Contact Us| Careers Parent Portal

The Best Decision I Didn’t Want to Make: Alumni Parent Wendy Reflects on Family’s Open Sky Journey

Open Sky Alumni Parent

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

My 13-year-old son was spinning out of control. He was throwing tantrums daily. He was unable to function and didn’t have any friends. He was in fight or flight mode 24/7. He was angry at the world and most of all, mom. Our life was non-stop yelling, screaming, and fighting. He wouldn’t listen to anyone, and no one could help him. He was totally unregulated and completely struggling with life. 

How did the staff impact your experience?

Open Sky completely turned my son around. It was the first place to have meaningful impact for him. Open Sky provided a safe environment for him to work out his dragons while surrounded by like individuals, his peers. Open Sky staff were so experienced, knowledgeable, caring, and resourceful. You name it, they nailed it. They helped him realize the path he was on was destructive and he needed to change course if he wanted to be happy with his life. The staff were absolutely amazing to work with. 

I think Mark Sobel, my son’s therapist, is an extraordinary human with many special gifts. He was the absolute perfect match for our son and us! 

How have your family dynamics and other relationships been impacted by your Open Sky experience?

In the beginning, my husband and I were distraught and traumatized. It was a good day if I could even get out of bed. Both of us have grown so much throughout this experience. We see the therapeutic process and mental health in a whole new way, a positive and supporting way. We are more understanding and open to change and healing. We are constantly reading up on how to treat and approach our son and how the world affects him. 

Open Sky was a game changer for our family. It saved our family from despair and struggles. Our son is a different human and therefore we are different and our family relationships are different. Our relationships with each other are positive. 

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

Our son enjoyed preparing meals, visiting with the horses, and hanging out with his team. 

The highlight of our experience was the last night when we were sitting around the fire and listening to each kid talk about our son. It was so impactful and wonderful to hear that they could see our son in a good, loving, and meaningful way. We still keep in touch with these kids. 

What has your life and your child’s life been like since Open Sky?

Our son and family’s healing journey continues. After graduating from Open Sky, our son went to a fantastic residential treatment center for about 10 months. He graduated from there and went on to an ADHD boarding school, where he continues to learn and grow. The change has been miraculous. He has matured. He has coping and social skills. He understands life better. He has much higher self-esteem, and his confidence has increased as well. It’s been an incredible journey. 

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

The decision to send my child to wilderness therapy was the hardest, most gut-wrenching, bravest, and best decision I’ve ever had to make. I wanted to solve the problem at home but couldn’t do so with the tools I had. Wilderness therapy is the gold standard for reset therapy for kids in trouble or struggling. Most parents and kids who experience it will tell you what an incredibly powerful and life-saving experience it is. Wilderness therapy is holistic treatment. It addresses mental, emotional, and physical aspects of health in the most therapeutic setting life has to offer: nature. It gives students a relationship with the outdoors that they can draw on for the rest of their lives.  

Wilderness therapy detoxes kids from technology, brings them out of fight or flight responses, and challenges them to face their dragons. It was the first place to have a meaningful impact on my son. Wilderness is just the beginning of your child’s journey. It sets a kid on the right path. It establishes new skills as habitual: mindfulness, meditation, accountability, and self-reflection. Magical and amazing things happen in the wilderness. 

Anything else you’d like to share?

I am forever grateful for our son’s time at Open Sky. It was an experience of a lifetime. Open Sky was just what we needed to set our family back on the right path to a happy and healthy life. It was the best decision I never wanted to make, and I am so proud of the skills and therapeutic work we all learned.

February 2nd, 2023

Open Sky Alumni Parent