Reflections & Updates, Therapist Journal

Blackwater Outdoor Experiences: Adventure in Review and Future Goals

From October 11th to November 1st I went out with a group of five guys with a field guide into the wilderness in order to canoe, backpack, and rock climb all while taking on the challenge of trying to help the group learn to understand themselves, recognizes the problems in their lives, and help them reconnect with their families at the end of the trip. A 22 day trip in the wilderness is a challenge to take on whether you are conducting therapy or not. The amount of energy and level of comfort in the wilderness is put to the extreme when you are participating in such programming. When considering wilderness therapy for someone we take into account their history, their personality, and the benefits the individual could receive from the trip. Over the course of the 22 day trip I helped individuals canoe for the first time on a river even going through class three rapids at one point on the Shendanoah river. During the trip I worked with participants as they walked away from the group in order to process their anger, anxiety, depression, or other experiences on the trip. It is a unique experience to be able to help someone process their emotions and behaviors in the moment that they are occurring so they can develop insight into what they are doing. As a field therapist I appreciate the privilege I receive of being able to walk with others through some of the most difficult times of their lives.

Throughout the day I conducted psychoeducational lessons around the benefits of journaling, goal setting, self awareness, healthy lifestyles, change, models of addiction, future planning, and more. Psychoeducational lessons provided information and skills that the participants were able to practice throughout the trip and provided a framework for the participants journaling each day. Participants spent an average of 30 minutes per day journaling about their experience on the trip, what they were learning, how they were feeling, and responses to journal prompts. Group therapy was conducted morning as part of a morning check in and every evening. The group members responded well in discussions and were able to interact which each other providing feedback while learning from each others interactions. Group therapy during the trip allows the field therapist to facilitate specific conversations around anxiety, coping skills, and other topics that the group has in common allowing for discussion and practice of skills beyond individual therapy sessions. Overall, this comprehensive experience allowed for participants to change in their self awareness, self esteem, and motivation to change. Each participant was able to leave at the end of the trip having developed a family contract with their family members and creating a plan for their future whether continuing counseling, getting psychological testing, or being referred to another program. Blackwater Outdoor Experiences works with the participant and their family members in order to research and help coordinate appropriate after care resources.

Blackwater Outdoor Experiences understands the level of intensity of our programming and provides every resource we can as a a comprehensive treatment team to make sure that the participants are getting as much from the experience as they can. Our treatment team has consisted of field therapists, field guides, program director, clinical supervisor, family therapists, and a medical director. With a new psychologist joining the Adolescent and Family Health Center we are able to consult and refer our participants for psychological evaluation within our own treatment team. The life of Blackwater Outdoor Experiences and the Adolescent and Family Health Center staff includes a working relationship in which we meet once a week in order to discuss cases from Blackwater Outdoor Experiences and the private practices in the Adolescent and Family Health Center. This unique relationship allows for everyone involved to provide the best care possible to the clients that come to receive our services.

Additionally, as a field therapist at Blackwater Outdoor Experience I am working with the program director and the rest of the treatment team in order to develop after care support group meetings, Aspergers/ADHD social skills group expeditions, Aspergers/ADHD day camp, and other programming to offer the best services we can to the community of Midlothian, VA and the greater Richmond, VA area beyond our 22 day trips. As our programming develops keep your eyes and ears out for more information regarding these new programs and their availability.

As we prepare for our trips we would like to hear from you if you would like to learn more or are interested in a trip. You can find out more information by going to Feel free to call the Blackwater Outdoor Experiences office at 804-378-9006.

If you would like to continue to follow Jonathan Ugalde’s blog you can click the subscribe button on the side of the page. You can also follow Jonathan Ugalde on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Tumblr!

Want Jonathan to lead a workshop for you? Click here.

Want more information on Jonathan’s Counseling Style? Click here.


Join the Conversation...

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s