It has now been more than a year since our lives changed drastically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While we’ve learned to live with this new normal, the impacts on mental health and development have been significant. In this episode, clinical therapist Mariah Loftin discusses how the pandemic has affected mental health in young adults, how they and their parents can identify and manage mental health struggles, and what hope and transformation can be gained in the midst of it all.
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.
I think it’s a uniquely challenging time for young adults because they’re not being able to graduate, not being able to go to classes at college, not being able to actually launch from their homes because developmentally, that’s where they are in their lives. So there’s this sense of a lot of young people feeling stuck, stagnant, and like they’re being robbed of those opportunities.
Let’s reflect on where we’ve been. Let’s look at how has this last year unfolded and where are we at this point so that we can move forward.
As a family, both individually and collectively, let’s get honest with ourselves about what’s been happening and what’s not healthy. I think being able to define and even write it down: what’s been going on, what are the things that we’re concerned about for ourselves, for our families? And ask, what are the strengths from being together, so that we’re not just caught and stuck in here are all the negative things that are happening.
I think all of us have experienced some unhealthy behaviors perhaps emerging or increasing. And it’s about asking, when does it cross a line? When does it become a concerning behavior? That, to me, is an important thing for parents and kids to be looking at.
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.