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Episode 26

Where the Magic Begins: Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

Episode 26

We’ve all become familiar with our own personal comfort zones; where we operate and interact with the most ease and predictability. Some of us are more inclined than others to step outside of our comfort zones, and maybe even crave the feeling of pushing those limits. Others find it difficult and sometimes even debilitating. How is it healthy and beneficial to step beyond our comfort zones?

Clinical Therapist Mariah Loftin is here to discuss this topic in SKYlightsepisode 26. In her work at Open Sky, Mariah helps young adults launch into adulthood and independence by building confidence, grit, and resilience outside of their comfort zones. We’re grateful to have her back on the podcast!



Mariah Loftin

Mariah Loftin

Clinical Director & Senior Clinical Therapist - Young Adults Group

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.


However, if we stay in that place of predictability, of familiarity, of safety, life is not going to be particularly rich and we’re not going to be able to build up the ability to deal with whatever it is that life throws at us.

I love this idea of the wilderness itself being a place that people in general, but particularly young people, can come to heal because those trees, those mountains are not going to judge you.

There are huge comfort zones that I would say most people bump up against when they’re emotional challenges. Things like talking about our emotions and our feelings, and actually allowing other people to see us like that, to me, is vulnerability.

For a lot of people, asking for help is actually outside of that comfort zone. And that’s my biggest encouragement: look at what’s going on, make a plan and accept support where you need it.


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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