This month Confluence hosted our first mentor training. Six individuals began getting to know one another, hesitantly sharing goals and life stories as they slowly became part of our team. I remember the feelings I had when I arrived at my first wilderness therapy job training. I was unprepared to open my emotional landscape, share my thoughts and participate as was expected. Mostly I was unprepared for the vulnerability I would let bare and the deep connections I was to develop with my co-workers and participants.

At Confluence, mentors are key to our program. They create a place of belonging, where each individual, mentor and participant, is a part of a greater whole. They challenge, support, teach and engage with  participants. They are the tributaries, bringing their strengths to Confluence’s current. mentors offer their empathic understanding derived from their diverse experiences.

Mentors understand the struggles faced by young adults coming to Confluence and are ready to listen, guide, laugh, work and play together to allow healing and growth to take hold. mentors are able to help because of their passion for the program and helping others. Mentors give and receive feedback about how they interact with co-workers and participants. It’s the same process we use with participants. We believe this is essential to healthy relationships–both professional and personal.

Mentors are skilled at identifying primary emotions and pushing participants to notice activating events and the emotions that arise. Mentors practice these skills because they know how hard it can be to change, to hear what others think and to accept emotions. They have felt the fear and difficulty of openly sharing hard truths so that they are better able to appreciate the participants struggle to do the same. This is true empathy–it’s the ability to not only wear someone’s shoes, but to know how difficult it is to put them on.

Mentors are actively involved in each task, each assignment and each part of the daily routine. Mentors and participants join together in the common goal of building strengths, honestly addressing emotions and forming relationships.

Working at Confluence carries a great responsibility. mentors work here because they have joined together in a common goal. They are passionate about the participants and the path they have chosen towards health. We look up to and admire mentors for their dedication to our participants. They understand how difficult this journey can be and have demonstrated patience, confidence and encouragement. When participants begin their journey here at Confluence the mentors make it abundantly clear that we are in this together, we all belong at Confluence.

As our training wrapped up hesitancies and uncomfortableness waned. None of the trainees wanted to leave. They felt closer to one another. There was a palpable sense of community. They had been through something together and emerged as stronger and more connected people. They were excited and ready to get working. It’s with this same approach we meet all of our participants. Come to our farm, experience the wilderness, change through therapy, heal relationships, grow as a person, emerge more confident and return to a better life and a stronger future.

-Foster