It was a cold morning in the wilderness and the boys of Evoke Group One were struggling with the basic task of stacking wood to get the morning fire going. Before this task was to begin, the boys had to wake up, pack their packs, run the organization group that distributes the daily chores, walk to the camp, place their packs in order in pack line, and stand and listen to the breakfast logistical group. “C’mon guys, we’ve stacked wood every morning for the past week. We should know this by now. Let’s get it together,” exclaimed a field staff in frustration.
I worked with a student recently who I will call Al. Al did not trust me and he had reason not to. He had been hurt by many people in his life and he was wary of putting his trust into another. In our first session together I noticed him watching me whenever I wrote a note. About half way into our session I asked him if he would like to read what I was writing. I was honest with him and shared what I had written and why. Al’s next statement of mistrust was to ask me, “What is your strategy here?”
I recently attended an Intensive Therapy Program utilizing psychodrama, family of origin work, and intensive group therapy. While I learned much about myself and my continued work in therapy, the primary tool that I took with me was the importance of PLAY! The little kid in me needs play. We all have a ‘little kid’ in us that needs to be taken care of, stay safe, and have fun through play.
I was meeting with a boy who I’ll call Robert for our seventh session. Robert had been in wilderness for seven weeks and in his first few weeks was often tearful, talked openly of his depression, his past suicidal actions and thoughts, and his fear of how he would manage these struggles when he returned home. In those first weeks Robert had made great progress in his understanding of his depression and how to better manage it, yet he held very firmly to his past friends and desire to continue to smoke weed.
In my work within Evoke, I like highlighting students strengths to help uncover their values. Then examining those values within the wilderness setting and helping students to understand how those values impact their life in a healthy manner.
In 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.