BaMidbar offers immersive, wilderness-based, residential treatment programs for Jewish young adults (ages 18-28) struggling with mild to moderate emotional, behavioral, and social challenges. The program uses wilderness and adventure-based experiences as a vehicle to promote self-reflection and therapeutic growth, while helping participants build a toolkit to face life’s challenges. Licensed mental health professionals provide individual and group therapy, and develop individualized treatment plans for each student.
We help Jewish emerging adults build resilience and overcome obstacles. Our therapeutic expeditions serve individuals (ages 18-28) who may or may not have a history of mental health challenges, but who are struggling to find their way forward as they transition from adolescence into adulthood. Life challenges may include:
- A “failure to launch”
- Identity exploration
- Negative life patterns
- Mild substance use or abuse
- Academic or employment challenges
BaMidbar students embark on weekly masa’ot – wilderness excursions – where they spend 4-5 days in the backcountry challenging themselves in new environments, embracing the majesty of nature, and learning new skills in the great outdoors. Students typically spend Sunday through Wednesday in the backcountry on masa. Thursday is dedicated to adventure-programming, which can include mountain biking, climbing, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, or rafting. Activities are co-facilitated with an adventure specialist and a member of our adventure-therapy team.
Students work with a therapist through individual, group, and adventure-based therapy. Licensed mental health professionals are in the field 3-4 days per week, both in the backcountry and at basecamp, and work closely with field guides to implement student treatment plans. Learn more about BaMidbar’s clinical approach here.
At BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy, we meet every student where they are in their unique Jewish journey, and honor the roll Judaism does – or does not – play in their life. Using 3,000 years of Jewish tradition that speaks to the question, “What does it mean to live well?” BaMidbar students explore meaning, values, and purpose through a Jewish lens. BaMidbar’s program is pluralistic, kosher, and Shabbat-observant.
What can I expect at BaMidbar? While every session is slightly different, there are four overriding themes present in all of BaMidbar’s young adult Therapeutic Expeditions.
Kavanah - Intentions
Students focus on goal setting and work with their therapist to set intentions for their time at BaMidbar. Students learn backcountry basics and embark on their first mini-masa (excursion) to start building self-efficacy and gaining confidence in their backpacking skills. Each student has the opportunity to open up to the group and share a Personal Narrative of the journey that has brought them to this point in their lives. The exercise asks students to reflect on their perceived identity and opens the conversation about not just who they think they are, but who they want to be.
Driving Questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What do I hope to gain from this experience? How do I keep myself safe in this new environment?
YIRAH – AWE
Students confront fear and awe, which, in Judaism, are often seen as two sides of a single coin. Within the context of a safe environment and supportive community, students are encouraged to take calculated risks and test their personal boundaries of what they thought was possible on a full 5-day masa. They begin to find beauty in both the challenge and their ability to overcome, and build confidence that they can persevere. Students also learn the fundamentals of nonviolent communication (NVC), and push their limits during a day of climbing.
Driving Questions: What am I scared of? How do I deal with fear? Am I able to move through challenges despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles? Why bother?
KESHER – CONNECTION
Students explore the multifaceted nature of their relationships with themselves and the people around them. They navigate group dynamics and interpersonal conflict with increasing independence and are able to move through the wilderness environment together with newfound comfort and ease. Students test their skills on a 24-hour solo experience, during which time they reflect on their identity outside of that role they have come to play in the group. In a very real way, students consider the physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental struggles that can arise in solitude.
Driving Questions: What is self-love, and what does that look like for me? How can I develop and maintain caring and compassionate relationships with others?
KEHILLAH – COMMUNITY
Students synthesize lessons learned through their experiences in the field, and explore how they will begin to integrate those takeaways into their lives at home. They explore the role of community in their time at BaMidbar, and learn strategies for building and sustaining positive social support networks outside of the program. Students work with their field guides and therapists to design transition plans to aid in their journey as they prepare to leave the program.
Driving Questions: Now what? Where do I go from here? What are my next steps? Who are my support networks? How will I maintain this momentum and hold myself accountable?
Day in the Life
Students wake up with the sun and start the day with Shmirat Hanefesh, literally: Guarding of the Soul. This mindfulness practice brings us into our bodies and also makes space for those who wish to daven shacharit (recite the morning prayers). During breakfast, the group does individual check-ins, and each student sets a S.M.A.R.T. goal for the day. The group cleans up and completes camp chores as they pack and prepare for the day’s hike. With packs on and the campsite clear, the group takes a moment to set intentions before hitting the trail.
During dinner, each student checks in on their daily goal, and once everything is cleaned up, the group comes together around the fire for an evening group. Field guides will either facilitate a conversation on a new clinical topic, or take advantage of an opportunity to debrief something that came up during the day. These are opportunities for students to practice thinking critically about their impact on the group, and make transferable meaning from the experiences they are having in the field. After a deep sigh and a howl, students take care of personal hygiene and head to bed.
The group returns to base camp and spends all day on Friday getting ready for Shabbat. Students take showers, prepare fresh produce, and cook fish over the fire. They learn to make challah and bake the loaves over a hotbed of coals. Students come in with varying levels of comfort with the traditional prayers, and we do a song-filled Friday night and Saturday morning service to bring together our community. We have long meals filled with stories and singing, and use the weekly Torah portion as a foundation from which to talk about our own experiences. Students find plenty of time to rest their bodies and their minds through games, naps, reading, and personal journaling.
LOCATION & FACILITIES
BaMidbar’s Therapeutic Expeditions return weekly to Ramah in the Rockies’ 360-acre ranch, nestled in the pristine Pike and San Isabel National Forests. Located 90 minutes from Denver at an elevation of 8,000 feet, the ranch is surrounded by magnificent towering mountain peaks with on-site natural climbing walls, and has three mountain-fed streams running through its center. BaMidbar’s accommodations are primitive with no electricity or running water. Students and staff sleep in a canvas platform tent, built solidly to withstand the elements, and fitted with a woodstove for heat in colder weather. The group has access to a clean pit toilet and bathing tent with a handheld pump shower system. All meals are cooked outside either over a fire or using a propane stove.
BaMidbar takes advantage of the public lands available across the state of Colorado, including local wilderness areas, and State and National Parks. Typically, two masaot stay closer to basecamp, while the other two masaot require some travel to arrive at the trailhead. When groups are in the backcountry, students establish camp on a nightly basis. Each student is responsible for setting up their own sleeping tarp, and they work together to dig latrines and secure a group shelter in anticipation of inclement weather. Students use drip filters and Aquamira to purify water, and rely on fire and camp stoves to cook group meals.