A Bright New Year!

It's February and 2020 is already full of exciting accomplishments, new faces, clinical innovation, and bright blue open skies! In our first newsletter of the year, learn about our team's clinical treatment approaches, listen to engaging new SKYlights Podcast episodes, and celebrate impressive milestones. 

How to Talk to Young Adults About Wilderness Therapy

Mariah Loftin, MA, LPC, Senior Clinical Therapist - Young Adults

Article Excerpt: The important thing to keep in mind is, you are not “selling” this to your son or daughter. It’s a matter of conviction on your part; not a matter of convincing or persuading. Begin with a dialogue. 

Start with your own emotions: “I have been scared and worried about you because______.”  Ask your child questions: “Have you been worried about yourself? What have you been feeling? What has been hard?”  Start talking about wilderness: “I think it is time to have more help. I know this is a path we need to pursue. This is how we are going to move forward.”  This conversation is about...


Exploring the Link Between Trauma and Addiction

Brian Leidal, MA, LPC, Clinical Therapist (Young Adults, Adolescent Boys)

Article Excerpt: Many individuals who have experienced trauma don’t have the coping skills to live in and maintain a “grounded” neurological state as a result. Instead, they are in a more constant “fight/flight” or “freeze” state...Without healthy coping skills, this is often why these students turned to addictive substances or behaviors: to manage the state of their nervous system, or more plainly, to change how they feel. Addictive substances or behaviors have a powerful short-term effect and long-term detriment...

10 Tips for Strengthening Family Relationships in 2020

Would you like to strengthen relationships and connect on a deeper level with your family members? At Open Sky, we inspire people to learn and live in a way that honors values and strengthens relationships. This is a key component of our mission. In this article, members of our Family Services, Clinical, and Alumni Relations teams share tangible tips to enhance, enrich, and strengthen...

How Does Open Sky’s Medical Team Support Student Wellness and Growth? 

Margaret Kelso, W-EMT, Health Director

Article Excerpt: At Open Sky, our belief is that when students’ physical needs are met, they are able to better focus on the deep therapeutic work that brought them to our program. By having a 24/7 on-site Field Medic, employing healthcare professionals with diverse medical backgrounds, and emphasizing the importance and practice of self-care, our students are positioned for...

Congrats Jonathan Mitchell on 10 Years at Open Sky! 

We are proud to celebrate Senior Clinical Therapist Jonathan Mitchell, MA, LPC for 10 years at Open Sky! For the past decade, Jonathan ("Badger") has shared his extensive expertise serving students and families, while delivering an unmatched positivity and passion for his work.

“Jonathan’s exuberance and passion for the power of wilderness therapy is as palpable today as it was a decade ago. His bright spirit and ability to share with compassion and candor inspires Open Sky students, families and staff alike. Congratulations, Jonathan, we are so grateful to have you as part of the team!”
- Emily Fernandes, Open Sky Co-Founder and Executive Director.


In SKYlights Episode 17, we talk with Clinical Therapist Morgan Seymour about how societal expectations can discourage or prevent boys from developing emotional awareness and the skills to express themselves. Morgan also explores how wilderness therapy is an excellent way to be aware of, understand, and strengthen one’s entire self.

Transition age young adults (18-20) are unique on both a social and a biological level.  Socially speaking, they are starting to define themselves as independent, differentiate from their parents, and form their own identity. In SKYlights Episode 16, Clinical Therapist Chris Blankenship discusses how Open Sky helps young adults and families navigate this transition.

Family Wellness Counselor Norman Elizondo was recently featured on Dr. Will White's podcast, "Stories from the Field: Demystifying Wilderness Therapy". In this episode, Norman shares stories from his guiding experience, his perspective as a minority in this field, and advice for those who want to pursue work in wilderness therapy. Click here to learn more and access the podcast!

The Open Sky community recently gathered to celebrate major staff milestones in 2019: Transition Age Young Adults Therapist Chris Blankenship - 5-year anniversary, Adolescent Boys Therapist Jonathan Mitchell - 10-year anniversary, and Senior Field Guide Mike Kangley - 1500 field days! We are incredibly grateful for the commitment and expertise Chris, Jonathan, and Mike bring to Open Sky!

These 12 new field guides are deeply committed to the work of connecting with, supervising, leading, and encouraging our students as they embark on a journey of self-discovery and growth. One guide reflected on the training:

“There is a ton of magic out in the field, from the ceremonies I experienced this week, to the accepting and courageous community, and the landscape.”

Visit our Field Guide page for info on upcoming guide orientations!

Don't miss the Thrive Global article "The Importance of Spending Time in Nature," written by Adolescent Boys Therapist Morgan Seymour, LCSW. Morgan's article contains current research and insight from her experience as a wilderness therapist. She writes:

"I believe spending time outdoors is one of the most important and universal prescriptions out there. While there is a place and a purpose for various medication prescriptions and remedies, I have a deep-rooted belief in the healing benefits of being in nature."

Connect with the Open Sky team at the NATSAP Annual Conference in Palm Springs this week! Stop by Cabanas 1 & 2 throughout the conference to enjoy a refreshment and say hello to members of the Clinical, Admissions, and Leadership teams. Rejuvenate with morning yoga (co-hosted by Gateway, Bridge House, and Open Sky) on Friday, led by Norman Elizondo. We'll see you there!

Education Director & Therapist Melia Snyder, PhD, LPC, REAT and Transition Age Young Adults Therapist Chris Blankenship, LCSW, look forward to attending the GEMS Conference in February. The Gender Education and Demystification Symposium offers a clinical and educational perspective regarding gender identity. Symposium attendees will be given an opportunity to hear from the nation’s leading experts.

January Expo Snapshot from the Field at Open Sky