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Thriving Together: A Q&A with Alumni Parent Katie M.

Open Sky Alumni Parent

Katie M. describes her decision to send her son to Open Sky as the hardest and best thing she’s ever done. By actively engaging in the therapeutic process and staying open to feedback, Katie and her family found their capacity to heal and thrive together. In this blog post, she shares her family’s Open Sky story and offers hope for anyone who may be seeking treatment for a loved one.  

What were the challenges or issues that led you to choose Open Sky for your child and family?

Our son was not thriving in any area of his life: academics, family relationships, or sports. We were constantly walking on eggshells and never knew which version of our son we would meet from one moment to the next. We had done everything to find him treatment at home, but he kept showing us with his actions that he needed a higher level of care. 

Alumni student in the field.

How did the staff at Open Sky impact your experience?

Sharara in admissions was an absolute saving grace. I talked to her frequently before we sent our son to Open Sky, and she was so exceedingly kind and patient with me.  

Jonathan was our son’s therapist. From our very first call, I knew we were with a person who would change our lives. Entering that first call, I was still so unsure if Open Sky was right for our son and if he would buy in to the program. I asked Jonathan if we had done the right thing. I will never forget what Jonathan said to my husband and me:  “I have never had less than a life-changing experience with someone like your son.” From that moment on, I knew we were in the exact place we needed to be in that point in our journey. Throughout our time at Open Sky, Jonathan connected with our son, identified his challenges and dragons, and truly understood our son on a level no therapist had before.   

Our Family Quest therapists, Aaron and Michael, were also amazing. They expertly guided us through our family conversations and gave us appropriate space to bond and be together. Michael was our therapist and chef. His food was absolutely delicious! 

Clinical therapist Jonathan Mitchell working with a student in the field.

Did you participate in any of the family services Open Sky offers? How did these opportunities impact your experience or life today?

We took advantage of all of the Family Services programs that were offered. One of the many reasons we chose Open Sky was because of the excellent family component. We knew that our son’s issues were not just his; we all played a part. We knew that if our son was working as hard as he was that we needed to work hard too. I had trouble sleeping while my son was gone, so I got up early each morning and either worked on my weekly letter to him or on my parent coaching work or Parent Pathway. I wanted my son to know that I was as committed as he was.   
Wellness Weekend was a special time for my husband and me.  Jonathan, suggested we participate in the experience as soon as possible, which we did. I remember crying a lot that weekend, but we learned so much. I took voracious notes and still refer to them. I found Wellness Weekend to be very valuable. 

How have you grown personally through your Open Sky experience?

I have grown so much through my family’s Open Sky experience.  My goal was to be coachable and always open to feedback. I was keenly aware that I was a part of the reason my son was at Open Sky.  Having four younger children, I was and still am determined to know better and do better. I was extremely grateful for the wide range of knowledge, expertise, and support Open Sky provides to families. 

Katie M. with her family and therapist Jonathan Mitchell during Family Quest.

What did you value most about your time at Open Sky? Do you have a specific highlight or memory?

Family Quest was really special for all of us; I will always cherish the memory of seeing our son for the first time at Family Quest. I loved every part of seeing his world there. I loved seeing how students got water, carved spoons, and built shelters and fires. I loved being a part of his world at Open Sky. Our son had never been outdoorsy, so to see him so calm and in charge in his environment was really neat.

Another special memory was when we were at Family Quest and Jonathan came to our camp for a family session. My husband and I had our own connected relationship with Jonathan, and it was awesome to see our son’s relationship with him as well.  

As hard as it was to leave the security of Open Sky, my favorite part was the end. Our Family Quest therapist said to our son: “Ships in harbor are safe, but that is not what ships are built for. Sail strong, my friend.” It was truly the perfect send off for all of us. 

What has your life and your child’s life been like since Open Sky? Any specific milestones or updates for your child or family?

Our son has continued to thrive since his graduation from Open Sky in July 2020. We recently attended his graduation from his residential treatment center. We are so grateful for every person who has held our hands on this journey. Our son is attending college in the fall, which was an impossibility a year ago. We are so proud of his academic and therapeutic work. We would never be at this spot if we hadn’t started this chapter of our journey at Open Sky. We are forever grateful to Open Sky! 

What would you say to a new Open Sky parent or a parent considering enrolling their child?

As a mom, sending our son to Open Sky was both the hardest and absolute best thing I’ve done. If you are considering sending your child to Open Sky, it is probably the right thing to do. Open Sky helps students and parents heal together and actually thrive in the most critical moments of their lives.  

Alumni student thriving during life after Open Sky.

May 28th, 2021

Open Sky Alumni Parent