There’s a reason people flock to the mountains of Vermont each winter. So too winter is a wonderful time to be at Confluence. The short days and cooler temps have a steady focus about them. The snow covered fields and crisp blue skies bring us back to a calmer pace. There is a quietness here when the leaves are down and the birds have flown.

It can be easy to think of winter as the time of year we settle for being inside and at Confluence we certainly have a cozy farmhouse for the days the group is on the property. But winter is for adventure. We push through the natural feeling to hibernate by spending time outside each day and by continuing winter wilderness excursions into the forests and mountains despite colder temps and snow.

Through partnerships with Vermont-based land stewards such as the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS), Merck Forest and Farm and others our excursions go out to locations where we can provide access to activities and wilderness, but also provide the comfort and protection of cabins, canvas tents and yurts complete with walls and wood stoves. This means we have a space to sleep, cook and eat and to be out of the elements after we have completed the days activities in the snow, mountains and forests. Outdoor adventure in the wintertime is both challenging and fun.

Our winter trips require careful planning, ongoing attention to moods, minds and bodies and a safety-first mentality. That framework creates a perfect metaphor for wellness, building a clear connection between the wilderness experiences and the work participants at Confluence are doing. In addition, the inherent challenges of the cold create opportunities to build resilience, develop motivation and self-efficacy.

The extra effort of winter wilderness programming pays off. The group develops a close bond. They learn to help each other and rely on others for support. The challenge of cold weather excursions helps participants move quickly into the heart of their emotional work. It is hard to “fake it” through when the experience encourages each to be so real. The slow deliberation, planning, and ongoing monitoring facilitates intentionality in everything we do.

Sure, winter may appear as a harder time to take the first steps towards treatment. Yet persevering past the urge to hibernate and taking the first steps to being outside of the comfort zone are when real opportunities for growth present themselves. We at Confluence encourage you to take the first steps.

– Foster