Most folks who have worked in wilderness have become familiar with strange languages borne from years of living in the wild. To this day I find myself saying things like, “Did you bring your wig?” when asking my partner if they have their sleeping bag for a camping trip, or “Do we have torts for taco night?” to my roommate at the grocery store in reference to the tortilla rack. Even staff who have been gone for years and are now working in non-wilderness realms will throw Evokian lingo into our daily conversations, “I could just really use some p-time right now,” when rain-checking plans in order to have some personal/alone time.
Anxiety disorders are the single most common mental health condition in children and adolescents. It is also the most treatable, and so, though distressing, it’s a condition that contains much hope.
Like it or not, the world of human services is going online, and the need for a transformative experience with a highly skilled therapist that is accessible in the comfort and safety of the home has never been more apparent.
Evoke wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t founded on symbiotic relationships at every level. Students and field instructors live together and support each other every week in the wilderness. Parents, students, and therapists work together constantly to achieve therapeutic outcomes. And our Cascades and Entrada offices partner with local companies and organizations as much as possible to help everyone in the community thrive. My career-development experience has been no exception.
Living in the wilderness provides many opportunities for creativity. Absent the items and distractions we can come to depend upon in the front country, we are required to find new ways to do things. The field is an environment in which students practice creativity as not only a way to be resourceful, but also to have fun! I’ll cover some of the ways we find creativity in the back country.
Extinction burst is a term used to describe a fairly common phenomena in therapeutic treatment. Namely, when the therapist, program, or even individual tries to stop an unwanted behavior by no longer reinforcing it, that behavior will reassert itself for a time, and can increase in intensity before it goes away. I believe many Evoke parents will be able to relate to this, and have potentially experienced it without knowing it at the time.
Much has been written on the Evoke blog about bow-drill fires—one of the three pillars of Evoke's program—and for good reason. Part metaphor, part diagnostic tool, part rite of passage, they already possess depth of purpose. I wish, however, to dig deeper and offer one more perspective on their potential as a therapeutic intervention, stemming from my ongoing exploration of Self-Determination Theory (SDT), a branch of psychology that explores human motivation, development, and wellness through the lens of basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Used with care, I believe friction-firemaking can support all three. Here's how.
Wilderness treatment began as an intervention where the identified patient, typically an adolescent or young adult, left their home to go and receive therapy in an outdoor setting. Yet, the patient’s challenges occurred within a family setting and dynamic, so wilderness therapy has evolved to include the parents in the treatment process, rather than just their child. Evoke has taken the lead in involving parents in Wilderness Treatment, as family systems and dynamics have increasingly become emphasized and explored. We offer the following interventions:
With the boys in my group, I like sharing the poem There are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves by James Kavanaugh. It’s attractive to me as it evokes both questions and introspection for them. Most of them have worked really hard on convincing everyone how “tough” they are. Along the way they successfully taught people to walk on egg shells around them and a parent’s smallest attempt to hold a boundary can cause an explosive reaction, with punching holes in the wall, threats of self-harm, risky behavior such as speeding through the neighborhood, or taking drugs to ensue.
As I reflect upon our philosophy and mission here at Evoke, I am reminded of a song by Graham Colton Life's What You Make It. It talks about how each of us will at some point need to write our own life’s song. One of the great lines of the song reads: