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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

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.


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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