strengths and efforts were appreciated, challenges and struggles acknowledged. We honored past students and touched in deeply to the work we do. We watched the amazing videos created by the Sky’s the Limit Fund and even had time with the one and only Rochelle Bochner, who shared her experience as an Open Sky alumni family member and the non-profit’s founder. We ate a delicious lunch complete with gluten free chocolate cake AND pumpkin pie and shared around fires that had their beginnings in a busting demonstration by the master Norman himself. With the La Plata mountains in the background, we came together on the land and together we remain in our hearts, stronger, more connected and deeply grateful for this amazing path in life.
February 21: Moving Mountains: An Experiential Intervention
It was the last day of a two-day Family Quest. We would soon start the closing ceremony, but before we said good-bye, there was one more experience to offer the family. While they finished packing, we built a precariously tall and heavy cairn of stacked rocks. We called the family over and explained the challenge: daughter was to pick up the cairn and move it to a new spot about 15 feet away. She had to do it in one trip and keep all the rocks in their same order. Mom and dad were to simply observe and notice what emotions, thoughts, and reactions arose within them.
This was no easy task. The daughter struggled to pick up the stack of rocks and keep it from toppling. Mom asked to help and make jokes on while Dad said that the pile was much, much too large. We heard their responses and then encouraged them to move into silence, tuning into their bodies and becoming aware of what was going on for them. We waited and watched her pick up stones and drop them for what seemed like an eternity. I began to worry it wasn’t possible. And then, almost suddenly, she had all the stones and walked them to their new home, the cairn intact and in order.
We all felt triumphant. She had accomplished a near impossible task, and she did it all by herself! We processed mom and dad’s reactions: the desire to rescue, to make light of the situation, to blame someone else for the difficulty of the task. Had they stepped in and allowed those patterns to play out, she would not have felt nearly as accomplished as she did. She trusted herself, and now mom and dad knew that she would be able to face other challenges that came her way, and that they could let her.
February 14: Love and Oxytocin at Open Sky
It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, and if you have plans for roses and chocolate or not, this is a good a time to talk about one of my favorite topics: love. Love comes in so many forms: parent to child, between partners, with friends, in families, supporting the connection to a higher power, built on respect. One of the neurological key players in love? The hormone oxytocin.
Released by the pituitary glad, oxytocin is tied to birth, bonding and attachment, and feelings of deep love. In recent years, more and more research is being published examining the links between oxytocin and healing, especially in the realms of mental health. It’s been found to increase trust, improve social skills, encourage healthy sleep and even reduce drug cravings. (1)
Open Sky is an oxytocin rich environment. Students experience a simple and consistent life that is substance, technology and distraction free. They live in a beautiful, sensory rich, natural setting with peers and supportive, caring staff. They often report feelings of peace, belonging, and connection to meaning and purpose. Addiction research has shown that it takes about 8-12 weeks for the brain to heal and create new pathways, which is just about the average stay for an Open Sky student. (2)
Thank you to Dr. Katie-Grace for her work and education on oxytocin, and to all our students, staff, and families who help us cultivate it on a daily basis. Much love to you all!
(1) The Oxytocin Factor, by Kerstin Uvnäs-Moberg M.D., Ph.D. of Sweden
(2) Kevin T. McCauley, M.D.
February 7: Family Quests
Open Sky’s Family Quest program began years ago as an inquiry into the possibility of doing deep work with family in the back country. Today, it has blossomed into a powerful experience that roughly half our families choose to participate in.
During a Family Quest, involved family members travel to the field where they spend 2-3 days with their loved one away from the group. Each quest is individually designed by the family’s Open Sky Clinical Therapist and facilitated by members of our amazing Family Services Team. As our Clinical Therapists work closely with both the student and family members at home, they typically generate the referral for a quest. Common motivations for Family Quests include parent-child relational issues, blended families, unresolved family grief, and strengthening the individuation process for young adults. In addition to addressing individual therapeutic assignments, family quest participants also experience Open Sky’s daily routines including meditation, yoga, preparing organic meals, and living out of doors.
