BACK 2 Self | BACK 2 Family | BACK 2 Purpose
by McKay Deveraux, MSW, LCSW
Rollo May was an American psychological theorist that articulated the need for humans to be in connection with three things: Self, Others and Environment. Disconnection within these areas can inhibit our ability to process our lived experiences in healthy and adaptive ways.
Pause to consider Central Park for a moment. Why would the most valuable real estate on earth be preserved for trees and bushes instead of businesses and apartments? Because even in the concrete jungle of New York, we see that connection with the sights, sounds, smells and essence of nature is more valuable than the next skyscraper. Wilderness therapy provides a safe place where youth can find peace within themselves as they are surrounded by the serenity of nature. Connecting with nature can look like many things at Outback. It can come in the form of a sunrise viewed while high on a mountain peak, where they see a broader perspective on life. Or the moment of ignition where they create their first fire by friction and feel an overwhelming boost of confidence and pride as they sit next to a fire THEY made. Wilderness therapy provides an incredible setting to connect with the natural world and create a base level for other connecting experiences.
The silence and stillness of the wilderness lends a unique opportunity for teens to get to know themselves. Who are they without their music, makeup and friends? What thoughts and feelings have they been avoiding without the ever-present distractions of social media, Netflix and Youtube? Their journey in the wilderness provides the space for them to become intimately connected with themselves; their true selves. This connection can be uncomfortable at first as they discover that they may not know or even enjoy who they are. But through the skillful guidance from staff providing a reflective mirror into their greatness within and a safe place to sit with their emotions, the discomfort soon transitions into acceptance and then progression.
The realization for outBACK teens is that they are the common denominators of their own lives. This realization is both empowering and terrifying. Understanding where they end and others begin brings a sense of relief and responsibility as they practice building healthy connections with others. Learning to repair, rebuild and reinforce their relationships becomes a pivotal role in their healing while in outBACK. They begin to understand that practice may not make perfect, but it does make better, and that our acceptance of another’s imperfections will foster their acceptance of ours. The family work facilitated at outBACK provides the training wheels for this reparative path.
Rollo May’s existential ideas align beautifully with outBACK’s approach to facilitate the re-connection our clients make with themselves, with others and with nature.
McKay Deveraux, MSW, LCSW