Mentors & Mentorships:
So, what exactly is the difference between a wilderness therapist and a mentor? Wilderness therapy mentors are not therapists, instead they operate as front-line staff, building close relationships with students. Mentors essentially train under therapists but still get to work closely with them as they help to implement weekly treatment plans designed for the group of students. Prospective mentors must attend week-long training sessions prior to beginning their mentorship. In order to become a mentor, qualifications typically include holding a high school diploma or equivalent, certifications in first aid and CPR, passing criminal background checks and drug screening. Wilderness mentors are expected to help lead group activities, such as hiking, backpacking, rock climbing and more. Additionally, both students and staff are expected to embrace the wilderness to its full extent. This means learning how to cook on an open fire, saying goodbye to technology and transportation, and even sleeping under tarp shelters. This is why it is so important that mentors are well trained and versed in outdoor skills.
Additionally, some wilderness therapy programs offer opportunities for wilderness mentoring sessions. These sessions typically take place after school or on weekends and last about 2 hours as compared to several weeks, which is typical of many wilderness therapy programs. This is a great option for younger children or adolescents who have difficulty being far away from home for extended periods of time. Wilderness mentoring sessions still offer the same adventurous activities as wilderness therapy programs, and parents are able to actively participate in these sessions. Students participate in outdoor activity for the first 1.5 hours of the session, while the remaining half hour is dedicated to communicating with parents about their goals, concerns, and needs for their child.