Yearly Outside Magazine creates a list of The 100 Best Places to Work focusing on finding companies that make employee health and happiness a point of pride. This year Evoke at Entrada was awarded the 23rd spot (46th in 2015) specifically highlighting our support for field instructors through strong staff to client ratios, professional development opportunities, and financial contributions including 401k after a year in the field, commitment bonuses, and raises in 2016. As a company we strive to recognize and reward the field staff for the challenging work they do and to aid in preventing burnout in the field.
Sad, empty, alone, low, miserable, overwhelmed, cold, tired, worthless, hurt, insignificant — these are just a few of the words used to describe the “black cloud” that affects people experiencing depression. When teens or young adults arrive at Evoke, they usually have little insight into the symptoms that affect them. As we dig deeper with family members, a more far-reaching list of symptoms usually includes: isolation, loss of interest in school or hobbies, loss of friends, inattention, impulsivity, threats or attempts of suicide, personal dissatisfaction, empty feelings, little connection to or awareness of self, and feelings of anxiety and shame. Parents report, “He gets home from school, goes to his room, shuts the door and never comes out,” and “She used to love playing sports, she was always out with friends, and now she spends afternoons and weekends sleeping”. They talk about weight gain or loss — “She never eats, and when she does it’s only junk food”. They talk about fights that quickly escalate — “When he is around, we are constantly yelling at each other”. They express worry, frustration, disconnection, and confusion.
I don’t know about you, but when I start something new, I often find myself jumping in with both feet, needing to learn everything there is about it, craving to get everything I can out of each and every experience. This is especially true of my new position at Evoke. How could one not be intrigued by all this, right?
The end of October and the beginning of November signifies an auspicious time of year for so many cultures through history and around the globe. This time of year marks the shortest days before the Winter Solstice for the northern hemisphere. For some religious faiths, the end of October represents the end of an annual cycle. Simchat Torah (Judaism) fell on October 24th this year and denotes the end of a cycle for publically reading the Torah. October 31st is Samhain to those who follow European pagan traditions which is a time to celebrate the last harvest and to acknowledge the coming of winter, “the dark half of the year.” Diwali, the Hindu holiday which falls on the dark moon in October (30th this year), is a five day festival full of rituals celebrating light overcoming dark, wisdom overcoming ignorance, and is also a celebration of Laksmi – the goddess of fertility and prosperity. Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexico to honor deceased loved ones and, thanks to colonization, falls in line with the Catholic holiday, “All Souls Day” or “All Saints Day” on November 1st. Many of us will remember reading about Persephone, the vegetation goddess in Greek myth, who descends into the Underworld during this time of year. I can see her story unfold when I look onto fields of rotting pumpkins or see the golden leaves fall off the twisted, withered limbs of trees.
Dwelling at the base of a slope in a high desert meadow, 6 adolescent boys and I circled up. It was the golden sunlight hour of another pristine sunset in the wilderness. I looked around the circle at the faces of the young adolescent boys who sat around me. The blinding, golden light beaming from their silhouettes was beautiful. One of those moments in the wilderness when you see something so incredible, and the only way to store it in memory is to behold its beauty in the live feed of the savory present moment. No phones or cameras to take pictures of everything; just one another and the experiences we share together.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a therapeutic model that lends itself particularly well to facilitating change in a wilderness context. In my experience, ACT and wilderness come together seamlessly, in fact, and seem to amplify each other’s potency. While the effectiveness of ACT for such things as depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, schizophrenia and a myriad of other clinical conditions rests on a large and growing body of empirical research, the relationship between ACT and wilderness as related to client treatment outcomes is ripe for exploration. Perhaps most informative here is to examine the interaction between ACT’s six core processes and the wilderness context in an attempt to provide a deeper understanding of the how ACT can be used most powerfully to help wilderness therapy clients.
“What is your job?” The question caught me off guard. I had been on the phone with this gentleman for about 40 minutes answering questions and giving details about our program. “I am in admissions and outreach” was my reply. It did get me thinking, though – what is my job. I am the answerer of questions! As an Admissions Representative, I spend the bulk of my time on the phone with prospective families answering their questions. I have been an Evoke employee for six years and as a former field staff and parent coordinator, I feel equipped and comfortable in my role.
It seems like more now than ever before in my work as a health coach or Health and Wellness Coordinator for Evoke do I find the need to teach more compassion practices. Our world can, at times, feel like it's fraught with so much division, stress, lack consciousness, greed, misunderstanding, and fear. All of these feelings wreak havoc on our psyches, our hearts, and even our bodies. Today, over 40 million people in the US alone suffer from an anxiety disorder.
Not long ago I was working in our adolescent girls group as we transitioned from one field area to another. The drive started off stressfully when two group members expressed frustration about seating arrangements. An outsider might have described the two of them as smoldering for about the first 45 minutes of the ride. Then they asked us to check the radio for reception. It did nothing more than crackle, but they perked up slightly all the same. The staff members in the car chatted cordially as the two girls continued to look out the window. Fifteen minutes later or so the girls asked us to check again, and eureka! It worked. Separate two teenagers from popular culture for a few months and, predictably, you’ll get some excited screaming when the radio comes on. The first song was “Drops of Jupiter” by Train, and I think all 5 of us were singing, staff and students alike. I harmonized.
As an educational consultant and learning specialist, I sometimes have parents seeking my input on becoming better at discipline and how to be a stronger, more effective parent. My advice has changed over the years.