Wilderness Therapy & Eating Disorders

Wilderness Therapy & Eating Disorders

Wilderness Therapy in Eating Disorders Recovery

My name is Kristen, I am the newest EDIT™ Counselor Intern at Positive Pathways, from the Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy Program at Naropa University. You’re probably thinking, “Wait – what kind of therapy?” Don’t worry, I am here to give you a brief introduction of myself and the world of Wilderness Therapy.

Transpersonal psychology is a relationship of the Self and spiritual connection to our world. It is not only looking at the different parts of our Self – Body, Mind, Emotions, Spirit – but also connecting those parts to the earth, relationships, growth and human potential.

Transpersonal psychology combines the teachings of the psychology trail blazers – psychoanalysis, behaviorism and humanistic psychology – as well as many other aspects of human experience and spirituality. We are conditioned from our past experiences; we develop a system that works for us as individuals in order to survive.  In this development, we acknowledge the “ego” and “Self” in all of its complexities, intertwined into our culture and history. We create relationships and intimacy through empathy for others and ourselves. The “transpersonal” are the experiences that we cannot fully describe, from our “heart space” that holds our limitless potential. Transpersonal psychology not only looks at the different parts of ourselves as a whole, but also acknowledges our wholeness as a part in the complexity and mystery that is the universe.

Wilderness Therapy is about creating a relationship with nature, and also promoting a sense of self-sufficiency and autonomy. When we are in relationship with another person we cannot predict how they will react to our behaviors, and vise versa. When in relationship with another person we are experiencing ourselves in the form of one our many identities, shielding our ego in one way or another. In nature, there is no reason to bring anything other than your Self. Your behavior is not dependent on others responses–the weather doesn’t care if you cry, become angry, or even become naked in celebration of life. In nature, we can be our full Authentic Selves without the worries of societal norms. In nature, we can begin to question ourselves without worries of identity. In nature, we can discover our True Self.

With this freedom, we can begin to make changes to support eating disorder recovery. Experiences that are made memorable by way of vulnerability and authenticity are where we can begin to transform. The outdoors provides a place and space for transpersonal work to be done. In nature or in any sort of new setting we are more receptive to new experiences and changes within. These little changes, however big or small, become “tastes” of the genuine that reside in all of us. A new skill set or knowledge base that begins to cumulate in a toolbox (or backpack) you didn’t know existed.

I was recently asked what the most significant memory in my life has been thus far, and I responded, “When I started to get to know my Self.” The moment I truly started to learn about my Self is when I made the conscious choice to work as an outdoor school naturalist in Yosemite Valley, leaving behind a corporate position in San Francisco. I consciously chose to work outdoors, exposing students to the wonders of the universe, and breaking away from routine. I was unaware that this experience would highlight parts of my Self that I did not know existed. I found that there were parts of me that were spiritual, playful and whimsical, inquisitive and exploratory – and also an adrenaline junkie!

Self discovery can be exciting, but it can also be a painful and exposing process. It is difficult to bury what has already been dug up. The outdoors provided the space I needed to process new parts of my Self – authentically – instead of trying to cover them up to continue on the strategic path I had created as my ego self. In the outdoors, I could choose my own path — I began to listen and watch the world more closely and learn what my needs were, not in relation to others, but what was true for me. I now go to the mountains, oceans and deserts for guidance — and somehow they always lead me to the path I need.

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Kristen Ales, BA is beginning her internship at Positive Pathways, as a part of her MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling – Wilderness Therapy Concentration (degree expected in May, 2017). Kristen incorporates aspects of nature into the therapeutic process – and conducts sessions outdoors upon request! 

Interested to schedule a WILDERNESS THERAPY SESSION? All session scheduling is done through Dr. Dorie McCubbrey (see below), but you can learn more about Kristen herehttp://positivepathways.com/edit-counselor-interns

Interested in a FREE CONSULTATION? Dr. Dorie would like to get to know you and give you feedback about Eating Disorder Intuitive Therapy (EDIT)™ and other treatment options at Positive Pathways. Call 720-606-3242 or learn more:  http://positivepathways.com/free-consultation/

Get to know Kristen at one of our FALL GROUPS! Kristen co-facilitates our weekly Intuitive Eating Support Group, and will also be assisting with the DBT Group (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) for eating disorder recovery. Learn more: http://positivepathways.com/workshops-and-groups

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