Women of SUWS Featured for Women’s History Month
March is Women’s History Month.
Initially, it was just International Women’s Day. Later, it became Women’s History Week. Then in 1987, the entire month served a reminder of the accomplishments of women throughout the years to our culture and society. March provides an opportunity to reflect on trailblazing women, who lead the way for change. This year’s theme is “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” SUWS of the Carolinas is highlighting several women, who are helping to providing healing and promoting hope for the future for the families served at SUWS.
Emily Golding, Field Instructor, discovered her passion for mental health, wilderness, and group therapy during her bachelor’s degree studies in social work at Appalachian State. Out in the field, Emily aims to create a container for growth in which the students feel empowered, challenged, and inspired. She often uses poetry, stories, games, somatic mindfulness, and art as tools to facilitate groups with the students. She also brings Athena, her therapy dog to the field, Emily feels strongly that in-group and connection with others is where the magic happens. Emily created a 6-week mindfulness program for adolescents, and developed camp activities for adolescents on the Autism spectrum. She has also authored and illustrated a children’s book.
Leyla El-Baba is the primary therapist working with the Luna group. She brings to the field her love of the wilderness, exemplified in successfully completing the Pacific Crest Trail. She understands and appreciates how to support her students while they engage in wilderness therapy. Leyla’s clinical focus is transpersonal and humanistic. Her hope in serving teen girls at SUWS is to empower them to discover and learn to use their voice as they connect to their embodied wisdom and become their most authentic self.
As Clinical Director, Erica Thiessen brings to SUWS a wealth of experience working with families in therapeutic settings, and believes nature, community, and play are powerful players in the process of growth and healing. “One thing that I really appreciate about our team is that we are not asking our clients to do anything we are not willing to do ourselves,” said Erica. “Many on the clinical team came to their position through having first worked in the field. We have hiked through the storms, up muddy hills, and feasted on many nights of beans and rice. We value communication, honesty, and the strengths that come with vulnerability. At SUWS, we are willing to both role model as well as put in hard work to provide healing and promoting hope to the adolescents and their families.”
Medical Coordinator Olivia Holbein has always loved the outdoors. She was a field instructor for two years. During this time, she experienced the transformative power of wilderness. Her desire to help others led earning her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Olivia worked on a Trauma Care Unit for several years. She was elated to join SUWS of the Carolinas as the Medical Coordinator because the role combined her passion for the outdoors and helping others. Olivia ensures that students and staff are safe in the woods. Olivia’s energetic therapy dog, Belle, often accompanies her to work. Students enjoy playing with Belle, especially by throwing her sticks.
Later this month, Operations Director Camille Edmonds will celebrate her 10-year anniversary of employment with SUWS. Camille arrived at SUWS with a manufacturing background and a love for the outdoors. She immediately set out to understand how the therapeutic and logistical areas of wilderness therapy operated. Her passion is to support this amazing community by taking care of the operations in the background that keep SUWS operating so field staff and therapists can focus on the students and families. “What struck me the most is that SUWS attracts incredible people at all levels of the organization with so many varied skills, interests, and backgrounds,” said Camille. “Everyone has more compassion and investment in the families we serve, than in any other type of work I have experienced.”
Kelly Dunbar has been working with referring professionals and families as they navigate their way to a SUWS admissions for the past 6-years. Kelly brings over 30 years of professional experience assisting families and students to residential programming. Kelly enjoys her role as Director of Business Development because she believes in the SUWS team and care the team provides to all students and families. Kelly is honored to be among these “women in wilderness” and looks forward to continuing to share the mission and goals of SUWS.
Admission Director Rachel Vandevoort joined the SUWS team in the summer of 2021. Since then, she has been the positive and comforting voice heard on that first admissions call for many of the families served at SUWS. Initially studying business administration in college, Rachel realized she had an interest in social issues and helping others, and changed her major to sociology. She wanted her career to positively impact today’s youth and her work at SUWS is providing healing and promoting hope.
About Suws of the Carolinas
SUWS of the Carolinas and Phoenix Outdoor is a licensed, CARF International-accredited mental health facility, committed to helping families rediscover their strengths and fostering growth for young people. Operating in the Pisgah National Forest outside of Asheville, SUWS delivers wilderness-based therapeutic interventions for 10-17 year old boys and girls with compassion and excellence.