What happens in wilderness therapy doesn’t just stay at wilderness therapy anymore. The new podcast Skylights, from a bunch of (surprise) wilderness therapists, expands on that concept. Over 18 episodes, the folks at Open Sky Wilderness Therapy in Durango, Colorado, will dig into a range of current social issues and outdoor-oriented solutions, like advice for helicopter parents about how to let their kids struggle.
Open Sky offers therapeutic nature-based programs mostly for young adults and families. In each episode of the podcast, a different staffer from Open Sky talks about topics like motivation or gender identity. Host Emily Fernandes, the cofounder and executive director of Open Sky, talked to Outside about how the show shares wilderness therapy with people who can’t be out there with them, and why the lessons of resilience that being in nature teaches can translate to just about anyone.
On translating their work into a podcast: I would say wilderness therapy generally is all about connection, and the learning and growth that takes place out there happens through relationships. Often those connections and conversations are happening around a fire or while looking at an expansive vista. I love the format of the podcast, because it’s intimate. It’s almost like the listener is joining in around the metaphorical fire.
On who might benefit from the show: It’s a hard time to be a young person in this society, and it’s a hard time to be a parent. More and more people need what we can offer in the wilderness, and the podcast enables us to reach more people and share our approach. We wanted to build a community network that ripples beyond the community base. Hopefully it gives a glimpse into the window of what wilderness therapy is all about. It’s also a way for alumni stay connected and for prospectives to listen and learn.
On the ideas they cover: We’re tapping into our staff’s areas of expertise. It’s a format for people to highlight their passions and specialties. For Morgan Seymour, who did episode one [“Game Changer: Utilizing Wilderness Therapy to Treat Adolescent Gaming Disorder”], gaming is what she loves talking about. We have an episode about parenting and preparing your child for the road that addresses the ways snowplow parents are clearing the obstacles for their children, and how that’s not necessarily helpful. We have some guided meditations. We’re also going to cover things like connection and isolation in the age of technology and self-harm. I think people are interested and hungry to hear more about wilderness therapy. It’s always been powerful, and it’s even more so in this day and age, when so many people are spending time indoors and on their screens.
On why wilderness therapy feels so relevant right now: The concept of a rite of passage in the wilderness is part of so many cultures. Our Western culture has gotten away from it, but there’s a sense of independence and competence that comes from that environment that builds resilience. Wilderness itself is inherently a powerful place to heal and a powerful place to the nervous system. There’s the connection to something bigger that happens when you’re in nature. It’s the wilderness itself, and the experience of everyday living, like cooking food, building shelter, and carrying a backpack, that you have to take on.
On the goals of the podcast: My hope is that people can have an experience akin to what happens in wilderness therapy while listening to the podcast, even if it’s just driving in their car and looking at the view in a different way or listening to the podcast while they’re on a run or walk. It’s a mindfulness practice in and of itself to listen and to pay attention, and I think people are craving that.