At Outback Therapeutic Expeditions, our highly trained staff is dedicated to improving the lives of troubled teens and their families. Your child’s safety is our top priority. In order to ensure their safety, each staff member has passed an extensive background check and has successfully completed training in first aid, CPR, outdoor living skills, and the industry-leading Outback Training Program. The Outback Therapeutic Expeditions staff also participates in weekly service training. At Outback, we maintain a two-on-one practice, never allowing one of our troubled teens to be alone with a staff member.
I love working with boys struggling with substance abuse. Having worked with murdering drug dealers in the prison system, I feel comfortable teaching a kid that is using heroin regularly or a kid that is smoking low grade marijuana on the weekends. Depending on the child’s personality, I like using a mixture of the traditional 12 step approach and the 7 Challenges model. But beyond any clinical footwork, the majority of what I do is help kids that are locked in a place of denial and blame move towards a state of acceptance and change.
Most troubled teens need to push against the proverbial fence to test its strength and make sure it will keep them safe. I like working with the type of kid that runs full speed into the fence because they’re searching so desperately for loving boundaries that can keep them safe. As a combat veteran, I’m not easily intimidated by angry teenagers. I’m a direct person — it doesn’t bother me when a kid tells me where to go and how to get there. I’ve had a lot of success helping these kids turn opposition into commitment, dedication and resilience. My favorite part of being a therapist is designing hands-on interventions that invite teens into powerful and emotional spaces of change.
I’ve heard that therapists tend to treat the type of client they most resemble. I love the type of kid I work with — when you look beyond their external behaviors they are adventurous, dedicated, and full of passion.
I am the father of 3 daughters ranging from 4 months to 9 years. My favorite thing to do is spend time with them and my wonderful wife. We love to go sledding and ice skating in the winter, and hiking and swimming in the summer. I love using my hands and creative energy to make things. I’ve made wooden spoons, willow baskets, drums, and bows and arrows, but I also like to do home renovation projects like laying tile, painting and doing electrical work. My wife and I were both Outback staff members when we met, and we enjoy brainstorming about work-related topics. I used to be an avid rock and ice climber, but I eventually discovered the meaning of middle age once we were married and had children. My future goals are to begin running Tough Mudders and get my girls into climbing and mountain biking.
I start off working hard to gain a fast connection with people. People want to know that you care about them and you understand. Part of this process of therapeutic alliance involves finding where you can agree on the direction of treatment. Therapeutic alliance is one of the highest correlated factors for treatment success that is backed by research. It is easy to say and harder to achieve. So I make it a focus since I know that I have small window in which to achieve it. As that relationship is forming in those first couple of sessions I begin to find where I can challenge and invite perspective changes. At that point those two processes become a feedback loop with alliance needing maintained and the inviting of change being a part of that relationship. All of this is framed and driven by a core understanding of skill’s oriented treatment vs motivation/insight oriented treatment. Examples of skills would include, emotion regulation, perspective, executive functioning (Manage time and attention (perseverance) Switch Focus (flexibility) Plan and Organize (initiate) Curb inappropriate speech or behavior (inhibition) Integrate past experience with present action (metacognition). Expected too, and yet not able to use life experience to modify behaviors), etc… When I enter the relationship with the skills perspective it allows for an opening. The opening is that the individual doesn’t feel pressure from me to change. Instead they experience a hope from me that over time with lots of practice and a different mindset things can get better. The strategic part of my approach comes in when we realize that the individuals I work with have been engaged in negative self protection for a long time. Knocking on the front door is not an option. I have to shift, maneuver, bob, weave, duck, wait, engage, back off, listen, approach, slow down, speed up, engaged, disengage, reflect, challenge, validate, be firm, allow for escape, invite, etc… all at the right times and in the right ways to help someone begin to consider that change is safe. Then I have to do all of those same things to help implement a sustainable change process. Then I have to do all of those same things to help them sustain that implemented process. Then I have to do all of those same things to give that process over to them completely. And lastly, this process allows for a wonderful assessment of who they really are and what they need for their future. I do not rest until we find a sound understanding of who this wonderful person is!
I also love helping parents make this shift and to see things from this new perspective. For parents it is the shift to relationship first, and a change in perspective for them. This opens them up to learn to trust their instincts again as parents from this new framework. It has been difficult for them as parents because they feel like they are to blame and they are trying to find that one thing that is going to change things. So, that blame/fix framework combined with their child’s unmanageable behavior leads to family trauma, which necessitates family healing.
