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.
My experience working directly with clients in the backcountry in a variety of therapeutic approaches has helped shape and grow my own philosophies. I believe that building a therapeutic alliance with my clients is one of the most important tools to assess and guide each client. While maintaining firm boundaries, I approach each client with patience and strive to always provide compassion regardless of the external behaviors that are presented.
I utilize a variety of modalities that blend easily with wilderness therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solution Focused, Motivational Interviewing. Overall, I will refer to the lessons we have in the wilderness and provide intentional interventions that connect to their life at home. It is in the quiet of the wild and challenge of the environment that clients can find their true power and place in the world. Working with young women in the outdoors has become a great honor of mine and I feel incredibly grateful to witness the empowerment experienced by my clients. I have worked with many young women struggling with past trauma, anxiety, depression, and attachment issues. I believe the healing power of the wilderness can touch the places of our heart and soul that may seem unreachable. I am invested in furthering research in the field of adventure/wilderness therapy and will continually develop a research-informed practice.
I love exploring our world and traveling to places that teach me, stretch my faith, and grow my gratitude. This includes canoeing, backpacking, and getting my hands dirty with projects that keep me close to the natural world. All of these things I enjoy doing with my wonderful family and friends who I am very blessed to have in my life that makes everyday worthwhile.
For more than a decade I have helped adolescents and their families find solutions in times of crisis. I started my wilderness career in the Adirondacks where I would help new students acclimate into the program by hiking them to their groups in the field and often spending the night assisting in their transition. As Admissions Director I enjoy helping families and adolescents find solutions in times of crisis.
You will often find me spending time outdoors with my fiancé, hiking, kayaking, and skijoring with our dog, Tennessee. When not playing outside, I enjoy playing the upright and electric bass, cooking and painting. For seven years I also had a radio show called “The Pat McAvoy Experiment” on a small radio station.
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 began working in wilderness therapy as an Outback field staff member nine years ago. It was at that time that I recognized the capacity of the wilderness to empower individuals to become the best versions of themselves. Since then, I’ve received my Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of Montana and have worked extensively with struggling adolescents and their families throughout the country. My work with teens and families includes a reflection of my interests, such as backpacking, music and artistic expression, and spending time with Woofer, whom I found roaming the Outback desert years ago. Woofer now works as a licensed therapy dog. Since returning to Outback as a primary therapist, I focus on creating individualized family expeditions to help facilitate the sustainable change that families experience in the West Desert.