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Embracing Challenge, Inspiring Change: A Conversation with Clinical Therapist Addy Ho

The Open Sky Team

Featured Team Members: Addy Ho, MA, LPC

Open Sky Wilderness Therapy is excited to welcome Clinical Therapist Addy Ho, MA, LPC to the clinical team! Addy has vast experience in both the outdoor industry and mental health field. She believes all people have the internal strength to make lasting changes and provides an encouraging and trustworthy perspective to life’s challenges. Get to know Addy in the Q&A below! 

Clinical Therapist Addy Ho

Describe your clinical and outdoor experience. How did you develop a passion for mental health and the outdoors?

Early on in life, I found that people—whether it was friends, family members, or strangers—were often telling me their life struggles. I have a good listening ear and people would share things with me they had never told anyone before. I thought, “Wow, that’s strange. I’m in the grocery store trying to buy bananas, and this stranger is telling me about what they’re struggling with in life.” I came to realize that people trust me and that I’m easy to open up to. I decided I should go to school to learn healthy boundaries and effective tools for helping others.  

I’ve been a therapist since 2006. I’ve worked in inpatient, residential, crisis in home, outpatient, community mental health, wilderness therapy, and private practice. I’ve worked with a lot of different populations, including young adults, college students, adults, children, teenagers, families, and couples. I really enjoy the family component and working with teenagers.  

I also worked summer camps with teens. During one camp, we went to Colorado for one of the three weeks we were together, and I really saw the power of the outdoors and how transformative it was for them in improving their self-esteem, stepping outside their comfort zones, and building camaraderie with one another, which allowed them to achieve so much more as individuals.  

 I have been in the outdoor industry for a long time and have a lot of wilderness experience. I worked for Outward Bound, REI Outdoor School, and was program director for a wilderness adventure company for five years. The outdoors is my wheelhouse, and I see wilderness therapy as a great opportunity to combine this passion with helping people where they are. 

What drew you to Open Sky specifically?

Open Sky is well-known in the industry, especially if you’ve been around for over 15 years. When I first came to visit, I was really impressed with what I saw in the field. The guides and therapists were working together for the students’ growth. People were very welcoming, supportive, and articulate about both how long they had been at Open Sky and why they stayed. Everyone I met, you could just tell they loved their job, and that it wasn’t just a job. It was something bigger that they were excited to be a part of, and that really stood out.  

Open Sky values the family system, and it shows in how much time and energy is put into making the family unit cohesive, whether it’s parents jumping on phone calls with other parents, communicating with their children through letter writing, or working through their Family Pathway. The time and effort the team puts toward having parents not only be a part of their child’s change but also experience their own parallel process is very intentional.   

Describe your treatment approach. What modalities do you bring into your work and how do you build therapeutic relationships with students and families?

I build rapport easily with families and students. I like to get to know people on a deeper level, and I think they appreciate my honest, caring, and encouraging methods. I deliver hard truths with intentional timing.  

The modalities I use include motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and I’m trained in Brainspotting, which is a trauma-specific modality with fascinating results. 

Can you share a bit more about Brainspotting?

Our bodies and minds physically and emotionally remember trauma and put it in the forefront of our brains. People with trauma are living in a heightened state, which is why they react to certain locations, activities, smells, and other triggers. Brainspotting uses spots in a person’s visual field to address unprocessed trauma. It’s nondirective, so people don’t have to relive the trauma. It doesn’t make you forget what happened but allows your body, mind, and emotions to process in a non-triggering way so you can move forward.  

Within the world of wilderness therapy, what are you most excited about?

I come from an outdoor background and a therapeutic background, so I’m excited that I get to combine my two passions—the transformative nature of wilderness and helping others work through their difficulties—in one job. I value the opportunity to encourage people to be the best versions of themselves in a truly authentic and natural way. 

I believe wilderness works because students are encouraged to explore outside their comfort zones. Through those challenges, bonds form with peers, guides, and therapists more quickly than in other environments. In outpatient therapy, for example, a student may go into an office and present one way for an hour once a week. In wilderness, though, that’s where they live. They need to consistently show up as themselves and the ways they are challenged are there for all to see. I think there is accountability, support, and encouragement in that. It’s an accelerated way to go deep with people. Also, as students learn new skills in wilderness, they’re able to apply them daily, which helps translate to whatever container they go to after wilderness.  

Clinical Therapist Addy Ho hikes through a field of lupine in the mountains next to her dog.

What are your passions outside of work? How do they help you learn and grow both personally and professionally?

I enjoy anything that takes me outside: hiking with my goldendoodles, Bella and Yeti, mountain biking, snowboarding, road trips, traveling to new places, adventures of any kind, really! I also like cooking with friends and playing strategic card games. I welcome things that keep me on my toes. I’m always up for a challenge and enjoy finding creative ways to think quickly.  

I think working with adolescent girls is exactly all those things. The work is challenging, and there’s never a dull moment. I enjoy seeing the lasting changes that wilderness brings in a short amount of time.  

July 1st, 2022

The Open Sky Team