Reflections on Empowerment

Posted by Caitlin Tharaldson on March 16, 2015

I was overwhelmed with gratitude and connection to my clients’ empowerment after I walked up to my group this past Tuesday to begin the week’s therapy sessions. With a few new inches of snow on the group, patches of boot deep mud, and a biting chill in the air, a new wintery environment had finally happened after weeks of unseasonable warmth in Evoke at Entrada’s field area. As I arrived, the clients were stocking wood as a part of a service project at the Oasis. Upon approaching the group, I heard outcries of positivity from many of them. Multiple clients yelled out to me, saying, “Caitlin! We hiked so much this week through tons of snow!” and “This week was so hard! We made it!” with smiles on their faces and strength in their voices as they methodically created a woodpile next to the wood-burning stove in the yurt where they sleep.

The presence of empowerment had arrived for my clients. It happened thanks to the recipe of countless hiked miles and unfavorable weather. With the influx of wintery weather, it was an optimal environment for clients to push into discomfort and truly arrive as strong and capable people, all while functioning in a connected community of their peers. In session after session, I heard about the emotional rollercoaster clients felt during this experience. They spoke about how each day, staff would ask them to pack up all of their belongings, clean and pack up the campsite, and begin the slow trudge that is hiking in the winter.  I heard feelings of inadequacy, fear, powerlessness, and frustration communicated, yet they all spoke of “getting through it”.  They communicated how they never thought they could achieve something like this, all while speaking with a tone of excitement and competence. There is such value in getting through the hard experiences, having success, and processing the path that got you there. This experience is something I hope my clients never forget and I hope they use in times of strife and discomfort in life after they complete their path at Evoke. This proved particularly valuable for a client who has struggled with numerous cycles of relapse before coming to Evoke. They spoke about hope because the strength they needed to get through these hikes will be the strength they need when the opportunity for relapse arises in the future. 

As I spoke about the weather shift and numerous hiked miles to my clients’ parents this week, I often heard questions of “Are they ok out there?” and statements like “I’m worried about them hiking in that environment.”  My response is one of empathy for them, yet I communicate how glad I am that their child has the opportunity to get through something hard like this, that they have the chance to experience success after adversity, and that they can experience the empowerment that many of them have not experienced for years.



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