I recently traveled with my two small children across the country on my own. It was the first time I was “outnumbered” for this kind of adventure and length of time. Leading up to it, the internet did its eerie thing of suggesting articles that played right to my fears. Would my children and I be the bane of some folks’ existence during the flights? Is it really possible for a four-year-old to wear a mask all day?
There is still a question I remember from my initial interview for the field instructor position at Evoke: What do you do if a student refuses to hike? At the time of my interview, I was fresh out of college and had little to no meaningful experience dealing with resistance, defiance, manipulation, and other challenging behavioral patterns that we regularly see from our Evoke students. So, of course, my answer was: um, say okay? I had no idea what to do but give in, say okay, and let a person do what they were going to do. I considered saying I would try to convince them to hike, but I knew that when someone tried to convince me to do something I didn’t want to do, I only dug my heels in deeper. Little did I know, there was more wisdom in my response than young me could have realized.
Holding space? What does that mean exactly? Does the physical correspond to the psychological or spiritual when we talk about a sacred space?
When offered the opportunity to attend Evoke's Finding You Intensive, I was swept up with excitement. I speak about this program daily, I hear others' glowing feedback about it, my friends and colleagues have explained it as a life changing experience, and I’ve listened to Dr. Brad Reedy recommend it time and time again on his podcast. I was all smiles, until it hit me, this is group therapy. And my heart began to sink into my stomach. Prior to this intensive I’d attended regular therapy sessions but doing a deep dive into my personal work, with strangers watching me, is far from my comfort zone!
In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave an address to The University of California, Los Angeles and said, “Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than any….It is the word 'maladjusted'.…Certainly, we all want to avoid the maladjusted life. But I say to you, my friends, there are certain things in our nation and in the world [about] which I am proud to be maladjusted and which I hope all men of good-will will be maladjusted.”
One of my favorite memories from my time as a Field Instructor, was during a week I was working with a group of adolescent girls. One of the students I was working with that week (we will call her Julie) came from a sports family. She played sports and her father was a coach for a professional sports team. She was the type of student who would put her head down and work tenaciously towards a goal, while often ignoring any emotions she was feeling. It was clear to the staff team at the time that this young person was spending a lot of energy on tasks and, in the process, ignoring her emotions.
Somewhere on the side of a rural highway in Georgia I unknowingly began my journey to Evoke. At the time, I was co-leading a group of 11 high school students to bike across America along with my co-leader, an ex-professional bike racer who spent his free time doing multi-day, 500-mile bike packing races. Today, he and our support car driver were an hour and a half away at the doctor with one of our campers. Today, I captained solo.
My 19-year-old son has been tattooing his arm with artwork since he became an adult. Each piece has meaning to him and it’s been a joy to hear him share the why behind each new ink print on his arm.
Last month I presented at the National Association for Therapeutic Programs annual conference about a relatively new profile called Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). PDA has been studied over the last 40 years by psychologists and mental health providers. Elizabeth Newson, a British developmental psychologist, and her colleagues, were some of the first to explore the profile of these young people referred for assessment, diagnosis, and treatment who reminded referring professionals of autism but differed in important ways (e.g., sociability and imaginative play) (Newson, Le Marechal & David, 2003). It became clear to Newson and her colleagues that these young people did not fit into traditional Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) type diagnoses, and they proposed a separate diagnosis (PDA) within the general diagnostic category of pervasive developmental disorders.
Communication throughout the wilderness therapy experience can feel very different for most families in treatment. At home, communicating is as straightforward as talking around the dinner table or sending your child a text, and in residential settings, phone calls typically happen a few times each week. In wilderness, however, the majority of communication happens through letter writing. In and of itself, this can be a drastic change for most families, and for this week’s blog I wanted to touch on one of the biggest shifts I navigate with families regarding the letter writing process.