Therapeutic Expeditions

Overview

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.

Upcoming Programs

OUR STUDENTS

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:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Identity exploration
  • A “failure to launch”
  • Negative life patterns
  • Mild substance use or abuse
  • Academic or employment challenges 

Our Approach

Wilderness Environment

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.

Clinical Intervention

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.

Jewish Lens

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.

Curriculum

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.

Phase 1

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?

Phase 2

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?

Phase 3

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?

Phase 4

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

Morning

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.

Afternoon

Throughout the day, staff and students check in with one another about their progress and things they are working on with their therapist. The group takes breaks and plays games over lunch, always looking for opportunities to affirm student growth and point out teachable moments. When the group arrives at camp, everyone participates in camp chores and helps set up for the night. On therapy days, clinicians come into the field and hold one on one sessions and full processing groups. Staff meets with the clinician to review individual student progress and discuss how to appropriately support and challenge students in accordance with their goals and treatment plan.

Evening

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.

Shabbat

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

Basecamp

BaMidbar’s Therapeutic Expeditions return weekly to our basecamp for Shabbat. Located 90 minutes from Denver at an elevation of 8,000 feet, the basecamp 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. The group has access to bathrooms and showers. All meals are cooked outside either over a fire or using a propane stove.

While BaMidbar operates on a secluded corner of the Ramah in the Rockies ranch, our program operates as a closed system. BaMidbar staff and students do not have any interaction or overlap with the Ramah in the Rockies community.

BACKCOUNTRY EXCURSIONS

BaMidbar takes advantage of the public lands available across the state of Colorado, including local wilderness areas, and State and National Parks. Students spend Sunday-Thursday of each week on masa (backcountry excursion), backpacking across Colorado public lands. When groups are in the backcountry, students establish camp on a nightly basis. Students use drip filters and Aquamira to purify water, and rely on fire and camp stoves to cook group meals.

ADMISSIONS

Inquiry

Our process typically begins with a conversation between the student or the student’s family and our admissions team. Please call (720) 835-2937 ext. 0 to speak with Emily Heeren, BaMidbar’s Admissions Director.

Application

Applications are completed via a fillable PDF.  Completed applications can be emailed to our Admissions Director, Emily Heeren at admissions@bamidbartherapy.org or faxed to BaMidbar at (720) 808-0747.

Acceptance

BaMidbar will review all information gathered in the admissions documents and clinical interview to ensure that BaMidbar will be an appropriate placement for the prospective student.

Enrollment

After acceptance into the program, BaMidbar will work with families to ensure that all forms and payments are completed and submitted before the student arrives.

Financial Aid

Once accepted into the program, all students are welcome to apply for financial aid. In order to make a formal request, we require families to submit a letter detailing your financial need along with:

BaMidbar recognizes that due to the pandemic and its effects, a family’s level of need may not be adequately captured by last year’s tax returns. In the letter, please include any pertinent changes to the applicant’s or applicant’s family’s financial situation as a result of COVID-19. BaMidbar also works with families to create payment plans.  Payment plans are designed to span between the time a student is accepted into the program and June 1, 2021.

COVID Information & Updates

WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy will open its doors during Summer 2021 for in-person programming.  With your partnership, we remain steadfast in our commitment to create a safe operating environment for both students and staff, while continuing to deliver on our mission to ensure that Jewish youth and young adults have the confidence, skills and community support to navigate life’s challenges and thrive in the face of adversity. 

 Since early July 2020, a dedicated and well-qualified group of lay leaders and staff have been following the science and researching best practices to ensure we can deliver on this commitment. Our Roadmap to Summer 2021 is the first step in our planning, and we are excited to share it with our community.

While BaMidbar operates on a secluded corner of the Ramah in the Rockies ranch, our program operates as a closed system. BaMidbar staff and students do not have any interaction or overlap with the Ramah in the Rockies community.

Download our most recent update,
BaMidbar Summer 2021 COVID Roadmap

Updated March 2021

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