How I got here:
After completing my degree in Psychology, I was unsure of what my future held, so I set off for the Big Island of Hawaii wide-eyed in search of direction, meaning, and guidance. I started working at an outdoor behavioral health program (aka wilderness therapy) as a youth mentor. I just needed a job, and in all honesty, I wasn’t entirely sure what the role of mentor meant. Little did I know, I would soon find my passion and purpose in this life.
As youth entered the program, and I quickly realized how difficult it was to be an adolescent with the endless distractions of modern life. I observed countless kids arrive, unable to communicate, angry at their parents, frustrated with their life, and stagnant in their development.
As they engaged in the program, I witnessed the changes. They began to smile more, communicate clearly, help others around them, and set goals for themselves. The transformations were stunning, and it was then that I realized my passion and skills for connection and helping adolescents make changes in their lives.
I spent the next several years focusing on youth development, fine-tuning my approaches and processes as needed for each child. I loved my time in Hawaii, but I needed to learn more, so I could up my game and continue to progress. On to my next adventure. (Let’s just acknowledge I am a man of extremes.)
This time I traveled to Alaska...
Surrounded by the towering cedar and spruce trees of the Tongass National Forest, I knew that I was in the right place. My role in Alaska was to lead a small group of nine adolescent boys on expeditions through the wilderness. The goal was the same, to engage and build trust with these young men before moving forward on teamwork, self-esteem, communication, and forming a community.
In Alaska, the stakes were higher. Poor communication could put the whole team in danger. Arguments had to get resolved, and a focused work ethic was the only thing that could keep the group moving. I saw many boys join the team angry, frustrated, unable to cope with challenges, and resistant to change. I quickly realized that they needed to believe they belonged if we had any hope of being successful. So I listened, related to them, and I coached them to express themselves appropriately. I built trust with them and held them accountable to a standard I knew they could reach.
The changes were incredible...
I have taken the principles and theory of connection that I gained through therapeutic wilderness programs, and I have adapted them to apply to teens living at home with some of the same struggles.
Parenting is complicated, more difficult than ever before, and it is okay to ask for some support and backup. This is what I provide as a mentor.
The boys began to listen to each other, they supported each other, and most of all, they believed in themselves. Consistent and realistic boundaries, coupled with unconditional support, proved to be a powerful catalyst for change.