Admissions: 970-759-8324| Contact Us| Careers Parent Portal



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 Loftin, MA, LPC

As a Licensed Professional Counselor, Mariah Loftin 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. In her work, she melds a variety of modalities such as Art Therapy, Behavior Analysis, Relational Psychotherapy for Trauma, DBT, Family Systems Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, and Acceptance & Commitment Therapy to best meet the individual therapeutic needs of her clients.

Mariah is skilled at establishing rapport and trust, using that relationship as the foundation for her treatment approach. The environment she fosters as a primary therapist empowers her clientsto change from within, developing self-awareness, understanding, and acceptance.

Mariah is widely recognized by clients and peers for her positive nature, open personality, and tenacious dedication.



Wilderness Therapy, coping skills, emotional and spiritual growth,self-confidence, emotional support, healing, young adults, recovery support, empowerment


“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.”



Emily Fernandes

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.


Wherever you get your podcasts:
iTunes GooglePlay stitcher Spotify


Have questions or ideas for the SKYlights podcast?