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Stories from the Field: Mental Health and the Outdoors

Mar 30, 2020

Dr. Steve DeMille, Executive Director, RedCliff Ascent. He grew up outside of Las Vegas and was encouraged to work at a wilderness program by his sister after he was laid off from a job. He was hired by RedCliff and then had an experience with a student, which inspired him to make wilderness therapy his career. Steve shares his inspiring story as to how he worked his way through college while working part-time in wilderness, then on getting his master's degree in counseling and later his doctorate.

Bio from the RedCliff website:

Steven DeMille, Ph.D. LCMHC


When a teen’s life gets off track due to significant emotional distress or dysfunctional behaviors, it is not uncommon for their life and their family’s life to unravel. My passion is to bring families the healing experiences they need to reconnect as a family and help their child put their life back together. Using nature and outdoors as our setting, we help struggling teens reconnect with their families. We also help them find happiness, and develop the maturity to handle the challenges ahead of them.

Growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada, I spent much time in the outdoors of Southern Utah. Whether hiking in Zion or rock climbing in Veyo, the outdoors was a place of peace and growth. Hence as a Mental Health Professional, I believe that the best environment for healing individuals and relationships is in the outdoors.

I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and have worked with teens in various capacities. I began working with adolescents as a field guide at RedCliff Ascent in 2000. Subsequently, I’ve held numerous positions at RedCliff. These include Senior Field Instructor, Field Support Manager, Assistant Medical Coordinator, Primary Therapist, Research Director. And I am currently the Executive Director for RedCliff Ascent.

As a clinician, I bring a wealth of experience. This experience includes Experiential Therapies, Narrative Family Therapy, Adlerian Therapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I have also worked with adolescents and families in many different settings over the years, including residential treatment, community mental health, and foster care.

My educational experience includes an MA in Mental Health Counseling and a PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision. My research focus is on wilderness therapy, nature, adolescent development, and counseling ethics. I am actively involved in the counseling and psychology profession and hold regional and national leadership positions. I publish and present on wilderness therapy and the use of the outdoor. This is done around the world at the national and international conference level.

When not working, I enjoy spending time with my wife (who was also a field staff at RedCliff Ascent) and four children. Living just outside of Zion National Park, I enjoy spending time in nature with the family. I also like history and art, and enjoy visiting fine and contemporary art museums when I travel.