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Episode 20

How to Support your Child in Wilderness Therapy Treatment

Episode 20


The first thing you can do after your child has enrolled in wilderness is BREATHE. Acknowledge this transition and the courage it took to get here. What next? In this episode, we give guidance on how to support yourself and your child while he or she is in wilderness therapy. We explain how both students and parents can cycle through the stages of grief as they adjust to this new phase in their life. We address the common fears parents experience about sending their child to wilderness and the growth opportunities their family can expect. 

It’s also important to note that the questions, fears, challenges, and opportunities for parents of young adults, specifically, are unique. What if my child wants to leave wilderness? What are the next steps after wilderness? Our guest today, Senior Clinical Therapist Mariah Loftin, works with young adults and their families at Open Sky Wilderness Therapy. She lends us her expertise and advice for parents on these topics.  


Family-related Open Sky blogs 

Mariah’s blog, How to Talk with your Young Adult About Wilderness Therapy 

Mariah answers young adults’ FAQs in her blog, How will Wilderness Benefit Me? 

SKYlights Episode 6: How will Wilderness Benefit Me? 



Mariah Loftin

Mariah Loftin

Clinical Director & Senior Clinical Therapist - Young Adults Group

As a Licensed Professional Counselor, Mariah skillfully blends her background as a psychotherapist, behaviorist and art therapist. She is quickly able to assess and appropriately treat students, masterfully illuminating the issues that are difficult for them to face. She then pushes them to their edges to start working on those core issues. In her work, she melds a variety of modalities such as Art Therapy, Behavior Analysis, Relational Psychotherapy for Trauma, DBT, Family Systems Therapy, MI, and Acceptance & Commitment Therapy to best meet the individual therapeutic needs.

Mariah has over 15 years of experience working on intense and complex cases with youth, young adults, and their families. While working as a behavior therapist at Imagine! Colorado, she developed behavior plans, ran groups, and facilitated customized trainings for staff, case managers, supervisors, and parents. Mariah has previously had a private practice comprised of group and individual sessions. She brings both broad, deep experience and a passion for treating clients with a myriad of issues and working with foster care, social services, and other community programs serving the needs of an at-risk population.

Mariah quickly and easily establishes rapport with students and their families, building deep and positive connections with parents while supporting students through change. She is recognized by clients and peers for her positive nature, open personality, and tenacious dedication.

As a seasoned three-dimensional stained glass sculpture artist, Mariah likens what she does in her studio to the work she does in the field at Open Sky. As each sculpture is lit from within, the imperfections in the glass form are the very things that add character and individuality to the piece. Mariah helps students examine and appreciate the many dimensions of themselves, including their mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. She creates an environment that contributes to changes in the student’s inner world, developing a more integrated sense of self along with an increase in self-awareness, understanding, and acceptance.

If Mariah is not in the field at Open Sky or in her art studio, she can be found hiking with her dogs, river rafting, gardening, or touring on her bicycle around the world.


We want to support our children in responding rather than reacting. And that’s the same thing we want to do for ourselves.

The whole point is let’s actually pause and let’s feel. And move through those feelings rather than avoid them. Because what we know is that having all of those feelings and trying to avoid them actually has created so much unrest in their lives.

The more you have done your own work and the clearer the message is to your child, ‘this is where we need to be,’ the quicker your child will actually settle in.

If we continue to protect our children from their own feelings and from everything that comes up in life, what we’re actually doing is we’re preventing them from being resilient, to have grit, to be able to live life.


Emily Fernandes

Emily Fernandes

Executive Director & Co-Founder

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.


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