Nearly two decades ago when I was looking for a job, a mentor suggested I apply at a wilderness therapy program. I left several introductory phone calls with the clinical director to inquire about a potential job opening, but my attempts went unanswered. So I decided to make the three-hour drive to their base camp office in Loa, Utah. I arrived with my resume in hand, a flannel-lined sleeping bag in my duffel, and the confidence that I was right for the position.
“Don’t ask the world what it wants from you, ask yourself what makes you come to life. Because what the world really needs are more people who have come to life.”
When discussing the idea of girls in the wilderness, the topic of vulnerability comes up a lot. Often it is in the context of how girls are vulnerable in fragile ways that we often want to protect or tuck away. However, having been a teenage girl myself and having worked as a therapist now for 8 years – I can confidently say that vulnerability among girls in the wilderness has more to do with courage and resilience than anything else. Brene Brown is one of the leading researchers on the study of vulnerability and shame. In her most recent book (Daring greatly: how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead) she highlights relevant themes such as: learning to embrace imperfections, letting the people we love struggle, and other elements of healing our shame. The book’s title was inspired by Theodore Roosevelt’s Citizen’s Republic (1910) speech where he says: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
A Second Nature Study, Published in the Journal of Residential Treatment of Children and Youth, Suggests Promising Results for Young Adults in Wilderness Therapy
The Journal of Residential Treatment for Children and Youth published an article by Second Nature researchers entitled, “Efficacy of Wilderness Therapy for Young Adults: A First Look”. This is one of the first studies examining outcomes for young adults in wilderness therapy, and suggests promising results for this group.
My Journey: Second Nature Entrada
October 22, 2012- December 18, 2012
My journey at Second Nature Entrada is one I will never forget. It was the start of the rest of my life. The feelings and emotions I had before entering the wilderness were ones I never thought would change. Feelings of emptiness, heavy sadness, hopelessness and anger swirled in my body as I boarded the plane to go to Utah. I remember feeling anxious and overwhelmed, not knowing what to expect and not knowing what I had just signed myself up for. At this point I felt this program was my last shot at living, feeling like if it didn’t “work” I was destined to committing suicide. I held my breath, my heart beating out of my chest… I got off the plane, ready or not– my journey begins.
Matt Hoag, PhD, Katie Massey, MSW and Sean Roberts, MS present the major evolutions in wilderness therapy clients’ complexity and meeting the new challenges with sophisticated clinical intervention at Symposium on Experiential Education Research (SEER) conference Oct 31 – Nov 2.
Recently a reputable wilderness therapist presented on the effectiveness of wilderness therapy at the American Psychology Association conference. Upon his return he shared his presentation was grouped in the same category as dance therapy! This is an amusing illustration of the confusion in defining wilderness therapy. A growing number of behavioral healthcare professionals are asking what should and shouldn’t be considered “wilderness therapy.” With interpretations ranging from boot camp to adventure trips there is an obvious need for a clear definition of wilderness therapy. A clear definition provides universal understanding of what wilderness therapy is and the extensive benefits gained from it.
Irvin Yalom1 identified eleven factors that contribute to healthy functioning in group therapy, which therapists may use to facilitate meaningful and effective interventions. Application of these factors to the wilderness therapy experience allows clinicians to both understand wilderness therapy on a more sophisticated level and to design interventions that serve to highlight or develop any of the factors.