Each Family Quest is unique and special, and there are similarities across the board. Parents and families members and always impressed with their loved one’s ability to live in the wilderness. Setting up a shelter, cooking and eating, busting a fire, sleeping, in the backcountry are no small tasks and when families experience these things for themselves, they have a deeper understanding of what their child has been through. In a role reversal, it’s the student powerfully owning their skills and knowledge who teach their parents and family members how to do these things. Similarly, the opportunity to REALLY communicate with structured therapeutic assignments and expertise guidance creates a deep connection within nearly every family. There are stories, emotions, and experiences that have often needed to be shared for a long time. On a Family Quest, these issues can be address in a loving and supported way.
Wilderness therapy can be magical. Family Quests are the icing on the cake. You can read more about them here.
February 4: Open Sky Welcomes Tracy Hopkins
Open Sky is thrilled to announce the addition of Tracy Hopkins as Admissions and Outreach Director. Open Sky’s Admissions Director, Lauren Lollini, MA, LPC says, “We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have someone with Tracy’s blend of compassion, experience and enthusiasm.”
Tracy earned her Bachelor of Science at Southern Illinois University in Recreation Management with an emphasis in outdoor recreation. She brings with her over 15 years of experience in therapeutic programs, having worked as an assistant dorm parent, environmental education instructor, wilderness field instructor, program manager, operations director and admissions director. Tracy’s personable nature and skill at building rapport with others instills a solid level of respect and trust with students and parents facing challenges best met in a wilderness therapy environment.
Tracy will be based in Asheville, NC, enhancing Open Sky’s ability to better serve families, Educational Consultants and other industry professionals.
January 24: Solos
This past week in the field, three of our four groups participated in a special initiative called “Solos”. What are Solos and how do they work?
Solos at Open Sky are a safe yet challenging rite of passage. For a varied length of time, usually 2-3 nights and 3-4 days, each group member is “alone” in the wilderness. They are given a site, designated by their guides, that is out of sight and sound of other group members and the staff’s center camp. In their solo sites, students build their shelter, bust a fire, and spend their time slowing down and connecting with themselves and nature. They have plentiful food and water, and guides come and check in on throughout the day. All the normal group routines continue: hygiene, foot check, medication, ensuring student safety at night. There are special safety guidelines that each group addresses before solos and staff is always close by.
Specially designed by the group’s clinical therapist, each solo generally has a theme, particular assignment, or intention. Sometimes these are determined by the student him/herself and may be as simple as self love, trust, or inquiry. We open and close each solo with a ceremony to mark the transition from the outer world (group chores, hiking, etc) to the inner world of self, and to honor the journey.
The concept of a solo is ancient; you can find stories in folktales, myths and religions of the hero spending 40 nights in the desert or questing into the wild unknown. For some students, solos are a peaceful respite and a time to connect with their higher power. For others, it may be the most challenging thing they’ve ever attempted in their life. Every solo story is different, and worthy. We honor all our students in the field doing this work and send our best wishes!
January 17: The Three Fold Breath
One of the biggest gifts we receive though wilderness therapy is the opportunity to slow down. This occurs naturally in the back country, where there are no ringing cell phones, traffic, or deadlines. We become attuned with the rhythms of the earth, rising with the sun, sleeping with the stars. Our nervous systems relax and we become deeply connected with self and the current reality.
While we may often forget, this ability to slow down is available to us at any time. Our students in the field and family members who attend Wellness Weekend are taught an incredibly powerful tool to create this space: the three fold breath. Essentially a giant sigh, the three fold breath is a practice of mindfully breathing deeply. It begins by expelling all the air from one’s body and then slowly and consciously breathing in, first filling the lower belly, then the lungs and rib cage, and finally the space behind the collar bones. If possible, we encourage holding the body full of air for a moment before slowly relaxing and releasing. Often done in a series of three, we encourage the last three fold breath’s exhale to be as long and as silent as possible. This act of mindful breathing, of exhaling longer than inhaling, physiologically relaxes the body and nervous system, reducing stress and creating healing.
Try it! Push all the air out of your body and then slowly fill the lower belly, rib cage, and upper chest. Hold, and slowly release. What do you notice? Try it again….and once more, with this exhale being long and slow. What do you notice? While it’s not quite the same as 8-10 weeks in the wilderness, we hope that through the three fold breath, some of that peace and calm has been imbued into this moment of your day.
