Wilderness Therapy & Eating Disorders

Wilderness Therapy & Eating Disorders

Wilderness Therapy & Eating Disorders

I’d like to introduce you to Kristen Ales, who is an EDIT™ Certified III – Eating Disorder Treatment Clinician. Kristen was a Counselor Intern under my supervision at Positive Pathways from August, 2016 through May, 2017. She is a knowledgeable and compassionate therapist, who is currently employed at a wilderness therapy center. Although she does not meet with anyone who is not a patient at the treatment center, I can incorporate wilderness therapy into sessions. Evergreen, Colorado is the perfect place to experience the healing aspects of nature!
– Dr. Dorie

My name is Kristen Ales, and 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.


Looking for guidance with WILDERNESS THERAPY? KRISTEN ALES, MA (the author of this blog article) is an EDIT™ Certified III – Eating Disorder Treatment Clinician, and is currently employed by an wilderness therapy center. Although she does not work with clients unless they are patients at the center, Dr. Dorie is available to meet with clients who wish to incorporate wilderness therapy into their sessions.

Interested in a FREE consultation with Dr. Dorie? Dr. Dorie is passionate about her method of Eating Disorder Intuitive Therapy (EDIT)™ to help people overcome eating disorders and addictions.  She provides customized counseling for eating disorders and alcohol / drug addiction at her Positive Pathways treatment center in Evergreen, Colorado – and EDIT™ eating disorder training and certification for coaches and clinicians worldwide. CALL 303-494-1975EMAIL DR. DORIE