A unique feature of Open Sky Wilderness Therapy is the active engagement of the entire family in the therapeutic process. Rather than focusing primarily on individual treatment for the student, Open Sky provides valuable skills, information, support, and therapy to family members, resulting in lasting healing and success for the entire family unit. By learning more deeply about the therapeutic foundations of treatment at Open Sky, parents complement their child’s work in the field and enhance both personal and family growth. One learning opportunity for parents is the Family Pathway class.
A key aspect of family engagement at Open Sky is the Family Pathway class, an educational hour each week for parents to learn more about topics relevant to their child’s treatment. The Family Pathway class is an example of Open Sky’s systemic approach, highlighting the importance of understanding an individual not in isolation but as a part of their family and providing therapeutic treatment for both the student and their parents.
“I believe it is imperative that families are woven into their child’s time at Open Sky, as it supports growth and increased connection within the whole family,” said Mariah Loftin, Clinical Director and Senior Clinical Therapist at Open Sky. “What I have seen is when parents talk about the work they are doing and improve their communication, it inspires their children to do the same.”
The weekly class is conducted through a video call format and led by Open Sky’s clinical and Family Services team members.
Each Family Pathway class includes:
• 10-15 minutes of introductions and grounding exercises
• 20-30 minutes of skill-building class presented by one of our primary clinicians
• 20-25 minutes of small group discussions, processing, and Q & A, facilitated by a therapist
The Family Pathway class is broken down into an 11-week rotating curriculum. Classes cover helpful topics, including parenting styles, core values and values-based decision making, mindfulness, emotional regulation, communication skills, boundaries and manipulation, and grief and loss.
The skill-building portion of the class occurs through video presentations led by Open Sky clinical therapist with extensive experience in the topics they are discussing. The video presentations provide in-depth and accessible information for parents and highlight relevant therapeutic terms and treatment modalities that students may be receiving while at Open Sky.
The Family Pathway class takes place each week on Thursdays at 6:00 p.m. MT. Classes are packed full of research, examples, vignettes from the field, role-playing, tangible practice opportunities, and resources for further learning.
Research conducted by Open Sky supports the systemic approach that includes the Family Pathway class, showing that students make more significant gains and maintain those gains after their wilderness therapy experience when their parents actively engage in the process. Parents also greatly benefit from engaging in their own learning process, in a parallel fashion, alongside their child.
“This approach helps parents better understand their own process, as well as their child’s, thereby arriving at shared experience and empathy in the relationship moving forward,” said Matthew Krugh, Open Sky’s Family Services Director. “Parents also benefit immensely from the sense of community they experience in getting to know other parents, reminding themselves they are not alone in this journey.”
Open Sky offers unparalleled family support. In addition to the Family Pathway class, Open Sky’s services include dedicated family care coordinators, transition mentors, weekly clinical update calls, weekly parent/student letters, parent coaching, the Family Pathway workbook, Wellness Weekend, the Family Quest Intensive, a secure online Parent Portal, podcasts, and weekly educational blogs. The emphasis on treating and supporting the whole family creates the meaningful change needed to build healthier families for long-term success.
Watch a preview of a Family Pathway class on boundaries and attunement, presented by Clinical Therapist Jonathan Mitchell, MA, LPC: