Employment Lifecycle at a Wilderness Therapy Program
Getting Involved in Wilderness Therapy
As there are fewer wilderness programs in the country, many potential employees often start out working with residential programs before ever hearing about the wilderness side of things. Or they may hear about it during their own outdoor expeditions with friends that work at one of the programs. The idea of combining their love of the outdoors, camping, rock climbing, hiking, and still being able to help teens and young adults develop life skills and healthy coping mechanisms is very appealing to many.
Basics of Working in Wilderness Therapy
Being outdoors is only part of the requirements as the whole reason to be out there is to help teach skills and reinforce therapy. As wilderness programs change settings and activities so frequently, being able to adjust and adapt accordingly is very important. You can’t control certain things in the field like weather so you have to be flexible all while connecting with the youth that struggle in many areas either physically or emotionally. This gives you an opportunity to be vulnerable and demonstrate effective communication and empathy in a way not as frequently seen in normal therapeutic settings. Not everyone that joins has outdoor skills but they are easy to pick up from fellow team members. There is a certain amount of improvisation when out in the field. Wilderness offers many additional areas for learning over traditional settings with teachable moments around every corner whether it is therapeutic techniques, outdoor skills, empathy with the group, or even self-reflection.
“If you come into this work, and you don’t change too, you’re doing it wrong.”
No one is perfect or has all the answers when they first start. That’s why programs like Trails Carolina have weekly staff trainings so that everyone can contribute anything from hard skills to clinical skills. Additionally, they do offsite training to get more in-depth on anything that needs the most focus. These programs are often tight-knit where it is encouraged to communicate with other staff members to get your bearings and find out what does and doesn’t work. Feeling supported and heard is important to any job and As each member learns and grows, so does the rest of the group. There is also humility in this idea because it is important that any organization recognizes that it can grow just as much as its employees. As new team members join, they bring their own training and perspective that might help refine how the program operates or works with different people.
Trails and Growth
Something that Trails Carolina has that other programs might not is a growth manual. This is less of an instruction manual and more of a guide to success. It essentially lays out a roadmap for training and developmental pieces that staff should have at a certain time in their career. Some of it is based on specific training, workshops, books to read, and conversations to have with senior staff members to get the most out of your experience. Trails likes to promote from within so they want to create as much opportunity for growth as possible. Some of the skills in the growth manual are specific to the job but others are meant to have an impact in your greater life so as to help you not only be a good employee but also a well-rounded person such as empathy, trust, and effective communication.
If all this sounds interesting to you, then please contact the staff at Trails Carolina to learn more about open opportunities and see if joining the team is the right choice for you.