Wilderness is Hard

Posted by Rick Heizer on March 06, 2023

Wilderness Therapy Is Hard

772F724D B13A 4023 B74F FF258AE8F75BParticipants and field guides leave family and friends behind and arrive to what most experience as quite foreign. The wilderness, with just a backpack filled with the basic needs; a tarp and sleeping bag for shelter, clothing layers for warmth and protection, and food. Participants and field guides are camping, cooking on a fire, hiking, and all while living in a small group isolated from the outside world. They are without everyday comforts like a toilet, bed, or cell phone and there are emotional and mental stressors; living outside in the rain, snow and sunshine while being a part of a group, doing chores, sharing your feelings, and participating in individual and group therapy.

Wilderness therapy creates discomfort and challenges individuals in new and meaningful ways. It is these challenges that make it so effective. Wilderness therapy creates a safe, supportive, yet challenging environment that encourages individuals to find their inner truth and teaches them how to express and advocate for their truth. It is a holistic approach, being in nature reduces stress and anxiety, improves sleep, and increases physical activity levels. These physical benefits help individuals feel better about themselves and increase their confidence. With the support of field guides, group members, and therapists, participants learn to address challenges, problem-solve, push their perceived limits, gain new perspectives, creates greater self-confidence and build resilience and grit, essential qualities for anyone seeking to make lasting changes in their lives. As one previous Evoke participant put it,

"I learned that I love myself. I learned that I can do hard things."

Being a wilderness therapy guide is just as challenging. Their job is not providing advice or pointing out mistakes, and it’s not immediately providing solutions to challenges. Their job is much more empowering. A field guide’s job is to see the participants they work with. To create a safe, unbiased space for participants to explore some of their worst innermost thoughts and feelings, without judgement. Sometimes this requires seeing beyond the initial coping mechanisms of deflecting, shutting down or lashing out. This act of truly seeing another is a skill field guides have mastered with empathy and compassion. To sit with a participant in their sadness, sorrow, hurt or discomfort and hold that space for them without trying to fix it or take it away from them. Field guides prioritize the expression and understanding of a participant’s thoughts and feelings. The job is challenging, and the impact is unmeasurable.

“I felt accepted, supported, listened to, and stood up for.” Past Evoke Participant

training 083If you are considering being a wilderness therapy field guide, it is important to know it is hard. And, you will gain confidence to accomplish challenges in your life you never thought you could, similar to how our participants experience this lesson. You will be seen. And you will learn to truly see another. From the countless testimonials and my own personal experiences as a field guide, you will be participating in one of the most transformative and rewarding experiences that clients and you will ever have and will cherish for a lifetime.

Here is what other participants had to say about their experience in Evoke’s program and about our Field Guides:

"Evoke has changed my life. One of the best therapy experiences I’ve ever had."

“Every single staff person we interacted with was supportive, genuinely empathetic, and remarkably competent. Family participation was critical to the success we experienced.”

“The staff were open and honest with clients. I felt comfortable and safe. I love how much Evoke helped me.”

"A life-changing experience that I will hold on to forever."

“There was a huge process of growth. In my time here I've become a lot stronger and have realized that I can be challenged. It was extremely tough at times but seeing that I got through it and worked hard is a big motivation for me. The therapy helped me and my family immensely. We were able to hear each other out. I formed close relationships in the group that I will remember forever. Even though evoke was very scary and draining at times, it feels worth it in the end.”

“The field staff are overall incredible at what they do.”

“Evoke taught me how to love myself, take care of myself, and how to be comfortable with my changing body and gender.”

“Amazing staff. I was taken on a journey I will not forget & made lifelong connections with my groupmates. Hikes were great exercise & incredible; not a single manmade structure in sight. The therapeutic environment was amazing and so was the therapy and the therapeutic assignments were relevant and necessary in helping me through my process at Evoke.”

“You saved my life 4 years ago, I wanted to tell you where I am now and how I'm doing with life.”

“I learned a lot of things at Evoke. I learned how to advocate for myself. I learned how to communicate assertively and in healthy ways. I learned I'm never alone and there's always someone to talk to.

"Evoke was the first place in 14 years I have felt comfortable being myself."

And here are some messages from former field guides:

“This was the best, hardest, most life changing, challenging job I will ever have. I have grown more as a person in the year and I half I worked in the field than I ever imagined. While it is time for me to move onto the next chapter, I will always hold Evoke dear to my heart. The other field Guides I met during my time here will be my friends for life, I’m sure of it- and I know this because half of my shift will probably end up marrying one another. Haha but seriously, I have never encountered a more genuine, caring, supportive, authentic group of humans and I am forever grateful that I stumbled into this strange, beautiful job. If you are considering working in Wilderness Therapy, take the jump- yes, you’ll probably cry often, yes you’ll be uncomfortable, yes it will be hard, but what you gain from the experience is more than worth it!”

“I worked as an Evoke field guide for three years. That time has positively impacted my life in so many ways and I can never express enough gratitude to Evoke for that. I started as a recent college graduate and would never have guessed how much I would learn! I have field guide work to thank for teaching me to be resilient, confident, and capable. While you support participants in learning about themselves, you will also learn a lot about yourself. It was a really tough job and I believe that is what made it so fulfilling. I also had so much fun and have never felt more alive. The people at Evoke really make it an amazing place to work. My supervisors and co-workers were invested in my personal and professional development. This is a great job for anyone that wants to challenge themselves and experience both inner and outer adventures!”

staffhugs“I first came to Evoke as a field guide and figured I would stay 6 months or a year - that was in 2018. When I speak to people about this work, I tell them, you may not enjoy every moment of the job- it’s challenging work and sometimes thankless - but you will experience some amount of personal growth, guaranteed. No single experience has pushed me farther as human to be creative, to be kind, to harness all my strength, and to listen with my whole heart. To be curious, I thought before this experience, was involuntary, now I understand that it is a choice. I learned that we can survive as a single human (in fact we can become quite good at that) , but to thrive we must learn to coexist as a group. The lessons of each day I spent working in the field were invaluable to me in my journey as a person and the learning continues. In my mind, and from my experience, there is no better place to dive into what it means to be human, and maybe more importantly, what it means to be yourself than in the Wilderness. If the experience does not humble you, your reaction to the growth it cultivates surely will.”

“When I came to work for Evoke as a field guide, I was looking for the camaraderie I felt being a college athlete on a team of people working towards a common goal. During the second night of my orientation I knew I had found what I was looking for and I continued to find it each and every week of the two years I spent working as a field guide. I have never grown as much or been challenged as much as when I was a field guide. I will forever be grateful that I found a career and a home at Evoke.”

“There is no other job quite like being a field guide with Evoke and it’s an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime. The role helped to reveal parts of myself that I hadn’t yet discovered, reconnect with parts I had forgotten about and celebrate those I am familiar with. I formed amazing relationships with the people I worked along side and feel honored to have been a part of so many student journey’s too. I often reminisce about my time in the field and if you have the opportunity to explore this wild job, go for it!”



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