Wilderness Success Stories: A Conversation with Max

Max enrolled at our New Visions Wilderness Bend location in the spring/summer of 2014. He took a moment to chat with us about his time in wilderness therapy and a snapshot of what his life looks like today.

Tell me a little about your journey that led you to New Vision Wilderness Therapy?
I had lived overseas my whole life (my parents worked for the US State Department.) School in the US was very hard, very different for me and difficult to get assimilated into the culture here. I was struggling to fit in, trying to be accepted by those around me, trying to make friends – and not doing homework. I chose negative actions over positive actions and it caused issues between me and my parents. The tension was building. 

When you found out you were headed to Wilderness Therapy, how did you feel?
Mixed emotions; excited, nervous – I didn’t know what to expect. I was very ambivalent at the time. I knew subconsciously that I was doing these awful things to my parents and family and I wanted to get better, but at the same time, I really didn’t know how long I was going to be there.

How was your first week at New Vision Wilderness?
It was fun but scary at the same time. I didn’t have any personal possessions and wasn’t sure what I was going to do the following day. I was anxious, didn’t know what to expect. The first week was primarily about getting oriented into the group, understanding more about my daily roles.  I wasn’t nervous about being in the wilderness – I had been a Cub Scout. I was nervous about what the future would hold for me.

What was your favorite food in the wilderness?
I honestly liked our pasta dinners (onions, pasta summer sausage, cheese). I also liked the tuna wraps during lunch – those were good!

And your least favorite food?

Oatmeal for breakfast. After 77 days of oatmeal, I got tired of it. I cannot eat oatmeal to this day!

What was your favorite/most important piece of gear in the wilderness?
Tough question. Probably having flint and steel, and a lightweight fleece.

What was your favorite part about being in Wilderness Therapy?
Being immersed in nature and being surrounded by so much beauty and organic matter – it was lush, green, fresh air. I wasn’t in a concrete jungle, I was in the jungle itself!  It was great to wake up every morning and get out of my tent to see trees everywhere. At the time, I didn’t like being disconnected from my technology. But now, thinking about it, it really taught me to stay present. I learned so much out there that I would have never learned if I had my phone on me.

What was challenging about being in Wilderness Therapy?
Not being able to know what we were doing on a day to day basis.  I like structure, so it was frustrating.  I felt like my days were more unorganized that I would have liked.

What are some of the things you learned in Wilderness Therapy that you currently apply to your everyday life?
Family first – your family is always going to be there no matter what. Empathy – being able to stand in someone else’s shoes and see argument/conversation through someone else’s eyes. Staying present as much as I can. Taking things one day at a time. If you think 5 years into the future, you’re not going to be ready for what you’re going to get for tomorrow. And that the hardest times often come before your easiest times.

Do you think there are any misconceptions that people may have about Wilderness Therapy?
Not many people seem to know what Wilderness Therapy is.  The people I talk to don’t have misconceptions about it, they just need to be educated.

You told us a little about your first week at New Vision Wilderness, what can you tell us about your last week there?
Max: My first week I was not in touch with my emotions, but my last week was emotional. I felt like a different person outside and inside. I even looked different. I was dirty, let my hair grow long and thick. I looked a bit more mature.  I was the elder of the group having had been there the longest. I was able to help the other students with learning things in camp.

What does your life look like now?
I’m an Undergraduate at a small college where all students can handpick their classes – and no two students have ever taken the same classes there.  I’m focusing on Psychology, Philosophy, and Education, specifically Experiential Education.

Regarding Experiential Education – instead of a classroom setting, we go out to the field and get hands-on experience learning specific topics. The biggest takeaways from Experiential Education are the reflection sessions afterward, the whole process of debriefing and learning from experiences.

I’ll be Senior in college next fall. I would not be the person I am today if I hadn’t gone to Wilderness Therapy.  I still chat with my Therapist at NVW from time to time. There have been ups and downs, but my future is looking bright. I want to become a Wilderness Therapist eventually.  It had such a big impact on my life that I want to be able to help other people just like how my Therapist at NVW had helped me.

About Deschutes Wilderness Therapy

Deschutes Wilderness Therapy ( DWT ) serves teens, young adults, and families in Bend, Oregon.

Deschutes Wilderness Therapy ( DWT ) is an effective and exciting alternative for struggling teens, young adults, and their families, and is the premiere wilderness therapy intervention. We are consistently challenging the national therapy frontier. DWT is the home of cutting-edge trauma-informed care & wilderness intervention.