I love running. I have completed 11 marathons. I enjoy all things outdoors but most of all hiking. My favorite hike was the Trans-Zion national park hike I did with my son his senior year in high school. Growing up my father and uncles played the guitar. I have many memories sitting around the campfire singing songs with them playing. I realized several years ago that no one had learned to play the guitar in my generation and the tradition might be lost so I self-taught how to strum and play the songs that my father played. I love spending time with my family. I am married with four children. My son is my oldest and he has graduated from High school and I have 3 daughters. They are the joy in my life and I love watching them learn, struggle, play and grow. Lastly I love traveling. More specifically I love traveling to tropical places.
I have a great appreciation for the role of the student and the parent. The process of change is difficult and requires the student to really get out of his or her comfort zone. Change takes a lot of courage. I’m passionate about helping a student move from a shame-based view of self to learning to forgive and love themselves. I believe that once a student can love and forgive his- or herself, this love and forgiveness starts to spread to parents and others in their lives. I also love to see a student move from being powerfully destructive at home to becoming powerfully constructive. Our students come to us with misdirected power and often learn how to shift this power in a positive direction. These traits are present in the student with substance abuse issues, oppositional issues, anxiety, depression, etc. I love my work. I’m passionate about making a difference in the lives of the students who enter our program.
One of my most powerful tools is my well-grounded self. I know who I am. I’m solid in myself I’m not rattled by the intimidation, fear, and bizarre behavior that others put out there. I work hard to see the world from the perspective of the students and their parents. I am intentional with my work. Through my cognitive understanding, my passionate heart, and my intuitive gut, I’m able to find a balance in work. I have a great deal of experience and I believe I can see patterns quickly. I utilize evidence-based approaches of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, and a Person-Centered and time-honored approach of 12 step. Not every approach works with every student. I’m also a huge fan of Brene Brown and her work. I work hard to link the approach with the needs of each student. One of my greatest passions in therapy is to speak to and from the heart. I have worked in many settings — wilderness is the most therapeutic environment and modality I know.
I love my family. I work hard to find a balance of love, boundary, responsibility, and play. I am married to an amazing woman and together we are raising 4 wonderful kids. I am in my element when we are together on an adventure. I enjoy running, rock climbing, mountain biking, and spending time in water. I love mountains, islands, and endurance sports. My greatest value is compassion. Two of my most spiritual moments were swimming with humpback whales in Tonga and riding a horse up the steep hills in Costa Rica.
Having a background in Therapeutic Recreation has led to a natural fit for me with the Wilderness therapy model. Allowing for and encouraging a child to venture forth and to be activated both physically and mentally allows them to open up and be naturally explorative of other options and avenues that present themselves. Letting nature do its good work allows us to gather intel and insight into what that specific child needs. These insights are often about the connection of the roots and meaning to a child’s behaviors and helps me to come alongside where the child is at understanding that behavior is not always rooted in intention; often they are not acting “badly” on purpose. Finding the workaround to each child’s counter-will trigger is something that truly brings me joy as we help them remove this obstacle they have felt was needed in their life.
Therapy is simply helping emotion do its work. The woods allow for a concentrated amount of time with this raw material of emotion and relationship is the context in which this emotion can be expressed. To help students break down how to approach what has been bogging them down, I empower them with some quick hitting successes by identifying skills they can gain mastery over. Once these are in place they are better able to find pathways to insights that will help them further their progress along the path to their growth potential. Through developing and tapping into deeper levels of attachment I am able to help support each child in their emergent process as he/she gains a sense of viability and vitality. This operationalizes the adaptive processes and helps with integrating across contexts.
Parents are a key part of this journey. By the time their child comes to the woods, most parents have tried many other avenues personally and through professionals with little to no progress. This frustration builds as they have often been told time and again “if you would do ___” or “you should’ve ________.” They fall prey to the “What Works” movement that has insisted on providing route answers to all parenting woes, and if those answers didn’t work then you are not doing it correctly. I work to help parents stop feeling dumbed down and look towards rebuilding and recognizing their natural intuition that matches the needs of their child. We work together to constantly reframe and ask what do I SEE instead of what should I DO. By expanding their concept of their child, we are able to reach new levels of their child, we are able to reach new levels of understanding to support their child through their growth journey.
I love to be constantly learning and growing. Sometimes that means seeing new places and meeting new people, and sometimes that means learning something new that might even put me outside of my comfort zone. I stay busy playing soccer, riding horses, running (half-marathons primarily but have signed up for yet a third round of torture with marathon #3), hiking, playing piano & guitar, camping, canyoneering, rock climbing, snowboarding, building things, and anything else that will get me out and about with my dog Teton. Family is very important to me and I spend a lot of time with all 10 of the very young children in my life ranging in age from 2 – 8 years old. They never cease to amaze me and make my world brighter for the role I get to play in their lives.
