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September 7th, 2018

Planting the Seeds of Change: How Clinical Therapist Morgan Robak Helps Adolescent Boys Flourish in Wilderness

  Q: What led you to become a wilderness therapist? A: In my senior year of undergrad, I did a NOLS backpacking and pack rafting trip in Alaska for 32 days. I learned an immense amount about myself. I came out of that experience a completely different person with a whole new level of confidence. […]

August 31st, 2018

Dr. Aaron Wallis Featured in Woodbury Reports Podcast Series

Dr. Aaron Wallis, a Clinical Therapist at Open Sky serving the Young Adult population, was recently featured in Woodbury Reports. In an installment of Lon Woodbury’s podcast series “In Their Own Voice”, Dr. Wallis and Woodbury discuss the topic of motivation in young adults. Parents often question how to motivate their young adult who struggles […]

August 28th, 2018

Alex Molo’s Open Sky Journey: from Student to Field Guide to Jumping Mouse Award Recipient!

Every year at the OBH Wilderness Therapy Symposium, a Jumping Mouse Ceremony is held to recognize an exceptional Field Guide from each participating program. Award recipients demonstrate outstanding commitment to the work of field guiding and represent the qualities and characteristics most valued by the programs for which they work. This year, Open Sky selected […]

August 17th, 2018

Open Sky Co-Sponsors Diversity Education Series at Upcoming Wilderness Therapy Symposium

Open Sky Wilderness Therapy is proud to be a Diversity Education Series sponsor at the upcoming Wilderness Therapy Symposium. The Symposium will take place August 23-25 in Park City, Utah. The Symposium brings together a cross-section of clinicians, field instructors, educators, educational consultants, professors, research specialists, students, and programs to share theories, insights and best […]

August 13th, 2018

The “Yes” Within the “No”: How to Parent So Your Teen Trusts You

  The Infamous Hair-Cut At dinner one night, a friend of mine and I were speaking about our teenage years and how much we pushed the envelope of our parents’ rules and boundaries. She lightheartedly recounted a vignette of what occurred years before when her son came home after smoking marijuana for the first time […]

August 7th, 2018

Riding to Pay-It-Forward: Greg Arpante’s Bicycle Tour to Support Sky’s the Limit Fund

On May 27, 2018, Greg Arpante dipped his bicycle into Washington state’s Pacific coast and started pedaling east. So began his dual trans-US bicycle tour, a ride from Seattle to Bar Harbor and from Canada to Mexico. What was born as simply a personal summer challenge evolved to be a ride for a cause: a […]

July 31st, 2018

Classic Courage: Pedaling Through the Mountains to Support Courageous Kids

Last week, Open Sky Finance Director, Erin Pinkham pedaled more than 100 miles up and down mountain passes (roughly 7,500 feet of elevation gain) in the Courage Classic bicycle tour to raise money for local families in need. Open Sky was proud to sponsor her team and the Courage Classic event. Learn more about the […]

July 25th, 2018

A Natural Fit: Wilderness Therapy and Adolescent Girls Therapist, Kim Kelley, M.Ed., LPC

Q: Why do you choose to work in wilderness therapy? A: In the early 90’s when I was in graduate training, I had never heard the term “wilderness therapy” before. It was at that time that my younger brother experienced wilderness therapy as a student. He expressed that the experience changed his life. I and […]

July 12th, 2018

Self-Harm & Suicidal Ideation in Adolescent Boys

Misconceptions  In our society, boys and men often grow up without being taught the skills necessary to manage emotions. They are sent the message that it’s best they don’t talk about their feelings. Therefore, when a young man is struggling internally and feels he can’t discuss his emotions openly, self-harm can become a means of […]

July 9th, 2018

Art Therapy in the Wilderness: Promoting Growth through Creative Expression

  Art therapy is the use of artistic media and creative expression to identify and communicate feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. At Open Sky Wilderness Therapy, this type of self-expression is a valuable tool for students as they begin to explore and work through the issues that brought them to wilderness therapy in the first place. […]

July 5th, 2018

Enhanced Family Services (p. 2): The Genogram

What is a Genogram? A genogram is a highly detailed family tree that allows a family and therapist to analyze hereditary, relational, and psychological patterns across generations. In a genogram, raw data is collected about the extended family and organized to give insight to patterns like sickness, eating habits, family trauma, mental health diagnoses, psychological […]

July 1st, 2018

Preparing for Success: Navigating the Transition Process After Open Sky

At Open Sky, students are immersed in a new environment and removed from many of the distractions that kept them from thriving at home. This is an essential part of stabilization, assessment, and initiation of real change. When students leave our program to return home or continue treatment at an aftercare program, they may find […]

