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Licensure & Accreditation


To ensure the most beneficial and impactful outcomes for our students and families, Open Sky Wilderness Therapy is committed to maintaining and exceeding the highest level of standards, protocols, and best practices, as defined by the following licensing and accreditation entities. Open Sky operates in two states and as such, must adhere to the standards of two state licensing agencies. Utah and Colorado take their roles with respect to licensing and monitoring seriously, as does Open Sky’s affiliated accreditations. Their jobs are to ensure that all licensed or accredited programs meet the licensing and accreditation standards that were put into place with youth’s mental, emotional, and physical safety in mind. The rules extend far and wide, with the basis for protecting our youth embedded within each and every line of the rules.

In the State of Colorado, Open Sky is licensed as a Residential Child Care Facility and meets or exceeds the quality standards for three sections of code:

  • Residential Child Care Facilities
  • Summer Camps
  • 24-Hour Child Care Agencies

The governing body at the State of Colorado is the Department of Human Services, Office of Children, Youth & Families, Division of Child Welfare. This organization oversees all the administrative, facility, student case (from admissions through clinical, medical, and discharge (graduation)), and personnel pieces of our program with the ultimate goal of ensuring safety and high quality of delivered programming.

The Utah Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Licensing, is the governing body responsible for licensing treatment programs in the State of Utah, including Open Sky Wilderness Therapy. Open Sky is licensed in Utah as an Outdoor Youth Treatment Facility and has held this license for the last 16 consecutive years. Maintaining licensure in Utah entails not only satisfactorily demonstrating that the program meets each of the stated state rules during scheduled visits with the state but doing so during unplanned visits as well. Each program in Utah has a minimum of one planned and one unplanned visit by the state each year (in-person).

Utah licensure requires standards are met in the following categories:

  • Program administration
  • Program requirements
  • Staff, interns, and volunteers
  • Client supervision
  • Staff training
  • Staff health requirements
  • Water and nutritional requirements
  • Health care
  • Safety
  • Field office
  • Environmental requirements
  • Evaluation
  • Individual experiences
  • Stationary camp sites


The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) is the largest not-for-profit membership association dedicated to residential treatment centers, therapeutic boarding schools, and wilderness therapy programs.

NATSAP has established Principles of Good Practice, stringent guidelines for best-practice principles that apply to a number of areas, including:

  • Adherence to state and federal laws
  • Administrative practices and procedures
  • Safety
  • Incident reporting
  • Admission and discharge policies
  • Employee practices
  • Treatment plans
  • Participant rights
  • Health care access
  • Facility standards

Additionally, NATSAP has created 18 ethical standards to ensure that NATSAP member organizations provide a physically and emotionally safe therapeutic experience for their students.

NATSAP also requires its members be licensed by the appropriate state agency authorized to set and oversee standards of therapeutic and/or behavioral healthcare for youth and adolescents or accredited by a nationally recognized behavioral health accreditation agency and to have therapeutic services with oversight by a qualified clinician. Open Sky meets both requirements by being licensed in both Utah and Colorado and by being accredited through the Association of Experiential Education (AEE) / Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council (OBH).

The Association for Experiential Education (AEE) is committed to elevating and expanding the global capacity of experiential education. AEE defines professional standards for experiential education, promotes research advancing the practices of experiential education, and provides professional development opportunities for those in the field.

The Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council (OBH) is a community of leading outdoor behavioral healthcare programs working to advance the field through best practices, effective treatment, and evidence-based research.

OBH members are required to follow the organization’s established philosophical and ethical standards for students engaging in wilderness therapy.

Additionally, OBH has established best practices addressing six aspects of wilderness therapy:

  1. State and federal laws
  2. Administrative practices and procedures
  3. Employee practices
  4. Program participant related procedures
  5. Risk management (safety)
  6. Outdoor program policies and procedures

AEE is the independent accreditor for OBH’s wilderness therapy accreditation program.

In 2013, the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council (OBH) invited the Association of Experiential Education (AEE) to jointly embark upon the expansion of AEE’s existing standards to better reflect the field of wilderness therapy’s current practices through an accreditation process. Open Sky Wilderness Therapy was the first program to receive OBH accreditation and has successfully been through subsequent renewal periods.

The AEE-OBH Council partnership created a detailed set of ethical, risk management, and treatment standards created by longstanding leaders in OBH, adventure therapy, and wilderness programming.

