In 2003, I became a field instructor at Entrada. I could not have predicted that I would spend the next decade living in Southern Utah and working at the same company, first as an assistant therapist and then as a primary therapist. The truth is that I fell in love with the work and the company. On a weekly basis I had the honor of witnessing profound transformations for young people who initially showed up feeling angry, sad, depressed, anxious, hopeless and the list goes on. I had the privilege of sitting under the stars by a warm fire listening to people courageously tell their story and start to find healing. It often did not feel like work.
Viewing entries tagged with 'communication'
It has been over twenty-two years since I first began working as a wilderness therapist. While the spirit and dedication of practitioners remains the foundation for quality wilderness-based therapy, many things have changed in that time: family support services, clinical sophistication, whole health curriculum, and a dedication to outcome research. Twenty years ago, when we began on our own adventure to establish the new standard in wilderness therapy, we knew that many would follow suit. We often stated, what makes our program great is not what we did yesterday, but what we are willing to imagine for tomorrow. At Evoke, one of our founding principles is our commitment to continually innovate where we see a need.
I was once asked “How long does it take to understand the kind of childhood one has endured?” While this understanding comes at a different pace and with more or less clarity at times, one can hear the messages of a childhood by learning to hear our inner voices. The dialogue of self doubt; the justifications; the apologies; the “I hope you don’t think I am whining…” –all these offer glimpses into the spoken and unspoken messages of one’s childhood. The sometimes critical inner-voice can be recognized not just by listening to the negative thoughts, but also by listening to the qualifying comments. “I know this may sound selfish, but…” or “I don’t want this to seem…”
The “3 Circles Exercise” illustrates a communication tool that can be used with any relationship, whether it is between parent and child, partners, friends, or coworkers. It is a template that can aid in clarifying boundaries, mediating conflictual relationships, and managing codependence. In the illustration, there are three different circles, “My Circle,” the “Relationship Circle,” and the “Other’s Circle.” And in each, there are specific responsibilities.
At Evoke, we practice family communication through letter writing. One of the reasons we do this is the obvious lack of technology that our participants have in the wilderness – they are free of the usual convenience of texting, messaging, emailing and social media. Instead, they are left with pen and paper, and therefore, are only able to communicate with their loved ones through handwritten letters. Because of this, families have to respond through letter writing as well.
While facilitating family intensives at Evoke Therapy Programs, I ask each family member what they would like to gain from the 4-day workshop. They almost always say the same thing. They want to walk away with tools for a new way of communicating. While I know that not all of our relationship problems can be solved with communication tools, I find that there are some simple skills, which, if followed, begin to change the way we think and relate to others.
During my son’s time in Wilderness Therapy, my wife and I were asked to come for a day visit. The goal was nebulous, but I assumed it was simply to have some time to connect and to possibly provide his therapist with some information for future family therapy work. We made our trip out to the field area—only getting lost twice—and finally arrived at the boy's group. Our reunion was tender and tearful. The simple way we used to describe the therapy to our youngest child, Isabella, was that Jake “was in the mountains, learning how to be happy.” It had been 8 weeks since we had last seen Jake, and after hugs and greetings, we sat down to learn about how and what he was doing. Although I had served hundreds of families as a Wilderness Therapist, I had never quite experienced the kind of joy I felt from seeing all this new growth and insight in my son.
The relationship between communication, connection and self-worth
I had the wonderful experience of being trained in Marriage and Family Therapy [MFT] at Loma Linda University. Part of that training included observation from a one-way mirror or reviewing video recordings of my therapy sessions with professors and supervisors. Often, my professor and I would watch clients on the video recordings addressing a variety of complaints and life problems, and my professor would pause the tape and ask me what I saw. In peeling back the layers, I always seemed to arrive at the conclusion that the origin of their struggles stemmed from poor or low self-esteem. He would follow with this challenge: “How do you raise esteem in a client?” His idea was that a relationship with an unconditional source, such as God, was the key. The question about how to engender self-esteem in others and especially in our children has been at the forefront of my mind ever since.