June 22nd, 2018

Codependency and Adolescent Girls: A Conversation with Therapist Sierra Williams, MA, NCC, LPC

 What is codependency? Codependency is a clinical term used to describe a relationship dynamic in which two individuals mutually rely on each other to meet their own needs and wants. Although not a diagnosable condition, codependency is a relationship phenomenon that is quite common – and quite problematic.   Another clinical term we could use to […]

June 18th, 2018

Working with Grief & Loss: A Q & A with Adolescent Girls Therapist, Kim Kelley

  Q: What is the difference between grief and loss? Grief is the response to a loss. It’s the emotional suffering that occurs when we lose something or someone. For example, this could be the death of a loved one, a divorce, a move, or a relationship break-up. Typically, the more significant loss, the more […]

June 15th, 2018

Adoption, Attachment, and Wilderness Therapy

Parents considering Open Sky for their adopted child often have a unique set of questions pertaining to their relationships, family dynamics, and clinical concerns. Below, we aim to answer common questions regarding our work with adopted students and their families.   Q: What is Open Sky’s approach to working with adopted students? A: First and […]

June 14th, 2018

Summer Safety: Living and Thriving in the High Country

Summer in the high country – from panoramic mountain views to verdant Aspen groves, summer is a particularly vibrant season to experience wilderness therapy at Open Sky. Living in the vast wilderness allows Open Sky students to build skills and face elements, which foster resilience and competence. At Open Sky, maintaining the physical and emotional […]

May 30th, 2018

Enhanced Family Services (p. 1): Parent Coaching

At Open Sky, we live with the core purpose of activating the potential of the human spirit and by the belief that all people have the capacity to thrive. We apply this purpose and belief to our work with not only students, but families as well. Parent Coaching is a service through which families at […]

May 25th, 2018

From Distant to Connected: Effective Communication Strategies to Improve Parent-Child Relationships

It is common knowledge that adolescent boys and girls face many challenges during their exciting and trying developmental years. And it’s no surprise that those challenges can often persist into young adulthood. Many parents struggle to reach out, connect to, and partner with their child throughout this phase of life. Most of the students and […]

May 17th, 2018

At a Crossroads: A Conversation with Transition Age Young Adults Therapist, Chris Blankenship, LSW

  Q: Why did you decide to become a therapist and what drew you to wilderness therapy? A: I had the goal of becoming a therapist from a very young age. When I was five or six years old, I had a friend with cystic fibrosis. I loved nothing more than sitting with him, listening […]

May 8th, 2018

Finding Connection Beyond the Screen

Over the past few years, I’ve been struck by the increasing number of Open Sky parents who report feeling exasperated regarding their child’s “excessive use of social media” and “cell phone addiction.” Though students at Open Sky live outside without access to electronic devices and social media, I witness its impact on the students’ relationships […]

May 3rd, 2018

To Inspire and Be Inspired: A Conversation with Young Adults Clinical Therapist, Mariah Loftin, MA, LPC

  Why did you choose Wilderness Therapy, as opposed to practicing therapy in more traditional settings? I am passionate about helping young adults heal, reconnect with themselves, and reach their goals. I’ve found that wilderness therapy is the most effective way for people to do that. My experience in outpatient and inpatient settings highlighted that […]

April 27th, 2018

Family Matters: Creating Systemic Change for Lasting Success

The “What Now?” Now that your child or family member is enrolled at Open Sky, do you find that you are asking yourself, “what now?” While your loved one is hard at work in the wilderness, rather than simply waiting to see what happens, you also have a unique opportunity to also look inward and […]

April 24th, 2018

A Family Process: 3 Ways for Parents to Engage in the Open Sky Experience

Open Sky was founded with the desire to actively engage parents in their child’s therapy experience. To pursue healing for the family system, parents are encouraged to look inward, to engage in their own work through Open Sky’s Family Pathway Workbook and to utilize the many resources available through our Family Services department. Though every […]

April 19th, 2018

Open Sky Launches New Adolescent Boys Group with Therapist, Brian Carr, MA, LPCC

Open Sky is pleased to announce the launch of a new adolescent boys group lead by therapist, Brian Carr, MA, LPCC.  Brian joined Open Sky’s clinical team in January 2017 as an Assistant Clinical Therapist. For the past year and a half, he has been immersed in Open Sky’s comprehensive therapist training and development program […]

