I had the privilege of being an observer when I went for an overnight with the SPARK group last week. Not new to wilderness therapy, but new to seeing how all the pieces come together: the kids, the staff, the therapy, the families, the woods. Some anxiety rippled through the group with two students graduating, parents visiting to celebrate, other kids acutely aware that they weren’t, and staff ready to handle whatever emerged from the dynamic. As anticipated, the students remaining struggled, expressing anger and irritation as the mask for their sadness, grappling with big feelings even in this container of big natural space. I watched. I watched the staff tune in and move closer, ready but holding space for those feelings. I watched them reach out and speak, from their hearts and their skill, setting boundaries for safety while communicating authenticity and compassion. They rode the wave with the kids, and it settled.
… what matters about family is replicated and utilized to help make the true families stronger, better, healthier.
It’s no one’s true family, and there is no illusion about it. But for a brief period of time, what matters about family is replicated and utilized to help make the true families stronger, better, healthier.
Later in the evening, they brought it back to the group to create the type of group they wanted, empowered them and supported them in their own process. Students that hours before could not put any words to their emotions were able to “bust a fab” and genuinely share, with each other and with staff, about what hurt and why, what they can do moving forward, and what help they needed to do it. The energy shifted to an easy sense of play and “chill time” that held in it the intimacy of a group of people that have been through struggle and emerged, the intimacy of a family that knows it is safe and loved.
To help kids learn how they fit and to become conscious of their role and influence, their strengths, their challenges, and their needs for support. I could learn everything there is to know about the program, the logistics, the curriculum, on and on and on … but it was the intimacy, the settling, the vulnerability, the connection, that all made it make sense in the gut and the heart space.