-January 10: It Takes a Village
There are so many magical moments in Wilderness Therapy: waking up in the desert to a winter sunrise on snow, witnessing a student understanding themselves in a way they never have before, the look on a parent’s face when they say “You’ve given me back my child”. These are the moments we live for, the real times of healing, growth, and change.
Our field staff, therapists, and family services team members spend the most 1:1 time with students and families, but it takes an entire village of dedicated, caring individuals to create and ensure the powerful experience of Wilderness Therapy. There is an immense number of people and energy behind the scenes bringing it all together!
From our admissions and outreach team to the office staff and medical and back up personelle, Open Sky is blessed to have such an incredible community.
-January 3: The Magic of the Bow Drill Fire
Making fire with a bow dill set is a powerful tool at Open Sky. Students begin learning to “bust” fire as soon as they arrive and the group fire is made by students each night. The set consists of locally harvested materials: a bow, fire board, spindle, top socket or rock (made of bone, stone, or wood,) and a nest of dry material to blow into flame. Using the top socket to create down pressure, the spindle is rubbed back and forth in the fire board with the bow. Small bits of wood flake off and build into a small pile of black “punk”. Heated by friction, this punk builds to create a small ember which is then tipped in the nest and fed with oxygen until it bursts into flame. Creating fire in this way takes practice, finesse, strength and patience.
Creating fire is a rich tool for therpueatic development and teaching with metaphor. How we do one thing is often how we everything. Do students approach the task looking for a way out? If they become frustrated, how do they respond? Guides support students therapeutically, gently and lovingly guiding their emotional process in a healthy, constructive way. Senior students support newer members of the group with tips, kits, and knowledge, and ultimately, it’s up to each individual to succeed.
There is nothing quite like the experience of busting a fire. It calls to something primitive and primal in us. It is empowerment at its most refined. If you can make fire with sticks, you can do anything!
-December 27: Winter Celebration Day
This last week in the field we took a day to celebrate all the special traditions and holidays of the season. Each group had a feast (see the menu in December 20th’s post) and Renee, our kitchen manager, brought each student a persimmon and chocolate mint treat. After their epic meal, all the groups got together for singing, a fire bust off, and entertainment.
Group B performed a skit with Santa, reindeer, and a witch whose only weakness and downfall was a properly delivered “I feel” statement. An adult student told the story of Hanukkah and the groups sang a modified 12 days of Christmas: “Three full Nalgenes, two burnt fire gloves, and a one way ticket to Open Sky!”
Scenes from the Celebration Day and week: clockwise from top right: 1.) Inside a cozy teepee 2.) Dutch oven cooked ham 3.) Group singing around the fire 4.) A student performs during the gathering 5.) Hiking in the winter desert 6.) Green bean feast. Center.) Blowing up the fire to win the group bust off. (Nice work, Team C! After lots of hard work supported by the vocal accompaniment of team B, the adolescent girls won the bust off.)
Warmest wishes and a Happy New Year!
-December 20: Holiday Sneak Peak
Winter has arrived! We got our first snow here in Durango and in the field last week. (Check out our “Currents” album on Facebook for more photos.)
With so many holidays around this time of year, it can be particularly challenging to be separated from loved ones. In the field, we care for our community of students with loving kindness, guided therapeutic support, and large and small celebrations. We do our best to honor all faiths and traditions and plans for our Celebration Day includes making ice lanters, decorations, a fire bust-off, and singing. Special mail is getting delivered on Monday and and our winter feast looks amazing! In combination with our normal menu of whole, organic food, the feast is set to include ham, bacon, rolls, gravy, hot chocolate, sweet potato pies, yams, green beans, salad, butternut squash, persimmons, and a sweet treat. Many groups have begun to have conversations around intentions for the turning of the light/year and are spending the next few days inquiring and perfecting their visions. Our adolescent girls’ group has a “secret santa” initiative where the girls are making presents for each other and are all participating in anonymous acts of kindness towards their group members. Photos from the field will be coming back for an update next Thursday.
We send our warmest, loving wishes to all you at home. Happy Holidays!
December 13: Winter at Open Sky
While we are still experiencing above average temperatures here in Durango, it’s definitely taken a turn towards the chilly in the past week. Is winter an appropriate time for wilderness therapy and how do we keep kids safe and warm? The answer to the first question is an absolute yes. For some students, winter is the BEST time for wilderness treatment because the inescapability of the elements and their situation in life is so pressing. Students must learn to face their challenges head on, accept support from our excellent staff, and trust themselves. Winter is the ultimate in wilderness therapy.