April 17th, 2018

Open Sky Seeking All-Star Human Resources Director

Open Sky is seeking a Human Resources Director to help shape our future. The Human Resources Department serves as a strategic and solutions-oriented partner across our organization. Having grown in size, complexity, and sophistication, Open Sky is dedicated to providing leadership through Human Resources to make our organization stronger and more effective and to reflect […]

April 11th, 2018

Deconstructing Motivation

One of the most common frustrations I hear from my clients and families is a struggle to understand and “fix” a lack of motivation. For example, “Why can’t I take action to actually achieve my goals?” or “Why doesn’t my child change an obviously unhelpful behavior?” These conflicts can feel obvious, paradoxical, and insurmountable, which […]

April 3rd, 2018

Assessing and Addressing Complexities in Wilderness (Part 1): Borderline Personality Disorder

The American Psychiatric Association defines Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as a mental health condition that results in a pervasive pattern of instability in relationships, a negative self-image, as well as impulsive and self-damaging behaviors. What is evident from this definition and my work with individuals with BPD is how they can struggle in many aspects […]

March 29th, 2018

Family Matters: Involving Siblings in the Family Quest™ Experience

Are you curious about how the Family Quest™ could work for your unique family system? Do you have questions or reservations about including siblings on this endeavor? Can they even come along? By and large, the quick answer is a resounding, yes. The Open Sky Family Quest™ experience is a rich opportunity with the potential […]

March 20th, 2018

Mindfulness and the Adolescent Boy: Developing Practices that Benefit for a Lifetime

Research shows that the average person has more than 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day (Davis). That’s about 35-48 thoughts per minute! Imagine if we fixated, focused, or acted on each thought we had, not only would we be overwhelmed, but everyday tasks would become more difficult and almost impossible. Interestingly, “nearly 50% of our awake life […]

March 8th, 2018

Family Matters: Activating Potential Through the Family Quest™ Experience

The sun sets and cloaks the sky in color as a family gathers around a crackling campfire. A sixteen-year-old boy looks into his mother’s eyes and says “I’m sorry”. After a brief pause, his mother returns his gaze with an embrace and replies, “Thank you…I love you.” Earlier that day, a father cried as his […]

March 2nd, 2018

Family Matters: The Intentional Development of Family Programming in Wilderness Therapy

Since its founding in 2006, Open Sky has transcended traditional wilderness therapy by emphasizing treatment for the whole family (not just the adolescent or young adult), and the application of evidence-based clinical modalities. This approach also includes innovative, well-researched, holistic healing practices such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. When a family partners with Open Sky, each […]

February 28th, 2018

Open Sky Alumni Reunions: Coming to a City Near YOU!

We are pleased to announce Open Sky will soon begin hosting Alumni Reunions across the United States! Open Sky Alumni Reunions will provide unique and meaningful opportunities to reconnect with Open Sky staff, alumni students, and alumni parents. “I am struck by the strong bonds we share through our individual, yet connected Open Sky experience,” […]

February 21st, 2018

Mindful Trauma Treatment in Wilderness Therapy

When an individual has experienced trauma in his or her life, a fundamental result is the belief that the world is not a safe place. The individual then internalizes and generalizes this belief, feeling personally unsafe even in safe situations. As you can imagine, this generalization breeds a distrust in one’s internal and external worlds. […]

February 14th, 2018

Breaking Down the Barriers to Love 

“We are as attracted to love as we are intimidated by it. We are motivated by love, controlled by it, inspired by it, healed by it, and destroyed by it. Love is the fuel of our physical and spiritual bodies. Each of life’s challenges is a lesson in some aspect of love. How we respond […]

February 7th, 2018

The Transformational Practice of Meditation: a Q&A with Family Wellness Counselor, Norman Elizondo

Mindfulness is a key component to a student or family member’s journey of overall healing. In 2006, Norman Elizondo helped found Open Sky with an emphasis on mindfulness practices like yoga, meditation, and other tools. Norman created the original programming for Wellness Weekends and served as Open Sky’s first field guide, a senior field instructor, […]

January 12th, 2018

Open Sky’s Dedicated Medical Team: Building the Foundation for Student Wellness

At Open Sky, our belief is that when students’ physical needs are met, they are able to better focus on the deep therapeutic work that brought them to our program. Open Sky’s Medical Team is trained to prioritize our students’ safety, keep them healthy, and encourage a lifestyle that is based on not only mental […]

