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Base Camp

Open Sky Wilderness Therapy's hybrid base camp model seamlessly combines the stability and consistency of a home base with the transformative power of adventure expeditions. This approach creates a therapeutic journey that fosters healing, personal growth, and resilience.

Within the nurturing environment of base camp, students find a comforting sense of stability, unwavering encouragement, and a supportive community of peers. Base camp is designed to provide a welcoming atmosphere akin to a home-like environment. Students learn new skills, interact with peers, and work with therapists on the issues that brought them to Open Sky.

Daily Activities and Infrastructure

Cooking and Eating
Open Sky teaches students how to choose, prepare, and enjoy nutritious meals so that they can stay healthy and fueled on their journey to wellness. Base camp’s kitchen shelter provides an organized space to safely prepare and share these daily, communal meals.

Adequate sleep is vital for mental, physical, and emotional health, and base camp offers a comforting environment to encourage optimal rest. During the warmer months, students sleep under a tarp shelter to keep them cool and comfortable. In winter, they sleep in canvas wall tents with pot belly stoves to stay warm, dry, and cozy.

Personal Time
Personal time, or “p-time” as it’s called in the field, is when students can work on their Student Pathway, write letters, journal, and practice other ways of self-care and reflection. Students may practice their p-time in the comfort of individual shelters they build themselves or in a quiet spot they find in nature.

Healthy hygiene habits promote self-esteem, show consideration for others, and contribute to an overall sense of morale in the team. Students at Open Sky have designated time daily and weekly to tend to their physical health and comfort. Individual shower and toilet stalls allow each student privacy to address hygiene without compromising supervision.

Individual Therapy
Open Sky’s clinicians restructure the therapeutic relationship by traveling to the field and meeting with students in their own environment. Together, students and their primary therapist find a pleasant area in base camp to engage in individual therapy sessions. These meeting spots could be tucked in the shade of a ponderosa pine or perched on a rocky outcropping. Gravel pathways throughout base camp also make great areas for walk-and-talk therapy sessions while alleviating the inherent challenge of mud and clay.

Group Therapy
Students deepen their understanding of themselves and build connections with others through group therapy as well as individual sessions. Group therapy may be conducted in a variety of places around base camp: around a crackling campfire, amid summer wildflowers, or, when in our desert base camp, inside one of the warm and cozy tipis throughout base camp.

Family Activities
Base camp includes designated campsites for family members visiting for the Family Quest intensive, as well as a large pavilion that serves as a gathering spot for community events, such as graduation.

The purposeful design of base camp creates a welcoming and supportive atmosphere that fosters learning, interaction, collaboration, and the opportunity to practice new skills. Students actively engage with therapists to address their specific issues and encourage personal growth, resilience, and change.

Wilderness Skills

Living simply under the open sky provides unparalleled opportunities to increase competence, build resilience, and promote self-efficacy. At Open Sky, we teach students an array of tangible skills to help them not only stay comfortable but thrive while exploring the great outdoors.

Click each of the squares below to learn more about the specific skills students learn and practice as well as how these skills relate to their therapeutic work.

Therapeutic Value of Base Camp

Assessment Tool

Base camp creates a sense of familiarity and security in a geographical location, which parallels students’ lives at home. In their everyday lives, young people will often show their most maladaptive or destructive patterns, such as isolation, emotional dysregulation, or defiance. Similarly, we often see these patterns emerge most clearly at base camp. This helps Open Sky to identify unhealthy coping mechanisms and allows our therapists to assess and create individual treatment plans for students.

Resilience in Relationship

The base camp model requires living closely among others, which challenges students socially and teaches them healthy communication and conflict resolution skills. Students learn to respect boundaries, cooperate to accomplish tasks, communicate effectively, and build a strong team and camp culture. As they grow more comfortable in their environment, students begin to open up and express the truest version of themselves. They see they are not alone in their struggles, their challenges do not define them, and they are capable of forming meaningful, resilient relationships.

Family Connection

The base camp model is an essential ingredient in Open Sky’s robust family programming. Students receive, process, and respond to weekly letters from their families while at base camp, as well as participate in family phone calls, facilitated by their therapist. Base camp is also a central location for families to gather for cornerstone experiences like the Family Quest wilderness intensive and graduation. Families see and get to know the location that has been so integral to their loved one's growth and change, which promotes greater appreciation and understanding for the experience. Students also get to showcase the skills they’ve worked so hard to develop and feel confident in the progress they’ve made.