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Episode 35 – Co-Parenting with a Child in Treatment

March 08, 2023 | 00:24:00

Join Senior Clinical Therapist Kirsten Bolt, MED, LMFT as she provides tangible tips for families navigating co-parenting and outlines what Open Sky can do to help families communicate more effectively and build stronger relationships.


Episode 34 – Creating Safe Spaces for LGBTQ+ Students in Wilderness

February 22, 2023 | 00:24:00

In this episode, Mariah Loftin, MA, LPC, Clinical Director and Senior Clinical Therapist, discusses the importance of providing support for LGBTQ+ individuals, challenges for family and friends, as well as how to create safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community.  

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Episode 33 – Understanding and Treating Disordered Eating

February 08, 2023 | 00:28:00

Disordered eating—different from eating disorders—is a condition we’re seeing more and more often at Open Sky. In this episode, Senior Clinical Therapist Kirsten Bolt helps us better understand the topic, including patterns, causes, impacts, and treatment.

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Episode 32 – Supporting Treatment-Resistant Students in Wilderness

January 25, 2023 | 00:28:00

Learn more about treatment resistance as Clinical Therapist Mark Sobel, LCSW discusses what it is, how it shows up in the students he works with, and the power of wilderness therapy to help students and families care for themselves and connect.

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Episode 31 – Treating the Unique Needs of Pre-Teens and Early Adolescents

January 11, 2023 | 00:29:00

Join Clinical Therapist Julia Lehr for a discussion about the the unique needs of early adolescents. Julia explores the challenges this population face, her therapeutic approach, and how parents can cultivate a greater sense of connection with their pre-teen children. 

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Episode 30 – Student Athletes and Mental Health

December 28, 2022 | 00:28:00

In this episode, Senior Clinical Therapist Chris Blankenship offers valuable insight into what makes athletes prone to mental health challenges and how he works with students to help them find healing and growth.

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Episode 29 – Somatic Mind Body Therapy in Wilderness

December 07, 2022 | 00:21:00

In this episode, Clinical Therapist Maura Nolan discusses somatic therapy and how she uses it to help her students cultivate greater mind-body awareness.

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Episode 28 – Young Adults, Anxiety, and the Pandemic

April 07, 2021 | 00:24:00

In this episode, we discuss how the pandemic has affected mental health in young adults and how to manage these struggles.

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Episode 27 – The Rise of Online Exploitation of Adolescent Girls

March 24, 2021 | 00:27:00

Learn about the risks, signs, and prevention of online sexual exploitation of teens.

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Episode 26 – Where the Magic Begins: Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

March 10, 2021 | 00:24:00

How is it healthy and beneficial to step beyond our comfort zones?

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Episode 25 – Parenting the Defiant Teen

February 24, 2021 | 00:28:00

Defiance and opposition can be normal and even healthy signs of adolescence. When do these patterns become unhealthy? How can parents effectively respond to their teen’s defiant behavior? What are the best strategies for parents who are at their wit’s end during this phase of parenting?

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Episode 24 – How to Stay Grounded During Times of Stress

February 10, 2021 | 00:25:00

How do we respond to stress? How do we prevent our thoughts from spiraling, our emotions from taking control, and our actions from causing even more damage?

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Episode 23 – How to Talk to Your Kids in a Way They Can Hear It

January 27, 2021 | 00:25:00

Why can parent-child communication be so difficult during adolescence? How can parents improve their communication and listening skills to have more effective and meaningful conversations with their children?

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Episode 22 – How Can I Establish Boundaries When My Young Adult Child Is Struggling?

January 06, 2021 | 00:29:00

Many parents struggle with effective ways to set and maintain boundaries as their children transition from adolescence to young adulthood, especially when a young adult is struggling with mental health or other life challenges. In this episode, Mariah Loftin offers tangible strategies for establishing healthy boundaries that will help young adults launch into a life of independence.

