During the fall and winter I often spend time reflecting on my own recovery journey. It somehow surprises me how much more continues to reveal itself with adequate space and thought. My sobriety date falls on Halloween, a sort of gateway to the holiday season. This is a slower, more reflective part of the year for me. This year, after having made the transition from a Clinical Assistant to a Primary Therapist for Evoke, I’ve had another opportunity to zoom out and examine the work we do in the woods and why I believe it has such a profound impact on young people struggling with addiction.
Being a field instructor can be one of the most simultaneously challenging and rewarding jobs. There are instances when you find yourself in a group of clients, all belly-laughing at something small and silly, lit by the unreal pinks and purples of a desert sunset, and then there are moments where you are navigating a series of emotional upsets, drenched by an untimely rainstorm. Regardless of the disposition of the clients or the climate, one of the most important expectations of field staff is that they maintain a stable baseline of unconditional positive regard for every single person, including their peers, in the group for the entirety of their shift. This expectation is laid out on the first day of training, and is reinforced during off-shift trainings, mid-week check-ins, and post-shift debriefs. This particular skill, approaching all people with unconditional positive regard, is one that takes great personal awareness in order to work.
What do you need right now?
Each week I go to therapy. I have made it my consistent practice since 1999 to meet with my therapist regardless of the state of my circumstances. I never know what will come out in the session. Sometimes I complain about everyone in my life. Sometimes I unload the stress I am carrying. Sometimes I express gratitude for the healing grace my therapist has shown me. Rather than a problem-solving session, it is a place where I can be myself and that is okay. It is a place where I am welcome and where I can’t get it wrong.
“There’s a podcast for that!” I’ve heard myself say this so many times since I joined the Evoke team last September. It’s as though I am handing out an antidote to parental pain. And, I’m not just sharing the podcast with clients at Evoke. It’s Friends. Family. Strangers. Because I found something. And, I have to share it. Like when you find a song that sings to your soul, and you are certain that others not only deserve to hear it, they need toI joined the Evoke team anxious and excited to learn. Working in the therapy field, I was well aware of Evoke’s reputation. Evoke has paved the way for so many and is always evolving and growing. They are leaders in our field. More than that though, is the calm, confident and compassionate feeling I felt when I was around anyone who belonged to the team. They had something for me to learn. I knew it, and I wanted it. I just didn’t know it was going to be so many things! I didn’t know it was going to be songs I wish I’d heard years ago.
In my work within Evoke, I like highlighting students strengths to help uncover their values. Then examining those values within the wilderness setting and helping students to understand how those values impact their life in a healthy manner.
I always knew I wanted to work with adopted and foster families and children, even from a young age. Not until the last few years working in residential and wilderness, did I realize why I had this desire and passion for providing mental health services for transracially-adopted families. Recently, I attended a conference where the main focus was on attachment and trauma. During a networking dinner event, I was introduced to a young man of color who was adopted by a white family. He was intrigued by the idea of Wilderness Therapy, and was very interested and wanted to know more when I explained my work with adopted adolescent boys of color.
About a month ago I attended a conference and while there I was part of a panel presentation. During the presentation, an audience member vulnerably shared her experience on the topic. Several people in the room took what she had to say personally, assumed it was directed towards them, and experienced some of their own guilt. She expressed her frustration in not being fully heard and shared that it was not personal. As the presentation unfolded, it slowly hit me that in taking what she had to say personally the focus was no longer on her experience and her vulnerability. This concept resonated for me in a way that it had not before.
Wow! Dr. J Huffine is celebrating his 20-year anniversary as a wilderness therapist!! J started his work in Texas in the late 90s and has been part of the evolution of wilderness therapy, seeing the growth and refinement of one of the most powerful modes of treatment for adolescents and young adults.
I have been an educational consultant for over thirty years. I am also a parent of a child with learning differences and mental health struggles. It’s been my professional mission to learn about and then teach the intersections between cognitive science and behavioral health. The back and forth highways between how our minds (brains and bodies) process information and mental health struggles have driven much of my research, consulting, and teaching. The impacts on the lives of children, teenagers and young adults are profound. The impacts on repair work is equally compelling.