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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

Mariah joined Open Sky in 2012 and has been an integral member of the clinical team ever since. As Clinical Director, Mariah leads Open Sky’s treatment team in delivering a transformative therapeutic experience for students and families. She is attuned to the evolving needs of the Open Sky community and is known for her passion and skill for leadership and development. In addition to her work as Clinical Director, Mariah carries a caseload of students. In her work as a clinician, Mariah skillfully blends her background as a psychotherapist, behavior analyst, and art therapist to build deep and positive connections with students and parents while supporting the family system through change. She is recognized by clients and peers for her positive nature, open personality, and tenacious dedication.

Mariah is experienced in a variety of treatment modalities, including art therapy, behavior analysis, body-centered psychotherapy for trauma, dialectical behavior therapy, family systems therapy, motivational interviewing, and acceptance and commitment therapy. She is quickly able to assess and appropriately treat students, masterfully illuminating the issues that are difficult for them to face and supporting their work on those core issues.  She excels at helping students examine and appreciate the many dimensions of themselves, including their mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Before joining Open Sky, Mariah worked as a clinician for Imagine! Colorado and had a private practice comprised of group and individual sessions. She has over 15 years of experience working on intense and complex cases with youth, young adults, and their families.

When Mariah is not in the field at Open Sky, you can find her in her art studio, 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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