If you were to describe yourself at work as a force of nature, what would you be? A still mountain. A flowing steam. A tornado! How about at home or leisure? My wife says I am like a Fire at home - like a fireplace to give warmth and love, sometimes a firecracker to give fun and excitement, and sometimes an engine for the train.
It was a perfect spring evening as we sat around the glowing campfire. We welcomed the occasional wisps of cold, memories of winter’s frozen march, as the days grew longer under the sun’s gaze. It would not be long before the stubborn sunburnt evenings reminded us to be more grateful for a night like tonight.
“Wilderness? What’s wilderness therapy?” When telling people where I work I frequently get this question. After explaining they often follow up with, “Wow, that sounds amazing!”
You’re in crisis. You have done all you can at home. Your child is in danger. She has become unresponsive to your requests to set limits or talk. You know you need help, but the school counselor and your family therapist don’t seem to have any answers. You check the internet and find there are schools and programs for “at-risk” adolescents. The websites talk about caring therapy, creative milieu and residential treatment. You come across references to an Educational Consultant. The title seems unclear. You wonder if these professionals work with children suffering from learning differences or with aspirations to get into an Ivy League school.
This is the problem. The mainstream philosophy used in addiction and mental health rehabilitation can best be described using the following story: A family goes for a drive and gets into a severe car accident. The paramedics arrive at the scene...and only the driver gets taken to the hospital for treatment. In our scenario, the "driver" is the addict. The rest of the family is left at the scene of the accident: left with their pain, their fear, their rage, their hopes and their dreams. They are just as affected, and in many ways just as responsible, but only the addict gets whisked off for help.
For many years my passion has been mentoring family members of loved ones struggling with eating disorders, mental illness and substance misuse. I help them to develop some of the skills necessary to get the best return on their emotional and financial investment, whether their loved one is in pre-hab, some kind of treatment or post-hab. I’m also a potential consumer of the very services that I work around as I’ve been a parent in training of two girls for ten years now. Believe me I’m in this with you, all the way! Since the day my wife Robyn told me we were pregnant I’ve read a lot of parenting books and I’m even writing one myself about the amazing caregivers who have come into my life and allowed me to support them through difficult, confusing and joyful times. From my unique vantage point, I have narrowed things down to eight very important parenting tips.
It was the summer of 2003, and I was working as a travel guide before coming to Evoke. We were in the middle of the Peruvian Andes, on the ancient path called the Inca Trail. This trail leads to Macchu Picchu. After my group and I conquered the first of three passes and while the porters and cook were getting lunch ready, I noticed that one of the group members and one of the two local guides were missing, although I continued hiking up the mountain as I knew Arturo, one of the local guides was hiking last on the file, swiping for the group. I wasn’t concerned as this happens frequently since clients were able to hike at their own pace. After a few minutes lunch was ready, but Ashley and Arturo were still nowhere to be found. At that point I had a feeling that something was not right. Ashley had shown to be in pretty decent shape, and had exhibited no signs of altitude sickness prior to the start of the trek to Macchu Picchu, but I was worried. I asked Miguel, the lead local guide, to start lunch with the group and I grabbed my backpack and started descending the mountain to find Ashley. After about 30 minutes of half-jogging back the way we had come, I found them. Ashley was sitting off the trail, on a rock with her head down. Immediately I asked Arturo if everything was ok and he nodded yes, but whispered to that me she had shut down and didn’t want to talk. I asked him to head back to the group and I sat by Ashley’s side. At first, I thought she wasn’t feeling well so I wanted to make sure she was alright physically; I asked if she was drinking enough water and whether or not she had a headache. I followed with all the necessary question to make sure she wasn’t sick or in need of medical attention. She answered all my questions and followed by a loud exclamation of “This is stupid, I want to go home and I suck at everything I do!” It was an awkward moment following her unexpected outburst, and my reaction was to stay quiet for about a minute, not knowing what to say. After my silence, I proceeded to say “You are fine, you can do it, it’s tough but you can do it.” I then told her “We have to keep going because the group is waiting for us.” Ashley then proceeded to burst into tears. Again, I was caught off guard. I knew Ashley, at least that is what I thought back then; she was one of the quietest members of the group during conversations over meals or on the buses, and she always seemed to offer a soft smile back when addressed directly.
As a former wilderness therapy guide, I have seen firsthand the power of wilderness to transform and empower clients and families. I often marveled at the transformation of students from the day that they enter the wilderness, guarded and hurting, to the strong, sun-kissed and beaming people who graduated with a light in their eyes. We watched these students pile into cars and drive off into the rest of their lives – hopeful for their futures and the gifts they would bring to the world.
My mind is filled with pleasant recollections of my time spent in Salt Lake in this very unique conference. The atmosphere created by the conference hosts felt alive with learning, I enjoyed going to other’s presentations as much as presenting myself.
Evoke Field Staff is Awarded "Excellence in Service Award" At The Southwest Regional NATSAP Conference
As the Field Director, I oversee the development and work of Field Instructors at Evoke at Entrada. Because I spent two years in the field as an instructor myself, I understand how difficult it can be to explain how much goes into the job and the level of dedication it takes. Field Instructors play one of the most important parts in the treatment of our clients and their work is difficult to describe and can go unrecognized outside of our company. Because of this, we jumped on the recent opportunity to nominate Cara Dunn to be recognized with the Excellence in Service award presented by National Therapeutic Schools and Programs at their Southwest Regional Conference held in Saint George, Utah. It came as no surprise that she was selected as the winner.