As electronic screens become ever more pervasive, researchers and parents wonder: How much is too much? Studies show that adolescents who use screens excessively experience an increase in impulsivity, distractibility, and relationship struggles, and a decrease in self-worth and well-being. In this episode, Clinical Therapist Morgan Seymour explains how wilderness therapy helps students address the underlying issues associated with excessive gaming and screen time use.
Morgan earned her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After completing a 30-day backpacking/packrafting trip through the Alaskan backcountry, she developed a love for the outdoors and gained knowledge of how nature and wilderness can assist individuals in their mental, physical, and emotional growth. She was introduced to wilderness therapy when she became a field guide. Working as a field guide gave Morgan insight to how the wilderness can help support change in both herself and others. After her time in the field, Morgan knew experiential therapy worked, and she wanted to continue to be a part of it. She received her Master’s degree in Social Work at Colorado State University and has been working as a wilderness therapist since 2014. With the wilderness as her co-therapist, Morgan loves to get creative with her interventions, challenging her students to find comfort in the uncomfortable.
At Open Sky, Morgan works with adolescent boys who internalize their feelings, avoid conflict, and struggle with social skills. She tends to work with the students who have severe anxiety, depression, gaming abuse, non-verbal learning disorder, and substance use as a secondary issue.
Morgan approaches each student as an individual and works to challenge him in ways that are meaningful to his unique work. She focuses on her students’ strengths and helps guide them in using those strengths in areas that are challenging to them.
Morgan practices yoga in her free time and believes it can be helpful for her students to use yoga and mindfulness to draw connections between what is happening in their bodies and in their minds and emotions. With such connections, there is more congruence with a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions.
In addition to her wilderness work, Morgan has experience in foster care and residential treatment. She uses CBT and DBT approaches while working with her students, as well as a strength-based approach. She manages to hold strong boundaries while also building a relationship based on trust and care. She practices yoga on her free time and believes it can be helpful for her students to use yoga and mindfulness to draw connections between what is happening in their bodies and working to be more congruent with what they think, feel, and do.
When Morgan is not working, she is exploring with her blue heeler, Loma, and her husband, Austin. They spend their time climbing, hiking, backpacking, and listening to the lessons that nature has to offer all of us. Morgan continues to learn more about herself each time she is exploring and hopes to share this with every student that she works with at Open Sky.
These boys are so disconnected. I would argue as well, a lot of us are. Because of media and technology and gaming…We give them the tools, allowing them just to sit, with their eyes closed by themselves. It’s so powerful. And them developing this awareness that has faded or dulled when they’re spending so much time behind a screen.
How can we take that passion and redirect it in a healthier way or a more productive way? And not to say that gaming is always bad or always unhealthy, it’s not. Some people can game and be okay and do it in moderation. I tend to see the boys that struggle with that moderation.
Anything can be addictive, and framing that seems to be helpful with parents. Understanding that …..a lot of times that’s why wilderness therapy is that intervention, because they’re showing up and they don’t have games, they don’t have their phone, and just this alone, is so helpful for these boys that come in to my team.
On a wilderness trip in Alaska with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in 1995, Emily discovered she could combine two of her passions: working with youth and being outdoors. Since then, she has worked for Aspen Achievement Academy, Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, and Connecticut Wilderness School. She was part of the founding team at Open Sky.
Emily worked as the lead therapist for adolescent girls for her first 5 years at Open Sky. Her areas of clinical expertise include depression, anxiety, grief and loss, trauma, self-harm, disordered eating, and adoption and attachment issues. Her clinical approach is informed by cognitive behavioral, psychodynamic, family systems, and attachment theories. Relationship building through letter writing is a major focus of her work with students and families.
As a founder and owner of Open Sky, as well as the Clinical and Executive Director, Emily brings a breadth of knowledge with her background as a therapist, field guide, trainer, logistics coordinator, emergency responder, and field director, Emily is known for her direct, caring leadership style, her ability to inspire excellence in others, and her team oriented approach. The student treatment plan is her compass for her decision-making regarding Open Sky’s students, families, and employees.
Emily loves reading, writing, yoga, mountain biking, telemark skiing, rock climbing, spending time with friends and family, and cooking with foods from the local farmers’ market.