It has been over a year since my previous blog post addressed the changes in insurance coverage for wilderness therapy programs. While it continues to be a gradual process, we are making headway. This last year added several additional court settlements in favor of wilderness therapy coverage, along with additional research showing how OBH Council accredited programs are more effective, safer and cheaper than alternative forms of treatment. Check out my blog on the OBH Council website for a complete update on all of this and more.
It is not our children’s job to take care of us as parents. I think most of us parents would agree and even say that this is obvious. However, I wonder how often we create this dynamic without even realizing it. This was a topic on a recent clinical supervision call with Dr. Brad Reedy. A supervision call is a consultation group in which the Evoke team of therapists join to discuss specific therapeutic topics. He talked about how he almost always discourages parents from sharing “I Feel” statements with their children. I was surprised to hear this. As someone who is a deep feeler and also wants to role model emotional awareness for my children, I share my emotions fairly frequently. I also often encourage the parents of my clients to share their feelings.
I am often asked about the things that set Evoke Therapy Programs apart from other wilderness programs. One of the answers that I share is regarding the quality of our staff. I think many programs speak about the quality or skill level of their staff, and at Evoke we really mean it. As the Clinical Director I interview people from other programs, and as a researcher, I present with a variety of clinicians from other wilderness and treatment programs. I am struck by how differently we engage and utilize our Field Instructors compared to other programs. Our investment with regard to time and energy pays off as we watch staff develop in some incredible ways. Here are some of the strengths that stand out to me:
Alexithymia is not something you “have” and cannot change. It is a term used to describe a relative inability to process one’s emotional experience. Alexithymia is not all or nothing; it is a matter of degree. Some people are very adept at emotional processing, others are not. But what does it mean to “process” one’s feelings? Why is this ability important? Alexithymia is not uncommon in the general population, but is much more prevalent in people who experience emotional and behavioral problems. Can it be improved?
A friend of mine named Bill just turned 90, and the one thing he wrote to me at the beginning of his note was “I’m still hiking.” Bill has hiked all over the world, done some crazy routes, bagged dozens of peaks with a pack on his back, and been on adventures with some of the legends in mountaineering. He’s a great role model. I started backpacking professionally at an age when most people have hung up their packs to gather dust. It’s curious to me how many people tend to limit their lives and experiences by age or other artificial categories.
For almost a decade now, I have had the honor of working with students and clients in the field at Entrada. First as a field staff and now as the Health and Wellness Coordinator. For a decade I have witnessed a phenomenon that always gives me great hope in the face of even the direst of cases. Compassion. Even more importantly… self-compassion.
Wilderness therapy provides us with a unique opportunity to understand and help people heal from trauma (any overwhelming experience the body and brain cannot successfully integrate and process). As a Somatic Experiencing Therapist, I work in a body-oriented way to help people heal from PTSD, complex PTSD and other physiological symptoms of anxiety, depression and other stress disorders. Somatic Experiencing (SE) draws on research in the areas of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, medical biophysics and 45 years of successful clinical application by the founder, Dr. Peter Levine. Year after year of clinical application of SE among its many practitioners indicates it is one of the most effective forms of trauma treatment that exists today. And while newer to the wilderness therapy community, more and more programs are recognizing the importance of incorporating body-oriented mindfulness in the healing of their clients.
This time of the year is tough for most everyone. Holidays with a loved one in crisis is beyond challenging. I was speaking with the mother of a client today and I asked her how she was doing with all of it, and her response struck me. She said, “I am feeling sad. I went to pick up my husband from the airport, and I saw all the college-aged kids being greeted by their parents and it made me very sad.” And that makes perfect sense to me.
“The Road to Self Belief is potholed.” Nyasha Madavo
Often, I’m asked, “What does the fire-making process have to do with therapy?” I embrace this curiosity and even expand it to relate to thriving in life.