Have You Ever Wondered What An Intensive Is?

Posted by Claire Mattison, LPC, M.Ed., Clinical Director of Evoke Summit Lodge Intensives on November 05, 2018

ClaireMattison 3 1Intensive. Isn’t that a funny word? Therapeutic intensive. It's kind of scary sounding. And still unclear in what it actually means. Right? When I am asked what I do for a living, and my response is “I am a therapist. I run therapeutic intensives”, the responses are awesome. I typically get, “Woah. I need one of those,” “Oh no! Don’t diagnose me!”, or complete blank confusion. So, regardless of your response, here I am to share what I so passionately call my career!

First, let me tell you a little bit of my background and how I ended up spending a lot of time in Park City, Utah. I am a born and raised Southerner (hey Y'all), bred into a family full of addiction, trauma, loss, and eventually…healing. Gratefully, by the age of 16, I was dropped off at a therapy appointment. I began my journey of learning that therapy was normal, cool, and useful. I began to experience the vulnerability of human emotion, learning that an emotional response wasn’t “bad” or “wrong,” it was just me. I learned that although possibly painful, healing isn’t actually risky or scary. It is brave. PS, I didn’t have some grand spiritual awakening at 16, the door was just opened for me. You know why? Because my parents began their own journey of healing. They didn’t parent perfectly, they parented vulnerably, openly, and resiliently. Eventually, I chose a career path of therapist which was no surprise after my exposure to the industry. Let’s keep in mind that I didn’t choose this path because I am a Mother Teresa like figure wanting to endlessly help others; rather, I am constantly curious about the human condition, and I wholeheartedly believe that we are all worthy beings, capable of joyous, full, and free lives. Our path to joyous, full, and free, however, is not an easy fix coming from a self-help book, or a trip to the Bahamas. Our path is constant… up, down, in between. My hope as a therapist is to simply spark, or nurture the existing spark, of men and women on their own personal journey. It is an honor to witness a story, and the most beautiful allowance of stories to unfold can be found in a therapeutic intensive.

Last fall I received a call from Brad Reedy inviting me to co-facilitate one of Evoke’s intensives (Finding You). Without hesitation, I jumped in. It was that simple - I trusted Evoke. I trusted Brad. And I unconditionally trust and believe in the process of experiential therapy to heal us. So, let’s break down this intensive gig and all the terms that are thrown in there with it (psychodrama, experiential, etc.) Experiential therapy is an action-oriented process, engaging activities such as role plays, art, acting, and music to guide the process. It feels different than talk therapy - it reaches to places in which we have no language center. To describe it in a word: powerful. It’s the feedback I get the most - “that was powerful.” Hence, the intensive part of things. Contrary to therapeutic, which is synonymous with healing, curative, beneficial, and restorative (doesn’t that make you want to take a big ol’ deep breath?!), our synonyms for intensive are thorough, rigorous, exhaustive. Why the dichotomy? Simply put, I think we need both. Therapy isn’t easy - change takes work. Growth is hard - but courageous. Paradox is all over the process of healing.

Without giving too much away, I think it’s important to understand how it looks to spend a day in an intensive. Typically, coffee will be ready by 7 am for our early risers and breakfasts served at 8:15. We aim to serve nutrient-dense foods that will help nourish your body as you do intense therapy. It is important! Meditation is next (it is short, don’t worry); followed by a full day of group process! Our group process will likely include using art or music to identify your goals for the week(end). Experiential therapy taps into our deepest selves; a place where logic and language cannot touch. So you might be asked to express yourself in a different way than you are used to. Psychodrama is our main vehicle to healing in this process; which in its simplest terms means using role-playing and props to recreate a painful or difficult part of life. Readdressing our pain allows us to readdress our response - to feel heard and validated, in areas where we likely weren’t heard or validated before. And we are there with you through the whole piece. After a day full of group work, we end with something more light-hearted such as an optional hike, games, movies, and overall peaceful connection. We are so connected in this world via our phones and tablets, it is serene to just BE in the mountains, enjoying a quiet meal. A sunset. Watching the moose walk by. Your hard work will be offset by plenty of moments to recharge and replenish.

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My hope is to soften the idea of therapeutic intensive for you and to encourage your spark of healing. Healing is simply to know you and love you. Mr. Roger’s wasn’t lying to us when he spoke the wise words, “Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are, gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.” I encourage you to show up just as you are. You will be met with full acceptance.

Our intensives are 4-days long and are facilitated year round. If you have any questions, I encourage you to reach out to me via email (claire@evoketherapy.com). I will happily respond!

Additional Resources: Click here for an article on Psychodrama


I was fortunate enough to have Claire run an intensive I participated in last June. While I had been mulling over the idea of attending a Finding You and knew I had some work of my own to do, I had never been to anything like this before. I felt uncertain. Nervous. But I decided to simply trust my gut that got me there. Without a doubt, this has been (and continues to be) an extraordinarily transformative process for me. I could not have anticipated what I would get out of the psychodramas. I did not expect that I would continue months later to recognize how nuggets from that four-day would connect to my life today. I did not anticipate the depth of which I would connect to the others in our group. We still keep in touch and support each other. The peacefulness I felt as I left after days of disconnection from the outside world I crave to recreate. And a definite surprising bonus was that Alex's food was so phenomenal!! I cannot thank Claire, Emma and Alex enough for being such loving, gentle and knowing guides, and I am grateful for my fellow attendees all who allowed me to hear and feel myself in ways I had not previously. Thank you :)

Posted by Marlo Shumway

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