Once here, how do we keep students safe and warm? In the fall when temperatures start declining, we move our operating area to the lower elevation desert and a more mild climate. Once there, students are outfitted with the highest quality gear rated to temperatures well below what they live in. Should the weather take a turn, each team’s base camp is equipped with teepees set up for indoor fires. Our team of field guides have extensive winter wilderness experience and are consistently re-trained in caring for students in the winter and what to be aware of medically, hygienically, and therapeutically. We focus on setting students up for success, no matter what the weather.
Tune in next week for a sneak peak of 2012 winter holiday celebrations plans at Open Sky. (Above: a teepee from winters past; no snow here…yet!)
-December 6: Ceremony
In the often hectic, fast paced world that most of us live in, slowing down and honoring special moments doesn’t happen all too often. And yet it’s these times of intention that often stay with us: graduation and wedding ceremonies, birthday celebrations, even a weekly ritual of coffee and a crossword. The pace at Open Sky is considerably slower than at home and this is one reason students are able to sink into their experiences, and to heal. Ceremony at Open Sky is a way of slowing down even more and paying special attention to times and transitions that matter most. We use ceremony when a student moves from one phase of their pathway to the next, to recognize a particular accomplishment or challenge, or to give space to something that needs attention, such as the loss of a loved one, the sharing of a powerful story from one’s past, or the beginning of a solo experience or family quest. We often use a naturally constructed medicine wheel (above), poems and songs, and sage to create a ceremony unique to each student and circumstance.
Ceremony at Open Sky is woven in with skilled clinical treatment, mindfulness practices, and the inherent magic of the wilderness to create a deep and long lasting experience of healing, growth, and change.
-November 28: Greenhouse Building Underway
At Open Sky, we view wellness and health as long term intentions. We are pleased to suport this vision with the creation and development of the Open Sky Farm. The farm was established in the spring of 2012 on 60 acres of land outside of Mancos, Colorado affectionately called ”the ranch.” This past week has seen the groundbreaking on the farm’s newest project: a geodesic greenhouse that will allow us to grow local, organic, healthy, whole food produce for our students and staff year round! A specially designed Climate Battery (to regulate the dome’s temperature using solar and thermal power) is being installed today and the walls of the greenhouse go up in the coming week. Thanks to everyone working to make Open Sky more healthy and sustainable!
-November 22: Happy Thanksgiving!
Today is a day of giving thanks, of expressing gratitude in all its forms. We are thankful to our staff and students in the field, their families at home, our community that supports it all, and the land that makes it possible. Today is a special day in the field; students and staff are celebrating the holiday with a get together, talent show, and backcountry feast. Warmest wishes to all of you, from our hearts to yours.
Pictures from this year’s celebration, clockwise from top left:
1. Dutch oven cooked turkey! (All the teams in the field had a special meal with organic turkey and stuffing, organic root vegetables, organic cranberry sauce, local organic apple cider, and homemade pumpkin pies.) 2. Ranger Danger, wilderness therapy dog 3.) The staff bust off (Who can make a flame from a bow drill set fastest) 4.) The graduation/group meditation shelter where we held the Thanksgiving Talent Show which included an Open Sky reality TV spoof, an original song and sing-a-long, a cooking skit…5.) The student bust off (which team can use their bow drill set to bust a coal, light a fire, and burn a string fastest- way to go team G winners!)
For every moment of joy
Every hour of fear
For every winding road that brought me here
For every breath, for every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving
By Don Henley
-November 15, 2012: Teen Resistant to Wilderness Therapy? New Study Shows They Will Most Likely Benefit Anyway
Open Sky’s Research Director Joanna. E Bettmann was recently co-published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies: How Substance Abuse Recovery Skills, Readiness to Change and Symptom Reduction Impact Change Processes in Wilderness Therapy Participants (See full article here.)