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Episode 21 – Strategies for Successful Transition Post-Treatment

August 05, 2020 | 00:31:00

While your child is in wilderness therapy treatment, a big question mark can be: “what next?” The transition after wilderness looks different for every family. Whether transitioning home, to school, or to an aftercare program, how can parents create or support a healthy environment for their child to continue thriving?

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Episode 20 – How to Support your Child in Wilderness Therapy Treatment

July 22, 2020 | 00:27:00

In this episode, we give guidance on how to support yourself and your child while he or she is in wilderness therapy. We explain how both students and parents can cycle through the stages of grief as they adjust to this new phase in their life. We address the common fears parents experience about sending their child to wilderness and the growth opportunities their family can expect. 

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Episode 19 – How to Build a “Communication Toolbox” and Improve Family Relationships with Clinical Therapist Nick Lenderking-Brill

July 08, 2020 | 00:28:00

A “communication toolbox”…it’s exactly what it sounds like! It is a set of skills and resources at our disposal to access at any moment to practice healthy communication and strengthen our relationships. These are tools to draw from when relationships get tense, confusing, or avoidant. They are also tools to practice regularly even when things are going smoothly.

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Episode 18 – Understanding the Link Between Trauma, the Nervous System, and Addiction

June 24, 2020 | 00:26:00

In this episode, Clinical Therapist Brian Leidal walks us through his understanding, research, and expertise on the topic of trauma and addiction, and the link between. The foundation of any conversation or therapeutic work on trauma begins with a grounded nervous system and healthy connection: to others and to self.

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Episode 17 – Heroes and Legends of the Field: A Conversation with Robin Wolthausen

February 06, 2020 | 00:29:00

In this episode of SKYlights, 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.

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Episode 16 – How Healthy Expression Fosters Healthy Masculinity

January 23, 2020 | 00:31:00

In this episode of SKYlights, the Open Sky Wilderness Therapy Podcast, we talk with Clinical Therapist Morgan Seymour about how societal expectations can discourage or prevent boys from developing emotional awareness, the skills to express emotions and feelings, or seeking help for depression, anxiety, social issues, or challenges at school.

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Episode 15 – Emerging Adults: Supporting the Unique Needs of 18-20 Year-Olds

January 09, 2020 | 00:34:00

Turning 18 is one of the biggest milestones young people experience. Overnight, one goes from being labeled a child to an adult. However, the growth that occurs in that one day is not commensurate with the change in expectations, nor cognitive development.In this episode, clinical therapist Chris Blankenship discusses how Open Sky helps young adults and families navigate this transition.

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Episode 13 – Understanding EMDR Therapy with Clinical Therapist for Adolescent Girls, Kirsten Bolt, MEd, LMFT

December 05, 2019 | 00:34:00

In this episode of SKYlights, we talk about the effectiveness of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. EMDR is a treatment that has been used to address a wide variety of clinical issues and the underlying negative core beliefs about oneself.

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Episode 12 – Understanding Nature-based Expressive Arts Therapy

November 14, 2019 | 00:37:00

In our conversation with Melia, we discuss how her background led her to therapy and education, her experience with nature-based expressive arts therapy, how this type of therapy promotes overall health, and how she helps her students craft a positive, productive, healthy and thriving life.

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Episode 11 – Catching Up With Open Sky Clinical Director And Therapist, Sebastiaan Zuidweg, MA, LPC

October 17, 2019 | 00:37:00

Sebastiaan Zuidweg knew early on that his calling was a life of being in service to others. Sebastiaan believes in Open Sky’s holistic family systems approach as a catalyst for change, and the power of the wilderness as an effective medium for therapeutic work. His clinical approach is rooted in the belief that every individual has the ability to activate his or her potential and pursue health and wellness.

