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The Open Sky Team

July 2nd, 2021

Moving Past the Noise: A Conversation with Therapist Nick Basalyga

The Open Sky Team

Featured Team Members: Nick Basalyga, LSW, CAADC


Nick Basalyga, MSW, CAADC is a clinical therapist for young adults at Open Sky Wilderness Therapy. He specializes in the treatment of substance use and other process addictions. Get to know Nick in the Q&A below!

Tell us about your background and what led you to become a licensed social worker and certified advanced alcohol and drug counselor. 

Before I became a social worker, I was a lost pup personally and professionally. When I was at that particular crossroad, it’s by the grace of the universe that a social worker was put into my life; they made a profound impact, and inspired me to pursue a career in social work. Following my undergraduate coursework, I decided that I wanted to work within clinical settings with an emphasis on substance use treatment. A few years into my clinical work, I studied and passed the LSW and CAADC exams, which helped to open more doors professionally and allowed for further steps to be taken in the field of substance use treatment. 

Open Sky Wilderness Therapy clinical therapist Nick Basalyga smiles whie in session with a student.

What are your areas of expertise as a therapist? What populations have you worked with prior to wilderness therapy? 

My area of expertise is in the treatment of substance use disorders and other process addictions (i.e. anything that someone can use or do to chase, escape, or distract from a feeling or emotion). Typically, that work has been with young adult and adult populations and at inpatient residential treatment programs. I’ve also worked in educational settings – after-school and alternative education programs – with students grades 2-12, and have a history of working with veterans experiencing homelessness.  

How did you discover the power of wilderness for yourself?

As kids, my brother and I were always outside exploring in the field and in the woods behind our family’s house. It was a time to connect, learn about the land, and experience nature. Wilderness has a way of slowing things down. As I got older and grew apart from that connection, the more I appreciated the healing and centering effect that wilderness and nature can have. It’s been a thrill to be back in regular connection with wilderness doing what I love to do for work. 

A group of Open Sky Wilderness Therapy students wearing backpacks walk through a field of sage brush.

What drew you to wilderness therapy and Open Sky specifically? What do you value most about wilderness therapy and a nature-based approach?

I was drawn to wilderness therapy because of the setting. Wilderness provides an opportunity to tune out the noise and move away from the magnetic pull of environments and social bonds that may be keeping someone stuck or limited in their growth potential. With the movement away from those situations and circumstances, students are given a framework and the support they need to discover their truest, proudest, happiest versions of themselves. In other words, an opportunity to find their “mojo.” 

Open Sky’s team, community, and program is what drew me in.  The collaboration and teamwork and thoughtfulness that goes into the programming is remarkable. Each week, there are new moments of magic and inspiration that affirm that this is the place to be.  

 Describe your treatment approach. What modalities do you incorporate into your work?

My approach is strengths-based and client-centered. I view each person I’m working with as the most important person in regards to telling their story. In terms of modalities, I lean towards cognitive behavioral, examining thought patterns and how they’re influencing action, and psychoanalytical, looking at how childhood is influencing current belief, thought, and behavioral patterns.  I also incorporate family systems theory in order to explore and understand how students and family members show up individually within family spaces and fit together collectively as a unit. 

Open Sky Wilderness Therapy clinical therapist Nick Basalyga sits with a student in a field with mountains in the background.

How do you build a therapeutic relationship with students and families?

My approach with families is to be genuine, patient, and real. I like to meet them where they are at and create space to unpack and process how they got there. It’s important to take the time in the beginning to hear where everybody is coming from and start to understand what the strengths of the family and each individual are. By learning and leaning into those strengths, the students and families can begin to make changes and move toward the future that they envision for themselves.  

What do you like to do in your free time?

Outside of work, a big passion of mine is riding and racing bikes. When I’m not riding, I enjoy spending time outdoors hiking and camping, running and playing team sports, and experiencing live music.  

The Open Sky Team

July 2nd, 2021

The Open Sky Team