Wilderness therapy, as defined by the founders of the Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy Program at Naropa University, is “the conscious incorporation of the natural world into the therapeutic process.” There are many ways to practice by this definition, and it can involve anything from simply acknowledging our connection with nature all the way to embarking on multi-day backcountry adventures. The work I do involves spending longer periods of time outdoors as a way to deepen the therapy process.
Traditionally, the term “wilderness therapy” has referred to extended work in the wilderness with adolescents who are at-risk. I have worked in this way before, and it is a valuable aspect of this field. I am most interested now, however, in bringing people outside as a way to deepen connection to the self and nature, and thereby to deepen connection with others. Wilderness work is also an enormously helpful gateway towards helping people learn to regulate nervous system states that have been negatively affected by past trauma, addictions and dependencies, and chronic somatic symptoms.
Is wilderness therapy right for me?
I may be biased, but I believe that spending time outside is beneficial for everyone. In my experience as a therapist, I have seen therapeutic experiences deepen dramatically in the outdoors. If you are seeking a more intensive therapeutic process, the outdoors may be the perfect venue for your therapy.
Even if you are sure that the therapy process will probably be deep enough on its own, bringing your therapy outdoors can be a wonderful way to add a soothing and resourcing element to your work. Focusing on the sound of the wind, or watching the way the leaves reflect the sunlight, and allowing your system to sync up with a more natural rhythm can automatically provide an experience that is focused on healing, rather than on recycling negative stories and ways of being.
How does it work?
Because the Front Range of Colorado is an amazing place with so much access to the outdoors, there are a lot of options!
Half or Full Day Sessions:
I will ask you to take some time to think about your intention for a longer session outside. Once we discuss your intention, I design a structure for the session that can include ceremony, physical activity such as hiking, movement-based therapy work, and plenty of space for talking and approaching different aspects of what you’re working through. We can meet on Open Space, or in a similar area where there is space to roam, privacy, and a true sense of distance from roads, cars, and other mainstays of society.
Similar to the half or full day sessions, I will ask you to think about your intention for a trip, or what you’d like to get out of it. I’ll also ask you to think about what you’d like to do. Options include backpacking, canoeing, climbing, a rite of passage, or simply staying in one spot. Once I have this information, I design a structure for the trip that includes an entire framework to help you address and work through your intention. Where we go is part of this framework so that the environment can elicit health and healing in regards to the work you’ll be doing.
What about safety?
Safety is always first. I take risk management in the outdoors very seriously and this factors into nearly every decision I make both in planning and when outdoors.
I am a Wilderness First Responder.
I have over 450 days logged as a wilderness guide, wilderness therapist, and educator in wilderness environments.
When planning trips I contract with climbing guides and river guides when necessary. If you have questions about any of the systems or structures I use in regards to safety and risk management I’m happy to discuss these with you.