The study followed 189 teen students at Open Sky and used three measures to determine the effectiveness of wilderness therapy. The results? Students report lover levels of interpersonal distress, somatic issues, interpersonal relations, critical issues (like suicide), social problems, and behavioral dysfunction. Their readiness to change was not significantly related to such improvements, but their relapse and abstinence-focused coping accounted for a significant proportion of the difference. These results indicate that clients in wilderness therapy do not necessarily need to want to change in order to do so and that the greatest predictor of student improvement was Open Sky’s ability to instill abstinence-focused coping strategies.
How does Open Sky instill such skills in our students? By providing weekly individual and group substance abuse counseling from our Masters-and Doctoral-level therapists and through training our students and staff in the addiction-as-disease model. Developing emotional awareness and regulation skills by using regular feelings checks and mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga also strengthens abstinence skills; when clients are able to develop greater awareness of their emotions and manage them, they may be more likely to utilize abstinence focused coping skills such as contacting a sponsor or asking for help from loved ones. BOOM!
November 8, 2012: Guide Development
Open Sky’s field guides live with students in the backcountry 24 hours a day, 8 days a week. (With 6 days off in between.) A core component of our treatment, field guides are encouraged to continually expand their skills and training. Open Sky supports this with a professional development fund and occasional additional activities. November seems to be the month for guide development, with a highly successful Jumping Mouse: A Gathering of the Guides Festival last weekend and the first of two vision quests for field guides starting this week. We are pleased to offer such development, and to employ the cream of the wilderness therapy crop.
-November 1, 2012: Safety First!
At Open Sky, safety comes before all else. We work hard to ensure both the physical and emotional safety of all our students and staff. For many, the idea of living for an extended period of time in the back country may bring up questions of safety. Fear not! In the latest report from the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Research Cooperative, Wilderness Therapy proves to be less dangerous than snowboarding, skiing, or mountain biking. Open Sky is one of several programs who contributed to this research. You can view a PDF of the report here and rest assured.
-October 25, 2012: Calling Alumni
Update: This event has been cancelled due to hurricane Sandy. We hope to re-schedule soon.
Alumni Event in Boston! Members of Open Sky’s leadership and clinical team will be in the Boston area next weekend and will host an alumni event on Friday afternoon. We invite all alumni and family members to join us for a afternoon of connection, updates, and four line check-ins. You can email email@example.com or call the office (970-382-8181) for more information.
-October 18, 2012: Webinars
Open Sky is pleased to present live, bi-weekly educational webinars for currently enrolled family members. Members of our Clinical and Leadership teams present on a variety of topics such as Attachment Dynamics, Nutrition, and Effective Parenting. Currently enrolled families and members of our alumni may join the live webinars as well as access our library of previously recorded presentations. Norman Elizondo, Family Wellness Counselor, will present this coming Monday’s webinar: ”Mindfulness and Clinical Treatment” .
-October 10, 2012: Mental Health Day
Today is World Mental Health Day, a reminder to raise public awareness about mental health issues. The day promotes open discussion of mental disorders and investments in prevention, promotion, and treatment services. This year the theme is “Depression: A Global Crisis”. Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in two Americans will struggle with a psychiatric disorder in their lifetime? Mental health challenges in life are not uncommon phenomenons, but rather, fairly widespread experiences. How do we support each other as human beings?
-October 4, 2012: Autumn is Here
The aspens are turning gold in our Colorado course area. (Check out the photo on our Tumblr account.) We will soon move our field operations to the lower elevations of beautiful canyon country. For now, there is nothing quite like a full moon rise over glowing aspens to remind us of the beauty of life and our place in it.
-September 27, 2012: 100th Family Quest
Our 100th family quest of 2012 went into the field today! This is the most family quests in a year that we have ever led, and it’s only September! Incredibly powerful, deeply moving, and sweetly connective, family quests are an optional part of Open Sky’s programming that roughly half our families choose to participate in. All family quests are led by master’s level members of our Family Services Team. Learn more about our family services.
-July 21, 2012: We’re on Facebook!
Come like our company page for current events, photos, inspirational quotes, and interesting articles on mental health, wellness, and psychology. We also have a vibrant alumni group (for students) and alumni family group (for alumni family members). We love our Open Sky family; come join us and get connected!
-June 10, 2012: Summer
We love summer! Highlights include beautiful mountain wildflowers, clear running streams, peak summits, and the opportunity to work with so many gifted people. Thank you for another season in the high country!
-May 10, 2012: