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The Family Experience

The family is the centerpiece of the Open Sky program experience. Research has proven repeatedly that a student’s success is proportional to the involvement and growth of the student’s family. Open Sky provides the most comprehensive family experience available in wilderness therapy led by our clinical and family services teams.

At Open Sky, we are systemic in our clinical approach and believe it important to consider the way each family member is a part of the greater family whole. The behavior of one family member is often informed by and inseparable from the functioning of the family. Family systems theory suggests that we try to understand an individual not in isolation, but as a part of his or her family. Following a family systems model means we are working not only with an individual student, but also with the family. We work with the student to understand who they are and the issues that need to be addressed both individually and in the context of the family.

Our research has supported the systemic approach, showing that students make greater gains and maintain those gains after their wilderness therapy experience when their parents actively engage in the process. Open Sky provides multiple opportunities for family involvement over the duration of the program. These include:

Weekly phone sessions with the student’s clinical therapist
Weekly family communication opportunities
Weekly Open Sky Parent Education and Support Group
The Family Pathway Workbook
Parent Wellness Weekends
Student Graduation experience and Family Reunion

Weekly Phone Calls and Therapeutic Updates

Each Open Sky student is assigned a clinical therapist who provides weekly individualized therapy and clinical guidance for the duration of the student’s stay. Therapists conduct weekly phone calls with parents to discuss the student’s clinical treatment objectives and progress and to review the family’s work in the Family Pathway workbook. Open Sky therapists also provide direction and support in preparing for the next step after a student’s graduation. Therapists are always accessible via e-mail and voicemail between weekly phone sessions.

Weekly Family Communication

Letter writing serves as the foundation for communication between the family and student while at Open Sky. Mail is hand-delivered each week to students in the field. This thoughtful form of communication provides for an opportunity for the family to create meaningful and intentional connections with one another. Through Open Sky’s secure and comprehensive private Parent Portal, parents have access to weekly photos of the student, and letters uploaded from the field. Under most circumstances, towards the latter part of the program, the student’s therapist facilitates a family therapy phone call with the student and parents.

Weekly Parent Education and Support Group

Each week, Open Sky hosts a standing Parent Education and Support Group via tele-conference. Parents of enrolled students are invited (and encouraged) to participate. The Weekly Support Group focuses on a variety of psycho-educational topics such as communication, expectations and boundaries, as well an introduction to holistic and mindfulness concepts and tools. The Weekly Support Group provides a supportive space to interact with other parents at various stages of the process, experiencing similar emotions, and challenges.

The Family Pathway Workbook

The Open Sky Family Pathway is a workbook that guides parents through the week-by-week process of treatment at Open Sky. The Family Pathway closely aligns with the student’s work at Open Sky, providing education and guidance to parents as they support their child’s process.  The workbook provides valuable communication, stress management and parenting tools and assignments designed to complement the student’s work in the field. 

Parent Wellness Weekends

Each month we offer a Wellness Weekend experience in Durango for parents and caregivers of students currently enrolled at Open Sky. Parents are given an opportunity to re-focus their energy, rejuvenate themselves and to connect with families enduring similar challenges in a supportive atmosphere with the guidance of professional facilitators. Parents also engage in a sampling of the day to day experience of the student’s time at Open Sky by participating in some of the foundational components of the program such as mediation, yoga, and being present in nature. Durango serves as a profound backdrop for this weekend experience with its numerous amenities and inspiring natural beauty. 

Student Graduation and Family Reunion

Once students are ready to transition from Open Sky, they are honored and supported in this transition with a graduation and family at the Open Sky base camp. During this two-day, one night experience, families reconnect within the supportive confines of Open Sky’s graduation team and therapists. In process groups and through ceremony, the family shares safely and openly with one another, rekindle bonds, and enjoys being in nature together. The greater Open Sky community of students and staff lead a celebratory fire council to honor the student’s accomplishments and wish them well. 

Family Quests (Optional)

Family Quests are utilized to intimately address family dynamics that are contributing to a student’s current struggle. Typical referrals for this powerful and life-changing opportunity include: parent-child relational issues, blended families, unresolved family grief, or strengthening the individuation process for young adults. Families come together in the wilderness for three days and two nights in a remote and relaxed environment, guided by a Family Services Therapist, sharing and connecting with one another as they work to re-establish healthy bonds. Families participate in Open Sky’s daily routines like meditation, yoga, preparing organic meals, and hiking. Each Family Quest is customized to the family’s needs and can easily accommodate several factors such as age, dates, and physical ability. Additional Fees Apply