Featured Team Members: Melia Snyder, Ph.D., LPC, REAT
Open Sky is excited to share that Dr. Melia Snyder, PhD, REAT, clinical therapist and education director, will be transitioning from working with adolescent girls to young adult students at Open Sky.
Dr. Snyder, a licensed professional counselor and registered expressive arts therapist, brings vast experience to her young adult clients. She has a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and a certificate in expressive arts therapy from Appalachian State University, a certificate program she later directed for four and a half years. She earned her PhD in counseling from the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, where she researched factors and behaviors that contribute to wellness and thriving despite life’s inevitable challenges.
“The world that young adults are emerging into as they grow into independence is fraught with challenge and more distractions, disconnection, divisiveness, and disinformation than ever before,” said Dr. Snyder. “The natural result of entering into a reality where demands exceed an individual’s resources is a stress response—fight, flight, or freeze—often followed by unhealthy coping mechanisms to turn down the volume on the overwhelm.”
Fortunately, according to Dr. Snyder, Open Sky is a rare medicine for these increasingly unsettling times.
“Wilderness therapy offers an extended time of decentering from a difficult reality and tuning back into the values, practices, and connections that can help students transition into creating a life that works and is worth living,” said Dr. Snyder. “I am eager to bring forth this experience and perspective in the service of young adult students and families at Open Sky.”
Dr. Snyder has noticed that despite many students receiving academically rigorous education at the high school and even college levels, their self-awareness, emotional intelligence, communication, and executive functioning skills are often underdeveloped.
“Although necessary for launching successfully into adulthood, these life skills are not often integrated in meaningful ways into formal education,” said Dr. Snyder. “Nor are parents given a handbook on how to model and practice these skills in daily life.”
In response to these clinical patterns and needs, Dr. Snyder has developed a curriculum available to young adult students at Open Sky: Nature and the Human Psyche. The course, which is offered through Open Sky’s partnership with Western Colorado University and worth three college credits, is designed to align with the trajectory of students’ therapeutic work. Each student who chooses to enroll in the course will explore their internal landscape as it relates to their experience in and connection with wilderness.
“The course is intended to draw out the inherent potential in students,” said Dr. Snyder. “It gives them opportunities to build on the core competencies needed to successfully launch into an adulthood where, rather than just endure, they can thrive.”