At Passages Alaska, participants have at least weekly individual and group sessions with their clinician. We use evidence based clinical knowledge and skills interwoven with the magic that is Nature. The clinician collaborates with the guide team and our participants, to tailor interventions and activities that transform therapeutic ideas into tangible experiences; experiences that transform lives.
Sean Tomkinson and his team at Passages Alaska worked magic on our son. They provided exactly the right balance of support and challenges to help him acquire critical life skills that will serve him for the rest of his life. His three months in the Alaskan islands was by far the most positive and constructive episode of his life. We recommend Passages Alaska enthusiastically for struggling young adults.
Passages Alaska clinicians are Masters level and above Behavioral Health Practitioners that have had their own personal wilderness based epiphanies. They are clinicians that have practiced both indoors and outdoors and are able to meld behavioral health best practices with a dynamic outdoor environment.
The foundational activity at Passages Alaska is travel by canoe. It is a full time exercise in mindfulness. Just as in life, the canoe responds to the movements of the paddler. It takes constant awareness and consistent effort to travel and reach our destination. Participants are required to wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device any time they are on the water. Students are taught navigation skills and to observe and evaluate water and weather conditions to help ensure safe travel. The canoe is used to represent the student’s life and to constantly demonstrate the value of balance. Each day the canoe is loaded with the possessions that make the student’s travels comfortable and safe. At the end of each day the canoe is emptied and washed of any collected dirt, sand or debris representing the ability to start each day with a clean slate if we make the needed effort.
One of the more enjoyable activities we have on Prince of Wales Island is fishing. Both fresh water and salt-water fishing provide not only recreation but also make a major contribution to the diet of Island residents. For many people, fish is the traditional and primary source of protein in their diets. With changing times and social situations, many seniors are unable to fish and often do not have enough for their needs. Many people consider fishing to be therapy in it's purest form. Others take it less seriously but the lessons one can learn from the act of enticing a fish to take bait or a lure easily translate to valuable life lessons. There is undeniable that comes form providing some of our own sustenance needs and then sharing our catch with others.
Passages Alaska staff and students travel to and camp on beaches both as primary destinations and en route to other places. Even on the most pristine beaches there is accumulated and scattered plastic debris. No matter a person’s perspective, finding garbage in an otherwise unspoiled place is a disagreeable experience. In addition to the reduced quality of a person’s experience, plastic debris poses a threat to marine life. We do our part to improve the experience for others and help the environment by gathering and disposing of garbage that has accumulated in these wild and wonderful places. The flip side of this activity is that there is something undeniably therapeutic about simply being on the water’s edge in one of the world’s most dynamic and beautiful settings. The constantly rising and falling tide, the waves, weather, and wildlife naturally facilitate an active mindfulness practice which is key to our therapeutic approach. At Passages Alaska we make every effort to maximize the therapeutic benefits of blue space.
Starting and maintaining a cooking fire in our rainforest home require a level of proficiency like no place else. One guide stated, "this place in an enemy of fire." Being able to have heat and warm food requires planning consistent effort and persistence. In addition to providing for our own firewood needs, there is also space for altruism. Passages Alaska staff and students directly improve other people’s life circumstance by cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood. We provide firewood for Forest Service recreation cabins and for seniors or other families in need.
Our students learn that they not only survive but they can THRIVE in a wilderness environment. Research has shown that the biggest factor that sets the effectiveness of wilderness therapy apart from the more traditional, office based approach is, are you ready for this? The Wilderness! When people are able to safely live in a novel environment and experience safe healthy relationships in that setting it creates a situation where a person is able grow in ways that are incomparable to literally anything else in our hustle and bustle modern world. At Passages Alaska we use Leave No Trace practices and capitalize on the truly phenomenal nature of our operating area. Prince of Wales Island is a world class destination. Combine the natural beauty and dynamic nature of this place with the talents of our our staff and it makes for a unique experience that will develop confidence and inspire growth in it's participants.
At Passages Alaska, we really love our hammocks. They help create a safe space in a truly magical place.