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Stories from the Field: Mental Health and the Outdoors

Nov 17, 2020

Emily Isaacs is the founder of Emily Isaacs Counseling in Colorado. Emily's journey into the wilderness therapy field began in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco where she grew up. Emily shares stories including going from being a city kid to a field guide at Open Sky to contributing to diversity in the outdoors as the Executive Director of Women's Wilderness. Emily shares her work with women veterans and the Climbing Grief Project.  Emily has a thriving outpatient wilderness therapy practice.

Bio from the Emily Isaacs Counseling Website: I have over fifteen years of clinical experience, in settings ranging from intensive wilderness therapy treatment programs, a walk-in crisis clinic, Boulder Community Hospital, retreats with female veterans, and private practice

My education includes a Masters degree from Naropa University in Transpersonal Psychology, an approach that honors the importance of body / mind / heart / and spirit in the therapeutic process.  I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in both Colorado and Wyoming.

I have training in and draw from the following modalities: 

  • Mindfulness and Meditation
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Gestalt Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion via the Avarna Group and OUT Boulder
  • Non-Violent Communication

As an educator and outdoor professional, I have fifteen years of experience guiding and instructing backpacking, climbing, and boating expeditions from one to twelve weeks in length.  For ten of these years, I was working year-round in the deserts and mountains of Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, California and Oregon, living, working, and teaching in conditions ranging from 70 degrees and sunny to a zero degree blizzard.  I absolutely love teaching outdoors and particularly love sharing my passion for baking back-country pizza, reading maps, and making fire from a bow-drill set.  I have worked extensively with teens and young adults navigating complex mental health issues.

My leadership resume includes hiring and training guides for Open Sky Wilderness Therapy, serving as a lead instructor for Outward Bound and The National Outdoor Leadership School, and serving as the Executive Director for Women’s Wilderness for four years.  As the Executive Director, I rescued an iconic outdoor program when it was about to close doors, tripled the operation budget over the course of 4 years, and led a team of up to 7 office staff in launching transformational new programming, including the Queer Wilderness Project, Trailblazers: Outdoor Leadership for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and Summit Sisters, an annual 3-day retreat for over 120 participants.  Additionally, I founded “Jumping Mouse, the Gathering of the Guides,” a wilderness therapy guide conference that ran for 9 years, and Women’s Climbing Circle, a women’s climbing series at Movement Climbing and Fitness in Boulder that has skyrocketed in popularity.

Additionally, I hold a Masters in Education from the University of California at Santa Cruz and have classroom experience teaching in middle and high schools.