I deeply value warmth and curiosity in the therapeutic work I do with my teens, and operate under the belief that every student/client/human wants to do well in their life, wants to have meaningful connection, and wants to be understood. My work is also directed by the belief that positive emotions are expressions of needs that we have that are being met, while negative emotions are expressions of unmet needs. Exploring these needs and their complexities with my students and their families, in the context of their home environments and the communities they live in, is engaged through a skills-based approach that allows us to begin developing and practicing skills that allow these needs to be met in healthy ways. I’ve described to my teens before that therapy is not about “feeling better” (e.g. alleviating or removing negative emotions) but learning how to feel better (e.g. practicing awareness and acceptance of the multitude of feelings and thoughts that we are experiencing). With my teens, I take care to frame our work together as work that is never just about them as an individual, but about them as a member of a family unit and of multiple communities. Both my students and their families will be given honesty, respect, and unconditional positive regard in our work together.
I hail from Chicago, so it would be blasphemous if I did not list deep dish pizza as one of my personal interests. Besides eating good food with loved ones, I enjoy taking long walks around my neighborhood in Salt Lake City, and saying “hello” to as many dogs as I can. Surprisingly, I’m not a huge winter sports person (a somewhat blasphemous thing to say, here in Utah), though I do go sledding on occasion, and prefer my outdoors time to be spent hiking or camping. If you find me indoors, I’ll likely be reading a book or graphic novel, playing a video game, or strumming on my ukulele. I love seeking out new and novel experiences, engaging in story-telling and listening to stories, and learning from folks of all ages.
DOGS IN L.I.F.E.
My love and appreciation for the power of wilderness began in 1998 during my first backpacking course through the Wilderness Education Association. The stillness and calming effects of time spent outside and working with a group of humans who relied and encouraged one another made a lasting impression that ultimately led me to where I am today. My opportunities as a direct care staff in wilderness and residential settings, coupled with leadership roles in human resources, programming, marketing, and admissions departments in private pay and non-profit sectors, have allowed me to gain a wealth of experience and enhanced my pursuit for interconnection.
Throughout my career, my personal approach has been shaped by my fascination of human behavior, the extraordinary capacity of human connections, and the courageous journeys individuals embark upon to dig deep, lean in, and tap into their full potential. My hope is to create platforms and opportunities that invite people to identify their own values in order to discover their purpose and meaning, acknowledge their authentic self, and become agents of change.
I hold a vested interested in the support and advocacy of individuals who fall within marginalized and vulnerable populations. What rests within my core is an insatiable passion for the advocacy of female empowerment and multicultural awareness initiatives, which has led me to facilitating workshops, presentations, panel discussions, and process groups centering on such issues. I am a lover of arts, specifically of musicals and poetry slams, given the incredible way it can take us out of our day-to-day routines and foster the wonders of unlimited possibilities through imagination and play. My favorite personal interest would have to be my loved ones. No matter the distance, age, or length of relationship, they continue to push me to grow, to think critically and challenge status quo, and to celebrate all the parts of me that make me who I am.
I have had the privilege of being in a family structure that loves unconditionally, holds strong boundaries, teaches work ethic and integrity, and embraces the uniqueness of each person. As I began looking at wilderness programs, the family component at Outback immediately spoke to my heart. A fundamental belief at Outback is that the success of the student is intricately and deeply connected to the health of the family system. While working with students as a Primary Therapist at Outback, I helped them work through the process of engagement, healing, reconnecting, and growing. My initial approach was to see the student for who they were: what was great about them. Our students all have greatness and I worked to help them see that their behaviors did not define them. As we pulled apart maladaptive behaviors from the individual, I helped students become actively engaged in their own therapeutic process. When students are engaged, we can begin the work of healing for them and their family as they review past experiences and begin to learn a healthy manner of handling their clinical challenges. As the healing continues, reconnection of the family begins. I firmly believe that my experience as a Primary Therapist, Program Director and Family Therapist have all provided me with a unique and well-rounded understanding of how to serve as a grounding support system for parents and family members throughout the admissions process.
I am an East Coast native and will always cherish my roots. I make it back to Philly multiple times a year and I have yet to lose my accent even after being in Utah for years. While my roots are my family back east, my soul is in the mountains. I came to Utah for two reasons: wilderness therapy and the mountains. There is a peace that fills my heart as I look to the mountains each morning. I am an outdoor enthusiast with skiing, mountain biking, and hiking as some of my favorite activities. I would rather be camping in a remote area than wander in the city. I also enjoy adrenaline sports and have enjoyed such adventures as sky-diving, hang-gliding, white water rapids, and bungee jumping. Along with a sense of adventure, I have a deep need to explore the world and love to travel. I have made my way to Europe, Asia, and all over the USA. I have found that my sense of adventure, my love of the outdoors, and my deep connection with my family and roots has helped me form strong connections with my students.