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Category: Clinical

 
June 16th, 2016

Open Sky Wilderness Therapy Celebrates 10 Years of Helping People Thrive

This year Open Sky Wilderness Therapy celebrates its tenth anniversary. The Durango, CO based organization assists teens and young adults struggling with difficult challenges and unmanageable dynamics by providing life-changing experiences and long-term skills enabling them to thrive. Through its success, Open Sky has grown to employ over 150 staff, making it one of the […]

September 9th, 2016

A Fond Farewell to Our Seasonal Therapists

With the nights growing longer and the leaves commencing their annual descent to the grassy ground below; summer is officially coming to an end. As we say goodbye to the luscious alpine Colorado course area, we also say goodbye to two unforgettable members of the Open Sky clinical team: Dr. Sarah Issenmann and Erin Crowley. […]

February 1st, 2017

Marijuana: Clearing Up the Smoke

Marijuana is among the most commonly used substances seen in wilderness therapy clients. As such it is important to understand and contextualize many of the common arguments and beliefs espoused by our cannabis using clients, the most common of which is that marijuana is not addictive. The purpose of this article is not to vilify […]

February 10th, 2017

Tuning In: The Intentional Use of Music in the Wilderness

The young men of Team Geronimo have a myriad of interests and passions, not the least of which is music. A few weeks ago those young men were positively giddy because I, their therapist, had brought out a small set of speakers and some of their favorite songs. For one exciting hour the sounds of […]

February 15th, 2017

Culture and Community at Open Sky

In 2015, Open Sky’s leadership team unveiled a document which outlines the values of our program. We call this document Open Sky’s “Culture Pathway” in a nod to the Student Pathway and Family Pathway, which are instruments designed to guide students and their families through the program. The Culture Pathway encompasses Open Sky’s mission, our […]

February 28th, 2017

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

When I was a teenager, I had an insatiable desire to “fight.” Nearly any directive or request that came from adults, authority figures, or anyone who seemingly had “more power” than I, was met with an indelible resistance wrought with righteousness. For example, the more I saw my parents squirm when I listened to music […]

March 3rd, 2017

Four Common Layers of Girls’ Communication

Throughout my experience of working with adolescent girls and boys in wilderness therapy, one theme emerges clearly and repeatedly: girls are so much more complicated! Girls typically communicate and express their emotions, thoughts, wants, and needs in seemingly more layered and complex ways than boys. A simple Google search about differences between men and women […]

March 24th, 2017

Substance Use and Glasser’s Needs​

Substance abuse is a common issue that we work with at Open Sky, in both our adolescent and young adult populations. Substance abuse, while unhealthy, is a widely-used coping method for many young people. For some, substance abuse can be an occasional and short-term occurrence, and, for others, it can become a pattern that develops […]

June 5th, 2017

Open Sky Therapists Author Chapters In New Book

Dr. Tony Issenmann, Kirsten Bolt and Kendall Smith, author chapters in the recently published book: Family Therapy with Adolescents in Residential Treatment Open Sky Clinical Team and Family Services Team members Tony Issenmann, Ph.D., LMFT; Kirsten Bolt, MEd, LMFT; and Kendall R.E. Smith, MA, LPC, NCC were honored to contribute chapters to Family Therapy with Adolescents in Residential […]

August 23rd, 2017

Evaluating Technology Use with Mindfulness and Intention

My husband is a software engineer who telecommutes and is passionate about technology. As you can imagine, our home hums with machines and gadgets powered by the latest and greatest software. One positive about this is our ongoing conversations about technology addiction. When he worked for a large video game company, I would (somewhat jokingly) […]

October 10th, 2017

Body Image Perception and Its Impact on 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 […]

November 7th, 2017

Teaching and Modeling Respectful Male-Female Relationships for Adolescent Boys

In wilderness therapy, we often address the topic of healthy relationships and 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 […]

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 21st, 2017

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

Mary Zaunbrecher 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 […]

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, our approach to OCD treatment is to come alongside students to help them understand their symptoms, treat the disorder […]

December 12th, 2017

Renewal of Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Accreditation

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 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 […]

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. […]

March 2nd, 2018

Family Matters: 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. Our family systems therapy approach also includes innovative, well-researched, holistic healing practices such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. When a family partners with […]

March 20th, 2018

Mindfulness and the Adolescent Boy

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 […]

April 3rd, 2018

Assessing Borderline Personality Disorder in the Wilderness

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 […]

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 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 […]

