Equinox Counseling Uses 2-5 Day Wilderness Therapy Intensives as One Component of Treatment
Equinox Counseling & Wellness, located in Glendale, Colorado, incorporates the use of expert-led wilderness therapy intensives that are action and adventure-oriented as a necessary complement to traditional therapies for clients. Equinox clients are youth, ages 10 to 17, and young adults, ages 18 to 28, with issues related to anxiety, depression, suicidality, and mood disorders often in combination with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADD/ADHD, and Executive Function Disorder. Equinox recognizes that the lasting results of wilderness therapy are much more likely to occur when youth remain connected with their families, schools, and social environments. Subsequently, Equinox wilderness experientials are intentional and purposefully shorter in length — usually 2-5 days and are scheduled with a frequency that supports longer-term therapeutic goals. This clinically sophisticated treatment approach focuses on generalization, integration, and sustainability. It is a purposeful approach that focuses on generalizing new skills for coping and functioning. It allows youth and families to learn and integrate these skills into their interpersonal relationships and natural environments resulting in sustained growth and healing. When wilderness therapy interventions occur with these practices in mind, the lasting results of wilderness therapy are more sustainable. Wilderness Therapy is often a critical component in helping teens and young adults overcome complex emotional, behavioral, and psychological health challenges.
Wilderness Therapy intensives at Equinox may include peak ascents, white water rafting, fly-fishing, rock climbing, back-country skiing or mountain biking, and helps individuals gain valuable skills and insight they can utilize in the world around them. Said one 17-year-old client after hiking uphill to ski fresh powder on an Equinox wilderness intensive, “It’s worth working through the discomfort and pain to get to the sweet stuff.” In addition, Equinox uses the benefit of wilderness and adventure therapy for youth and young adults with executive function challenges. Action-based learning and challenging adventure experiences give clients the opportunity to practice concepts that complement what is being learned in individual or family therapy.
Equinox uses Wilderness Therapy as a supportive component versus the sole element of treatment. This intervention is recommended at very specific junctures in a client’s therapeutic plan. Weekend or multi-day programs are specifically developed for clients and their families as one part of a larger treatment plan. One that not only includes outdoor and adventure-based environments, but also milieu therapy, expressive arts, somatic work, and nutrition alongside family and individual counseling.
Prior to any intensive, the Equinox treatment team completes a pre-course process. This process matches the client’s therapeutic goals to an appropriate activity, the right staffing for the experience, choosing the specific activity site, and reviewing site-specific protocols. Equinox requires all treatment staff members be thoroughly trained, and all Equinox clinical staff hold a minimum of current first aid and CPR training. Lead field staff hold a minimum of current Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification and are present on all backcountry outings. Many also hold credentials from certifying organizations such as American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA), the Professional Climbing Guides Institute (PCGI), the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT), and the American Avalanche Institute (AAI). While the Equinox staff to client ratio on wilderness outings is 1:4, recent scrutiny of the troubled-teen industry suggests programs fail to have staff that is fully aware of a child’s diagnosis and treatment plan, field staff who are not trained or credentialed for various outdoor adventure activities, and safety and risk concerns from parents who are placing their children in these programs.
Equinox Counseling and Wellness Center utilizes pre-and post-course processes to ensure a high level of excellence and risk management for client experiences. After each adventure or wilderness experience, the treatment team completes a post-course review and summary of how goals were met, the client’s experience, highlights of the trip, incidents, and what could be improved in the future — and most importantly, how the treatment team activates on specific strategies in their everyday work with youth to ensure optimal transition and practice of skills once back in their community and home setting. Tim Burke, Director of Experiential and Wilderness therapy Officer at Equinox, places the highest emphasis on physical and emotional safety and uses “client choice” at the foundation of every experience with his team. “As an adventurer, I know the inherent value of being in nature and the importance of clinically founded, and thoughtfully guided experiences to safely help clients develop new insights and practical tools for healthy living. Our field and clinical teams take safety very seriously. We don’t do anything with youth, that we wouldn’t do with our own children,” says Burke.
About Equinox Counseling & Wellness Center
Equinox Counseling & Wellness has taken the best components of residential treatment, wilderness therapy, and holistic milieu services—providing youth and families a safe, healing, compassionate treatment experience. Equinox utilizes these modalities to complement what is being learned in the client’s broader treatment plans. Our multi-disciplinary team of clinicians, evaluators, and parent coaches help youth, young adults, and families who are experiencing complex psychiatric, emotional, and behavioral health issues. These issues are often related to anxiety, depression, suicidality, and mood disorders in combination with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADD/ADHD, and Executive Function Disorder. For over 12 years, Equinox has been serving clients in the Denver metro and across the nation. Contact us at 303.861.1916 or visit us online at EquinoxCounseling.com.