Benefits for families considering an AEE-OBH-accredited program:

  • AEE-OBH accreditation provides impartial validation that the program meets or exceeds standards that have been developed exclusively for outdoor behavioral healthcare programs.
  • AEE-OBH accredited programs have demonstrated that they operate above industry standards of ethical care, treatment evaluation, and risk-management practices.
  • AEE-OBH accreditation is solid evidence of a program’s commitment to quality and adherence to professional standards.


Sky’s the Limit Fund’s (STLF) mission is to transform the lives of youth in crisis and their families by providing access to wilderness therapy programs, coaching services to guide families during the transition home, and outreach to educate the community on the benefits of wilderness therapy.

The Jason William Hunt Foundation (JWHF) exists to raise and provide financial aid for at-risk teens to attend to therapeutic wilderness expedition treatment programs and grants to qualified outdoor educators/leader training programs.

It is the mission of Parker Bounds Johnson Foundation (PBJF) to serve at-risk young people and their families through Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare programs and beyond. Families in Oregon and Washington who have financial need are eligible to receive support PBJF is able to provide through generous donations.

SavingTeens in Crisis Collaborative (SavingTeens) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting troubled teens and their families struggling with mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, addictions, and other risky behaviors.

Mental Health Organizations

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides advocacy, education, support, and public awareness so that all individuals and families affected by mental illness can build better lives. Throughout the United States, NAMI provides educational programs on mental health and hosts support groups for both those with mental illness and caregivers, so that no one feels alone in their mental health journey.

Choose Mental Health is a nonprofit organization with the mission of providing the parents of struggling children with greater access to mental health resources such as a network of residential treatment centers. The organization is building a core group of residential programs that choose to live a higher standard of care. This higher standard far exceeds government and industry accreditation requirements and is the foundation that families can trust.

The National Alliance for Children’s Grief (NACG) is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness about the needs of children and teens who are grieving a death and provides education and resources for anyone who supports them. Through the collective voice of their members and partners, they educate, advocate and raise awareness about childhood bereavement.

Placement Support

The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) is a nonprofit, international professional association representing experienced consultants. Their mission is to promote the highest quality independent educational consulting to students and families seeking skilled, ethical, academic, or therapeutic guidance; to enhance professional development; and to foster career satisfaction among members.

The Therapeutic Consulting Association (TCA) is a professional association for therapeutic consultants and other referring professionals, dedicated to advancing the field of therapeutic consulting through collaboration, training and education, outcome-based research, support of ethical standards, and an ongoing review of best practices.

Education and Stewardship

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) is the premier credentialing body for counselors, ensuring that counselors who become board certified have achieved the highest standard of practice through education, examination, supervision, experience, and ethical guidelines. Open Sky is an Approved Continuing Education Provider (ACEP) of NBCC, authorized to offer NBCC credit for programs that satisfy NBCC policy requirements.

In partnership with Western Colorado University, adolescent or young adult students enrolled in Open Sky’s program may choose to earn three credit hours in a special-topic psychology course, Nature and the Human Psyche. The robust curriculum is specifically designed to align with the trajectory of Open Sky students’ therapeutic work and to deepen their experience in wilderness.

Open Sky partners with Dorius Academy to offer students the opportunity to earn up to 3.5 academic credits in six high school subject areas: environmental science, character education, English, psychology of daily living, health education, and physical education. Dorius Academy is accredited through Cognia.

Montezuma Farm to School Project (MSTFP) is a 501(c)(3) offering garden-based programming in the Montezuma, Cortez, Dolores, and Mancos school districts. MSTFP maintains a PreK–8 curriculum and works closely with community partners to engage students in topics of food production, resource conservation, and nutrition. MSTFP maintains and manages Open Sky’s geodesic dome for crop management and provides educational programming to Open Sky’s early adolescent students.

Open Sky maintains operating permits with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regulating our activities on federal lands in Colorado and Utah. In collaboration with these government agencies, Open Sky has performed comprehensive environmental assessments in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to assess and minimize our program’s impact on natural and cultural resources in our operating areas.

Open Sky partners with Crow Canyon Archaeological Center to offer students a unique experiential education opportunity. To enrich students’ understanding of the cultured history of the landscape on which they’re living, Crow Canyon educators meet students and guides at the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center or in our field area to facilitate hands-on archeological and cultural learning activities.