Awakening Moments: A Change of Heart

Wilderness therapy backpacking trip in Utah.A new male student arrived in my group one day and spent the first few days being emotionally distant and behaviorally resistant.  No matter how engaging his staff were, he seemed committed to hating Outback and his parents for sending him here.  We asked him to play a game, and at first he refused stating, “I don’t want to play one of your stupid games”.  So we strategically positioned the game we were playing to be in close proximity to him in hopes that he would eventually be enticed into playing.  It didn’t take long for this athletic young man to join in the game.  Even still, he remained committed to not having any fun.

He later spoke about how he felt if he had fun while at Outback, that his parents would “win”.  So, his face remained sullen and his interactions with others continued to be curt.  But after a while of playing this physical game, he lost himself in play and began letting in the fun and friendship.  At one point, just after he scored a goal, he turned around and threw his fist in the air as he held a broad smile on his face.  When he realized that his commitment to remain distressed about being placed in a wilderness program had been broken, he immediately brushed the smile off his face, lowered his arm and tried convincing himself and others that he was not having any fun.  Over the next few weeks, his commitment to anger faded, and this young boy became a positive force in his group and a great mentor for newer students feeling the same emotions he once felt.


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