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Episode 17

Heroes and Legends of the Field: A Conversation with Robin Wolthausen

Episode 17

In his time at Open Sky Wilderness Therapy—starting as Field Guide, moving up to Assistant Field Director, and now as Family QuestTM Guide and Transition Mentor—Robin Wolthausen has been fortunate enough to know dozens of the personalities at Open Sky. He’s also as passionate as ever about wilderness therapy, wandering the land as humans amidst the wilderness and weaving the therapeutic experience into every aspect of the journey. Robin values Open Sky’s emphasis on whole health, mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.

In this episode of SKYlights, the Open Sky Wilderness Therapy podcast, we talk to Robin about how his own journey led him to, away from, and eventually back to Open Sky. Robin shares why he believes that same journey prepared him for a career as our Transition Mentor, helping families to incorporate the skills learned in the wilderness into their lives at home.



Robin Wolthausen

Robin Wolthausen

Associate Therapist

Robin has been involved in wilderness guiding and education since 2003 and specifically in wilderness therapy—supporting students and families in crisis—since 2008. He brings a diverse experience to Open Sky having worked in a variety of professional outdoor venues such as NOLS, Wilderness Awareness School, Kroka Expeditions, and leading graduating rites of passage for Marin Academy in San Rafael, CA.

He brings with him to Open Sky an extensive history of impeccable risk management and field leadership experience in roles such as Field Manager and Assistant Field Director for Open Sky, Summer Program and Private Contracts Coordinator with Kroka Expeditions, Lead Organizer for the Jumping Mouse Gathering and over 1000 professional field days as a wilderness guide with zero serious incidents.

Robin also brings a diverse resume within the field of supporting families in crises not just in wilderness therapy: since 2010 he has worked with Right Directions Crises Intervention supporting clients’ transitions into programs and he also worked with Heart of Transitions supporting families with students successful post-program reintegration’s back into their homes.

While specializing in wilderness therapy, Robin prides himself in his diverse vocational experience pointing to his many passions and loves in working with youth and young adults outside in an array of positive activities. He is trained in technical rock climbing, backcountry canoeing, naturalist studies, wildlife tracking, survival skills, primary handcrafts, conflict mediation and crisis de-escalation, rites of passage, permaculture, natural building and sustainable landscape construction and land management. He is also current with his WEMT certification.

In his free time he loves baseball, shooting bows, learning about wild birds, plants and tending to the small green growing ones in his garden.


I think my true love will always be in the “why” of why wilderness works and keeping that alive for the students and for the Field Guides; making sure that they’re connecting to nature, making sure that they’re getting better at tasks, and feeling better about themselves because of that. I don’t know how many times I’ve taught bow drilling or shelter building and I never get sick of it. It’s like every time, it’s this avenue for growth, and self-reflection and challenge.

From sleeping outside, exercising every day, being in an emotionally safe environment where you can tell your deepest secrets and be held and be loved. Sitting around a fire, cooking, learning how to cook, and being a nomadic group over the wilderness, getting good sleep, and sleeping under the stars. Who is not going to benefit from that?

if we’re not committed as an organization to the growth of our own therapists and the growth of our own guides and our internal growth as an organization and as individuals, then our clients will only be able to go so far.

Wilderness therapy was one of the first places that I learned about the importance of lineage, knowing where you come from, and having a root so you can actually sprout from somewhere.

I’ve told every student I’ve ever worked with, and every guide, that you are stronger and more capable than you could possibly know.


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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