Experience Utah Wilderness Therapy

Our mission is to provide the most engaging and effective treatment program for young adults in the outdoors. Change happens when one feels safe, inspired, and confident to make one’s life their own. We believe it’s our responsibility to create this environment while empowering our clients through open and honest dialogue, and concrete resources.

campfire3As an intentionally small owner-operated company, our program and our company culture are centered around our four core values:

  • Empowerment: We believe that we all possess the power to be the person we want to be and to live the life we want to live. Once we harness our personal power, we can change the world.
  • Passion: There is something that sparks all of us to dream, to wonder, to work, to live. We believe that once we tap into our personal passions, we are better able to articulate what we want to do with our lives, and what impact we want to have on the world.
  • Connection: We believe that life is meaningless without connection to others, to ourselves, to the natural world. We believe that we are strongest when we are connected to a community of friends and family.
  • Character: We believe that one’s character is the foundation of one’s personal legacy. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Follow through on your commitments. Your word is your bond. We believe that every second of every day we are who we are. Both how we treat those we want something from, and how we treat those from whom we have nothing to gain. And how we respond to failure, both our own and others’.

We provide an extraordinary experience to our clients that results in life-long memories, clarity on who they are and who they want to be, better relationships with their families, and tools to create the life they really want.

Safety

climbing8Our primary responsibility is to ensure the physical, emotional, and psychological safety of our clients at all times. Lasting change can only occur when a person is not concerned for their immediate safety. This is why Elements Traverse is not a boot camp, and does not employ any form of deprivation as a means to force compliance. Of all the research we have investigated and performed, the idea of “breaking people down to build them up” has been disproven time and again. This is also why our staff are trained exhaustively and have several redundant forms of communication so that they can always access all the same emergency services that one could find in civilization.

Our field mentors are background-screened and extensively vetted for appropriateness of fit. They are consistently evaluated by supervisors and peers in order to continuously develop themselves as professionals working in Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare. They come from varied backgrounds, but one thing is common amongst all staff who work with our clients: a genuine caring for our clients and the work we do, and a desire to grow in their professional lives as well as their personal lives.

Program Phases

At Elements Traverse, we recognize that no one can force true change on a person, whether by coercion or enticement. We acknowledge that change in behavior alone is not the goal, as behavior can be manipulated and is often not truly internalized. What we do believe is that our clients need consistency and predictability in order to feel safe and understand their environment. Our phase system helps clients track their own progress and gain insight into their own personal growth. It provides our clients with a structure that helps make the process of personal growth feel more concrete and clear.

Acclimation

When clients arrive at Elements they are given time to adjust to their unfamiliar surroundings. This phase is designed to promote trust and prepare clients to participate at a minimal level in the community. During this phase, the client spends time away from the social distractions of the group and has time to begin to let go of the confusion from home and connect with the pace of living in the wilderness.

Clients are assigned a peer mentor and a staff mentor who support them in their physical and emotional acclimation. The new client is given reading and writing assignments that promote reflection on the past and help the client understand and anticipate the process of change.

Exploration

hatview2The purpose of the exploration phase is to promote initial self-awareness and foster therapeutic skills that will be a foundation for ongoing success. During this phase clients receive an intervention letter from their parents. The community becomes a setting to improve consciousness and a setting to practice basic communication and relationship skills.

The client learns to rely on the group for emotional and physical support. The client gains self confidence as he or she struggles to master living in the wilderness. During this phase the therapist, client, and family work together to develop an individualized treatment plan.

Discovery

The discovery phase helps clients move from simple awareness and cooperation towards deeper accountability and initiative. Clients use their new skills to understand the impact their actions have had on themselves and family members.

Assignments are designed to promote a deeper understanding of some of the underlying motives for past behavior and help clients move towards finding healthier ways of coping. The client continues to gain confidence as he or she becomes proficient at living outdoors and less dependent on others for external motivation

Mastery

When clients reach the mastery phase they have progressed from superficial motivation to more active and invested participation. The client takes a step beyond simple accountability and is now working in partnership with his or her peers, staff, therapist and family to complete treatment goals. At this phase clients have devised a method for change and are actively modifying their habits and engaging their environment.

They have gained confidence and self-esteem from mastering the art of living outdoors. Clients have also begun the process of re-evaluating their self image and begin to have a healthier understanding of their individuality. During this phase clients begin to take on a leadership role in the group and actively mentor new clients.

Adventure Programming

scenery5Elements Traverse incorporates Adventure Programming in order to complement our strong therapeutic foundation. We believe adventure programming provides a unique experience for clients during their Utah wilderness therapy experience. The challenge of activities including rock climbing, rappelling, canyoneering, snowshoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, and low ropes courses can provide a host of powerful teaching opportunities. Positive outcomes include increases in self confidence, self-efficacy, problem-solving skills, effective communication, self-awareness, trust, and developing healthy coping strategies.

In keeping to our commitment to provide the highest quality programming, Elements Traverse is aligned with American Mountain Guide Association’s (AMGA) standards and training to facilitate our adventure-based experiences. AMGA is established as an international industry leader in training and certification for climbing and mountaineering.

Adventure Programming offers our clients an alternative view to challenges in life, and how to negotiate them with a sense of empowerment. We believe adventure-based challenges will accelerate the therapeutic process while building confidence to make healthier overall decisions.

Expedition Model

Our clients have long sought distraction as a way to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. That is why we believe that a comprehensive program set in an environment free of outside distractions provides the best space for our clients to come to real understanding about their role in their lives. We believe that is best achieved in a constant expedition model, rather than in a base camp model, where students spend a bulk of their time in transition between the field experience and the base camp experience.

The intrinsic benefit of our expedition model is that all our observation and assessment happens in real time, in the group, rather than in an artificial outpatient-style setting that was designed for the staff’s comfort. Our therapists, our staff, our adventure programming specialist, and our back-up and support are centered around each group, not the other way around.

Our clients own their journey, and the sense of accomplishment they get from being in the wilderness is unparalleled.