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Pursuing Their Heart’s Work: Assistant Therapists Jenny McDermed and Nick Lenderking-Brill

Matthew Krugh, MSW | Family Services Director

Featured Team Members: Matthew Krugh, MSW

Open Sky Wilderness Therapy is committed to advancing the standards and evidence-based, best practices of the wilderness therapy industry. Part of this commitment is expressed through the clinical internship experience Open Sky offers. We are grateful and excited to have clinical interns Jenny McDermed and Nick Lenderking-Brill on our team as Assistant Therapists. Jenny and Nick are graduate students from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. This internship will complete the requirements for their graduate degrees: Master of Arts in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Wilderness Therapy.

Graduate interns fresh from academia are agents at the forefront of the latest research-informed practices. Through education, training, and direct practice, they are an influential part of the evidence-based treatment we provide students and families at Open Sky.

Jenny and Nick have immersed themselves in Open Sky programming throughout their training. Jenny supports families and students on Family QuestsTM and other Family Services. Nick supports these services, in addition to providing clinical coverage for primary therapists on the Clinical Team.

Background and Experience

As Assistant Therapists, Jenny and Nick bring meaningful experience in human connection and service, clinical treatment, and the outdoors. Both place a high value on mindfulness and the mind-body connection in the treatment process.

While living abroad for two years, Jenny formed deep connections with people from various cultures. These connections ignited her passion for helping others. During her graduate studies, her work in equine therapy enhanced her abilities and strengths of using non-traditional approaches to promote connection, internal awareness, and emotional regulation for youth who struggle with depression, drug use, suicidal ideation, and academia.

Jenny’s care for people is an invaluable strength. Her regard for our families is tender and humble. She is sharp, thoughtful, and intuitive. I respect the way she takes the work seriously and expresses her passion and skill through it.

Nick led backpacking trips and mentored a team of adolescent boys as a camp counselor, taught English and worked for a local non-profit in Brazil, through-hiked the Appalachian Trail, and taught public school students in Thailand. During his graduate study, he facilitated both equine-based and rock-climbing therapeutic interventions, led group therapy while canoeing and backpacking, and did individual and group work with people who struggle with addiction.

Nick is enthusiastic and earnest. He brings a real passion for the work and the learning. He is flexible and willing to learn it all from every angle. It has been inspiring to witness his diligent work and big heart.

Training and Support

The clinical internship program at Open Sky provides training in a wide array of therapeutic and coaching services. It also gives interns the supervision hours required to complete their graduate degrees. The training they receive is a thorough, step-by-step process meant to deepen their education and prepare them for clinical work in wilderness therapy.

When Jenny and Nick arrived at Open Sky last summer, each joined a student team for a week to shadow and observe the daily experiences of students and field guides. They were then immersed in the Family QuestTM experience.

The first step to their Family QuestTM training was to shadow one of our lead Family Services therapists and field guides on several Family QuestsTM. By shadowing this facilitation, they observed logistics, clinical approaches, connection with families, and some of the most meaningful family work conducted at Open Sky.

After observing numerous Family QuestsTM, Nick and Jenny each participated in several additional Family QuestsTM: co-facilitating with a Family Services therapist; taking the lead on the therapy with a Family Services therapist present to observe and support; and facilitating Family QuestsTM with the support of a field guide.

In addition to this comprehensive clinical training in Family QuestsTM, Nick and Jenny completed AEGIS crisis and de-escalation certification and trained with Family Services staff at Wellness Weekends, Graduations, and Monday Night Parent Support Calls.

As Family Services Director and their internship supervisor, I work alongside each of them on a weekly basis to offer guidance and mentorship. We have strategic conversations before each Family QuestTM and process in-depth together afterward. The Clinical and Family Services Teams are also constant resources to them for mentorship, guidance, and expertise. These experienced clinicians provide consultation about specific cases and treatment plans.

Honing the Craft

As graduate interns, Jenny and Nick contribute an eager, fresh, and excited spirit. They both possess what is needed to do this invaluable family work. They display care, concern, and love for families and students with sincerity and respect.

For me, one of the greatest gifts as supervisor to Jenny and Nick is to be part of their learning processes. I treasure the opportunity to see talented, highly capable, primed individuals come here and take off in their heart’s work. They arrive ready and willing, and in a matter of months, begin to really hone their craft.

It is rewarding to be part of an organization that values training those who are entering the industry to the highest standards, with the confidence they can fulfill an integral role in offering our services to students and families.

November 30th, 2018

Matthew Krugh, MSW | Family Services Director