Many parents struggle with effective ways to set and maintain boundaries as their children transition from adolescence to young adulthood. Young adults are starting to seek more freedom and gain independence yet are still reliant on their parents in many ways. This dynamic can be particularly difficult to navigate when a young adult is struggling with mental health or other life challenges.
In this episode, Clinical Therapist Mariah Loftin discusses the importance of establishing healthy boundaries in the face of these challenges. She offers tangibles strategies parents can use for setting appropriate expectations and offering appropriate guidance. She outlines how to use healthy communication skills when having conversations with young adults, as well as when co-parenting. She addresses the different challenges young adults face growing up in this day and age, why parents need to be able to resource and care for themselves, and when families may want to seek outside help. Mariah highlights that boundaries are crucial to supporting and guiding young adults and can help them launch into a successful life of independence.
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 that young person launching, and we also want to hold them accountable to the things they say they are going to do. That actually supports a young person being a responsible young adult. So if we are just saying ‘yes, you can do whatever you want,’ we’re not actually guiding them. So that’s the role I think parents need to think about playing, that you are supporting them and guiding them with your boundaries.
True communication is supporting connection. It’s one person speaking and one person really hearing. Not to say that you can control how your child hears you, but in the same moment, you can control how you hear your child.
If you are clear about those expectations and your child is not able to meet them, that actually gives you really important information. They’re not in a place where they can ‘adult.’ They’re not in a place where they can have the utmost responsibility. Or maybe they’re out of control, and you need to take a higher level of control. And that’s where a program like Open Sky can come in as an intervention.
A key thing that happens with parents is they feel like an island, and they feel alone in these struggles. So be aware that there are people outside your family system who can be supportive. And I would most often say, talk to professionals. Because there is a reality that sometimes our extended families don’t know as much as a professional with an objective perspective might. Be open to help and recognize that you don’t have to do this alone.
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.