One of the greatest privileges to working in the wilderness is to be free from all the distractions that bombard our sensory input systems in the “front-country”. The front- country’s distractions are full of cars, signs, ads, songs, people, stores, food, houses, buildings, technology, entertainment, appointments, roads…you get the idea. While on the other hand, the back-country (wilderness, the field) is full of…sky, weather, trees, plants, animals, bugs, live earth, and other things that we haven’t put the human-manufactured stamp on. The front-country is ripe with all the stimulation that implies human constructs, control, and expectations. While the back-country provides liberation from these constructs and allows you to just be, inviting you to get closer to who you truly are.
Viewing entries posted in 2016
Last winter signified my first winter working in wilderness therapy. Wilderness therapy is a year-round operation. We function in rain, snow, sunshine, fall, winter, spring, summer, and all of the holidays in between. Some clients find themselves in the midst of their programs at Evoke during special and significant holidays. Similarly, field staff find themselves working some of these holidays. Last year, my shift was scheduled to work Thanksgiving. The days surrounding Thanksgiving rarely went above freezing temperatures. I had mixed emotions about working in the field during a holiday that I normally spend with my family and close friends. Sad and nostalgic, I decided to not have any expectations and embrace whatever this holiday did or did not look like this particular year.
The “3 Circles Exercise” illustrates a communication tool that can be used with any relationship, whether it is between parent and child, partners, friends, or coworkers. It is a template that can aid in clarifying boundaries, mediating conflictual relationships, and managing codependence. In the illustration, there are three different circles, “My Circle,” the “Relationship Circle,” and the “Other’s Circle.” And in each, there are specific responsibilities.
I walked out of the theatre after seeing the play Wilderness with all of the feelings that I had felt when I was a teenager in a wilderness therapy program fresh on my mind again. I was 13 when I went to the wilderness. I got “gooned,” or transported to the program straight from Juvenile Hall. I knew it was coming because my dad owned the program and I had gotten myself into enough trouble. I knew when they dropped me off out there in the middle of nowhere that it would be a long journey. I didn’t know, however, all that I would learn and the person that I would become by the time I left.
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.