May 3rd, 2018

Inspire and Be Inspired: Young Adults Therapist Mariah Loftin

  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 […]

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 17th, 2018

Transition Age Young Adults: At a Crossroads

  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 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 […]

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 22nd, 2018

How to Heal from Codependency

 What is a codependent relationship? 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 […]

July 9th, 2018

Promoting Growth through Art Therapy in the Wilderness

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. Art […]

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 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 […]

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 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 […]

September 7th, 2018

Planting the Seeds of Change: How Morgan Seymour 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. […]

November 16th, 2018

Instagram Takeover: Morgan Seymour’s “Week in the Life”

We love to give our Instagram followers a glimpse into life at Open Sky. We highlight events, shine a spotlight on staff, and draw attention to the wilderness therapy experience. It’s also a wonderful way to connect with our alumni and the greater Open Sky community. (So drop us a note in the post comments or in […]

December 2nd, 2018

Strength and Confidence: How Therapist Kirsten Bolt Helps Adolescent Girls Thrive

Q: What led you to pursue a career as a wilderness therapist? A: I fell into wilderness therapy as a field guide during a transitional time in my life. I was drawn to the individual mentorship and intimate, personal conversations with students. I also enjoyed the often dynamic and challenging work with families. My heart […]

December 31st, 2018

“How Will Wilderness Therapy Benefit Me?”

Therapist, Mariah Loftin, MA, LPC, Answers Young Adults’ Frequently Asked Questions About Wilderness Therapy Q: What’s the benefit of being in the wilderness? Why not just see a home therapist? A: One of the reasons I chose to be a wilderness therapist is because the wilderness setting offers so many unique growth opportunities and constant support […]

January 21st, 2019

Walking the Path Together: A Conversation with Young Adults Clinical Therapist, Dr. Aaron Wallis

I want my clients to truly understand what is going on for them and become invested in their treatment. So, conveying information in ways that are accessible and digestible is absolutely vital. This means my job isn’t simply explaining the science of an issue or research behind a certain topic. It’s about understanding what each person’s actual experience is like. It’s about listening and validating; respecting and encouraging.

January 30th, 2019

Step Into Your Potential: A Conversation with Adolescent Boys Senior Therapist, Jonathan Mitchell, MA, LPC

Q: What led you to choose a career in wilderness therapy as opposed to working in a more traditional setting? A: I began in this industry as a field guide in 2001. To be honest, the reason I took the job was that I couldn’t find work living in Bend, Oregon at the time. But […]

February 5th, 2019

Open Sky Welcomes Dr. Melia Snyder, Clinical Therapist & Education Director

Open Sky is excited to welcome Dr. Melia Snyder as Clinical Therapist and Education Director! As Education Director, Dr. Melia will focus on developing an educational curriculum for Open Sky students. As a Clinical Therapist, she will work primarily with young adults as they overcome challenge, form connection in healthy relationships, and begin to thrive. […]

February 20th, 2019

Presentation: How to Talk about Cannabis Use in the Age of Legalization

Clinical Therapist Dr. Aaron Wallis had the wonderful opportunity to present to the Family Rockstars in Denver, a group of dedicated family therapy professionals. His presentation, “How to Talk about Cannabis Use in the Age of Legalization,” is linked below. We’re grateful for the ways Dr. Aaron can share his knowledge, continued research, and passion […]

March 7th, 2019

Sebastiaan Zuidweg joins as Clinical Director and Therapist

Open Sky is thrilled to introduce Sebastiaan Zuidweg as Clinical Director and Clinical Therapist! Sebastiaan is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Wilderness Therapy from Naropa University. Prior to Open Sky, Sebastiaan gained years of clinical and managerial experience in wilderness therapy, community mental health, […]

March 18th, 2019

Autism in the Wilderness: Alumni Student reflects on her Diagnosis, Growth, and Future

Meghan came to Open Sky in the fall of 2018 struggling with communication, interpersonal skills, and other challenges. These challenges kept her from progressing in her student teaching program and thriving in life. Below, Meghan reflects on what brought her to Open Sky, the diagnosis that changed her life, and the support she received from […]

March 21st, 2019

How Wilderness Therapy Can Help Young Adult Women with Autism Spectrum Disorder 

Go to college… Get a full-time job… Form mature relationships and friendships… Develop healthy interests and hobbies… These are all benchmarks that 18-20 year-old females on the autism spectrum hope to accomplish. However, all too often these young women struggle to maintain their daily obligations, find difficulty socializing at an age-appropriate level, and participate in narrow, […]