Not For Kids Only

Posted by Brand Bonsall, MA, ACMHC, Therapist at Entrada on October 01, 2018

Brand 3In my work with parents of students in our wilderness program, I often tell them two things that I believe are the most important way to help their kids while in the program. The first of these is to show up for your child. The second is to do your own work so that you can be the healthiest you can be and therefore support your son or daughter in their process, successes, and struggles. In this article, I will examine further what doing your own work means.

Therapy: There is nothing that says, do your own work like participating in your own therapy. Finding a therapist and going to therapy while your child is in wilderness is incredibly important. You may feel guilt, relief, fear, disbelief, and even be traumatized by the events that led you to send your child to Evoke. Finding and utilizing a therapist for your own health can help you to come to terms with these feelings, work through your trauma, and perhaps begin to work through emotional pain that you have experienced that influences the way you parent. A hint about finding a therapist; if at first it does not feel like a fit, or you’ve felt in the past that “therapy doesn’t work for me,” don’t give up. Because therapy hasn’t felt right for you in the past does not mean there is anything wrong with you. The therapeutic relationship is the most important factor for success in therapy. So find someone that fits for you, and don’t be afraid to try another if the first doesn’t fit.

Support Groups: Find and attend a support group. Examples of these groups can be: Evoke parent support groups, Al-Anon, Coda, Families Anonymous, and Nar-Anon. This is not an exclusive list and I’d encourage you to find a group that fits with you. In his work, Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, Irving Yalom identifies eleven therapeutic factors in group therapy. Several of these factors are: Instillation of Hope, Universality (the realization and understanding that others are facing similar challenges as you), Imparting Information, Altruism, and Catharsis. These factors and more are reasons that attending a support group can be helpful in your journey to continued health.

Parent Workshops and Intensives: Evoke offers a monthly parent workshop. In this workshop you will have the opportunity to learn and practice many of the skills that your child is learning. You will also have the opportunity to relate with other parents and have an experiential field day. Parents who attend these workshops often have a higher level of understanding and comfort with what their child is experiencing and this translates into a higher level of comfort and connection they are able to attain during the field visit with their child. Evoke also offers individual and family intensives at our Summit Lodge in Park City, UT. These intensives provide the opportunity for you to create dynamic change in your life through education, group counseling, psychodrama, and mindfulness activities.

Books and Webinars: In your journey you will have the opportunity to learn the philosophies of Evoke that your child is learning. It can be powerful for your child to realize that you are working on and practicing many of the same tools that they are learning while in wilderness. Dr. Brad Reedy, one of the founders of Evoke, wrote The Journey of the Heroic Parent. In this book he outlines and explains many of the philosophies of parenting as it relates to your journey and your child in wilderness. Your therapist will be assigning books to your child while they are in the program. Take the time to read these books yourself, as they can help you with your health, and to support your child while he/she is learning. During your process in wilderness, you will be assigned webinars and/or podcasts to listen to on a weekly basis. Your therapist will often provide you with additional suggestions that relate to your parenting and to the specific challenges that your child is facing. Taking the time to watch or listen to these webinars and/or podcasts will help you to learn new parenting skills, have a deeper understanding of your child’s struggles, and give you insight into your own parenting. Doing this work will help you to connect with your child’s specific struggles while helping you to gain further insight into your process.

Parent Assignments and The Parallel Process: In their wilderness journey our students are given the opportunity to complete assignments such as their life story, I-feel statements, fears and insecurities, impact letter, letter of awareness, personal mandala, values examination, and multiple others. On the parent portal you will be assigned and given the opportunity to complete your own set of assignments. By working through these assignments and showing your son or daughter that you are invested in learning through a parallel process, you can work at rebuilding a connection with your child. The insight that is possible for you to gain while completing these assignments can be integral to your work on yourself and your journey to better health.

Conclusion: Therapy and self-work are hard! I often describe it to students as sausage making. No one wants to see the process of sausage making yet often at the end you get a tasty bratwurst. The process of therapy can be exhausting, trying, difficult, and emotionally nourishing. With the Evoke process, we are giving you the opportunity and challenge to do your own work so that you can be the healthiest version of yourself you can be and support your child. The choice is up to you.

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