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Cornerstone Experiences

Family involvement is essential to programming at Open Sky. Cornerstone Experiences provide parents the opportunity to actively engage in their child’s therapeutic process. When parents cultivate personal wellness, model healthy behavior, and commit to their own healing, the entire family system thrives.

Wellness Weekend

Wellness Weekend has been a foundational component of family programming at Open Sky since our inception in 2006. Wellness Weekend is a time for parents to refresh their energy and connect with other families experiencing similar challenges. Wellness Weekend lasts from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon and occurs via video conferencing and virtual breakout groups.

One of the hallmarks of Open Sky’s family-centered approach, Wellness Weekend provides a supportive and emotionally safe environment for parents. Guided by a team of Open Sky professionals, parents learn about real-life applications to support overall health of the body, mind, heart, and spirit through the development of a Personal Wellness Plan.

The purpose of Wellness Weekend is to provide parents with an encapsulated experience parallel to that of their children at Open Sky. Parents learn the same skills for communication and emotional regulation—requisite skills for them to be able to hold boundaries and repair their relationships with their children. We carry out the purpose of Wellness Weekend through a series of psychoeducational presentations, group discussions, yoga, and meditation practice.

The depth of personal insight and the restoration of hope that can happen in just three days is astounding. Everyone benefits from the sense of belonging and connection in the community of parents. Parents leave feeling empowered to change and improve how they communicate and work with their emotions.

Family Quest™ intensive

The Family Quest™ intensive is a multi-day family therapy intervention in the wilderness, with the individualized attention of a Family Services therapist and wilderness guide. It is open to all family members involved in the student’s therapeutic process who are at least 13 years old and approved by the primary therapist. The Family Quest™ intensive naturally sheds light on family dynamics. The Family Services therapist helps the student and family put into practice the skills they’ve learned during their respective journeys at Open Sky. Each family member has the opportunity to vocalize the sentiments they’ve been sharing through letters, as well as those that they’ve kept inside themselves. They get to look each other in the eye and see each other in the most authentic sense. It is often a heartwarming and illuminating experience.

Prior to the Family Quest™ experience, the Family Services therapist communicates with the student’s primary therapist to form individualized treatment objectives and goals for the family. The family therapist and guide facilitate deep and important therapeutic work. With the communication skills they have been learning along the way, students and families are able to express themselves intentionally and articulately and begin to repair their family dynamics.

Throughout the intensive, the therapeutic work is intertwined with opportunities to relax and lightheartedly interact as a family. Parents and siblings also get a taste of what it is like for their loved one living in the wilderness. Families hike, make fires, play games, prepare and enjoy healthy organic meals, and receive education on the history and nature of the land. Students are eager to show their families the physical and emotional skills they have learned thus far. Parents are often astounded, encouraged, and motivated by their child’s growth. Likewise, the child takes note of the hard work the parents have put into their parallel Open Sky journey. These observations and realizations spur everyone on in their personal work during and after the Family Quest™ intensive.


Monday Meet & Greet

By the time graduation arrives, families have had several opportunities to interact with members of Open Sky’s Clinical, Family Services, and Wellness teams. The pre-graduation meet and greet, which occurs on the Monday afternoon before graduation, is a time for families to connect with members of our team who parents might not have otherwise had the chance to meet but are just as important to their Open Sky experience. This includes our Leadership team, field staff, department directors, family care coordinators, and administrative staff. This is also a great time for families to connect with other parents who have been walking a similar path. After introductions and a mindfulness exercise to ground the space, families are invited to create and celebrate community as well as reflect on and give feedback about their Open Sky experience.

Graduation Ceremony

When students are ready to transition from Open Sky, they are honored and supported with a special graduation ceremony at base camp. During this day-long experience, families reunite, with the support of Open Sky’s therapists and graduation team. Families engage in activities to gain perspective, bring closure, and practice new communication skills. The afternoon culminates in a final graduation ceremony that celebrates the growth the student, family members, and family system have experienced throughout the Open Sky journey. Open Sky’s graduation team provides a structured, intentional, and thoughtful process to mark this important rite of passage.

All family members involved in the student’s therapeutic process who are at least 13 years old and approved by the primary therapist are invited and encouraged to attend the graduation experience. The day begins with family introductions at the Open Sky headquarters in Durango. Following that, families caravan to base camp to reunite with their child and engage in the graduation activities and ceremony.

Transitioning with Confidence

Lastly, the family leaves base camp and moves on to their next step, with coaching and support from transition mentors. Additionally, Open Sky’s parent and alumni relations manager reaches out within a few weeks post-graduation to talk about alumni events and other opportunities to stay connected to the Open Sky community.

What Parents are saying

“What we saw from our daughter during Family Quest and Graduation was nothing less than a miracle. From the moment we were reunited with our daughter, until the time we said goodbyes to the team at Open Sky, we were touched by each member’s honesty, compassion, and caring for us as human beings. We cannot say enough about how this time at Open Sky has impacted us all. ”

― Sam and Terri, Alumni Parents (2017)