January 5th, 2018

Fire Busting: A Daily Challenge with Lifelong Rewards

The sun sets, the sky glows orange and the last signs of daylight disappear behind the juniper trees. Camp is set up and our team begins to make a fire with their bow drill sets. I feel excited as I see the team dedicated and working hard. As the sweet smell of burning sage lofts […]

December 28th, 2017

Monday Night Parent Support Group: Guidance Throughout the Open Sky Journey

Whether one week or ten weeks into the Open Sky journey, it can be an emotion-filled experience for parents. Parents may feel anxious, overwhelmed, concerned, hopeful, relieved, or a combination of all of the above. The Monday Night Parent Support Group call provides an opportunity for parents at all stages of the journey to come […]

December 18th, 2017

Winter Safety: Best Practices Promote Opportunities for Empowerment and Resilience

Winter is a particularly powerful time to enroll at Open Sky. Living amidst the winter elements provides students with unique opportunities to increase competence and resilience. When students complete a winter stay at Open Sky, they leave with a tremendous sense of pride, empowerment, and confidence – attributes which will serve them well as they […]

December 16th, 2017

Understanding Self-Harm and Treating it in Wilderness

Q: What is self-harm? A: “Self-harm” refers to “non-suicidal self-injury,” or intentionally harming one’s body without suicidal intent and in a manner that’s not socially-sanctioned. Often self-harm includes cutting, scratching, burning, or carving words into the skin. Those tend to be the most common methods but there are more extensive forms of self-harm. Socially-sanctioned body […]

December 12th, 2017

Renewal of OBH Accreditation Symbolizes our Commitment to Quality

We are proud to announce that the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) has renewed Open Sky’s Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Accreditation. This accreditation is a symbol of our unending commitment to providing our students, families, and team members with the highest quality practices in the industry. AEE has a long-standing reputation for accreditation of experiential and […]

December 7th, 2017

Relief, Resurgence, Recovery: Treating OCD in the Wilderness

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is frequently used as a colloquialism for highly orderly or particular people. However, for those who actually meet the diagnostic criteria, it can be an extremely distressing and confusing experience. At Open Sky, we come alongside students with OCD to help them understand their symptoms, treat the disorder and empower them to […]

December 1st, 2017

Do You Speak the “5 Love Languages”?

Do you want more love in your life? Don’t be bashful – of course you do! We all do. As a Family Services Therapist at Open Sky, I frequently work with students and family members who feel unloved, misunderstood, or unappreciated by their loved ones. It’s okay to experience these feelings. It means we care […]

November 27th, 2017

A Day of Gratitude: Reflections from Thanksgiving in the Field

“I’m grateful that we share our ‘gratitudes’ not just on Thanksgiving, but on every day at Open Sky,” shared one student, referencing our daily practice of sharing “gratefuls” before evening meals. On this Thanksgiving, the gratitudes shared were even more potent than usual, for staff and students alike: family, friendship, fresh starts, the desert, food, […]

November 21st, 2017

Mary Zaunbrecher, MS, LPC, Joins Open Sky Clinical Team

Mary began her studies in counseling with the intention of helping others through the use of alternative and creative therapies, including art and play. She received a Master’s of Science in Counselor Education from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. During and after her graduate experience, Mary worked with diverse populations utilizing a variety of […]

November 14th, 2017

Parenting the Healthy, Independent Teen: Pitfalls and Tools (Part II)

In Part I of  Parenting the Healthy, Independent Teen: Pitfalls and Tools, I discussed how parents can listen so that their teens share more with them, as well as how to accept feelings, not behavior. Now, we move on to a few other critical points I have found in my work with teenage boys, and […]

November 9th, 2017

Together, We Can Make a Difference!

Have you witnessed the healing power of wilderness therapy in your own life or in the life of a family member, friend, colleague or client? We are reaching out to you for help! Open Sky is a proud partner and enthusiastic supporter of Sky’s the Limit Fund (STLF), a non-profit organization dedicated to making wilderness […]

November 7th, 2017

Teaching and Modeling Respectful Male-Female Relationships for Adolescent Boys

In wilderness therapy, we often address the topic of how male students view and treat the women in their lives. In the field, we are able to witness students’ attitudes and behaviors toward women through their stories from home, their words, and their daily interactions with female staff. How does Open Sky approach these issues […]

October 10th, 2017

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Body Image Perception and Its Impact on the Behavior of Adolescent Girls

The words in the blue box below are from a song I wrote a few years ago, inspired by my counseling sessions with adolescent and adults struggling with body image. Summer was approaching, and for many, this meant heightened worry about their bodies ‘being seen’. After acknowledging that winter and spring provide ‘protection’ through layers […]