How will Wilderness Therapy benefit me? In this episode, clinical therapist Mariah Loftin explains the benefits of therapy conducted outdoors. Among them, with wilderness therapy, instead of returning after a therapy session to the same ruts and patterns in your life, you are immersed in a supportive and healthy environment—the wilderness—which leads to lasting change.
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.
So, for example, if someone is on a hike, and maybe they have a certain level of anxiety as they’re on that hike. Then, in that moment, they get to have the experience of managing their emotions and using coping skills and actually changing and decreasing their anxiety in that moment. That’s experiential therapy.
The interesting thing about Wilderness Therapy and part of the magic of it is the group experience. We start off with a group that is accepting, supportive, and, ultimately, all cheering each other on in the service of their therapeutic goals, in their growth.
I think a key part of the research that Open Sky does is when family members are putting in their own work in learning how to communicate. It supports students having less distress. It supports students thriving.
The thing that I hear most often is that this was the most transformative experience that I’ve ever had. And that they felt so safe within this community that they could be brave enough to do the work that they came here to do.
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.