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Episode 10 – Understanding And Treating Self-Harm In Wilderness

October 03, 2019 | 00:24:00

In this episode of SKYlights, clinical therapist Kirsten Bolt explores the reasons people self-harm and the steps involved in treating self-harm. With assessment and reassessment, we start to understand the history, severity, circumstances, and intentions surrounding the behavior, allowing us to help students to develop the skills to regulate emotions and communicate their needs to others.

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Episode 9 – Supporting Young Adults Navigating Gender and Sexuality

September 20, 2019 | 00:26:20

In this episode of the SKYlights Podcast, Clinical Director and Senior Clinical Therapist Mariah Loftin explores the often misunderstood differences between gender and sexuality, including sexual orientation and gender identity, and how families can best support young adults navigating these areas.

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Episode 8 – A 20-Minute Guided Meditation with Family Wellness Counselor, Norman Elizondo

September 05, 2019 | 00:23:00

In this episode of the Open Sky Wilderness Therapy podcast, Family Wellness Counselor Norman Elizondo guides us through a 20-minute meditation. As a person develops mental strength via meditation, he or she may be better able to resist negative behavior. Ultimately, this non-reactivity and awareness are what lead people to live fulfilled lives.

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Episode 7 – Preparing Your Child For The Road (Not The Road For Your Child): How Challenge Cultivates Resilience in Young People

August 22, 2019 | 00:29:00

“Lawnmower parenting” or “Helicopter parenting.” The common theme among these terms is a relationship in which parents aren’t allowing their kids to think for themselves or develop a sense of self-confidence. In this episode, clinical therapist Jonathan Mitchell explains how parents can shift out of these common parenting struggles and help their children build confidence and resilience.

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Episode 6 – How Will Wilderness Benefit Me?

August 08, 2019 | 00:22:00

What’s the point of wilderness therapy? 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.

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Episode 5 – Deconstructing Motivation

July 25, 2019 | 00:30:00

One of the most common frustrations expressed by Open Sky clients and their families is the struggle to understand and “fix” a lack of motivation. In this episode of SKYlights, Dr. Aaron Wallis brings some clarity to the concept of motivation and an understanding of the neurological influences that affect our ability to turn desire into action.

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Episode 4 – A 10-Minute Guided Meditation with Family Wellness Counselor, Norman Elizondo

July 08, 2019 | 00:14:00

In this episode of the Open Sky Wilderness Therapy podcast, Family Wellness Counselor Norman Elizondo guides us through a 10-minute meditation. As a person develops mental strength via meditation, he or she may be better able to resist negative behavior. Ultimately, this non-reactivity and awareness are what lead people to live fulfilled lives.

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Episode 3 – A 5-Minute Guided Meditation with Family Wellness Counselor, Norman Elizondo

July 08, 2019 | 00:09:00

In this episode of the Open Sky Wilderness Therapy podcast, Family Wellness Counselor Norman Elizondo guides us through a 5-minute meditation. As a person develops mental strength via meditation, he or she may be better able to resist negative behavior. Ultimately, this non-reactivity and awareness are what lead people to live fulfilled lives.

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Episode 2 – Mindfulness, Meditation, and Other Superpowers!

June 25, 2019 | 00:20:00

The premise of meditation is learning how to have a healthy mind. Studies have shown that this can occur even on a biological level, recording the physical healing of the brain. In this episode, meditation teacher Norman Elizondo explains how, as we develop mental strength (and other superpowers!) we may be better able to resist negative patterns, allowing for a more fulfilling life.

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Episode 1 – Game Changer: Utilizing Wilderness Therapy to Treat Adolescent Gaming Disorder

June 12, 2019 | 00:29:00

As electronic screens become ever more pervasive, researchers and parents wonder: How much is too much? Studies show that adolescents who use screens excessively experience an increase in impulsivity, distractibility, and relationship struggles, and a decrease in self-worth and well-being. In this episode, Clinical Therapist Morgan Seymour explains how wilderness therapy helps students address the underlying issues associated with excessive gaming and screen time use.

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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.