Our Program

“The wilderness is not just a desert through which we wandered for forty years.  It is a way of being.  A place that demands being honest with yourself without regard to the cost in personal anxiety.  A place that demands being present with all of yourself.  In the wilderness your possessions cannot surround you.  Your preconceptions cannot protect you… You see the world as if for the first time” – Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, Honey from the Rock

In Hebrew, BaMidbar means “in the wilderness,” or “in the desert.”  There is a Jewish text (Zohar Va’era, 2:25b) that tells us when we were in Egypt, we lost the ability to express our own stories.  During that time, we were literally slaves to another person’s narrative.  When we left Egypt, we spent forty years in the midbar or wilderness.  It was there that we began our national story telling and created our own identity.   The midbar is a wilderness, but there is also a second meaning — to speak — דבר.  We went into the midbar to find our own voice and to write a new narrative as a people.

At BaMidbar, we give our students a chance to write their own narratives – to redefine how they view themselves, what they think they’re capable of, and their ability to achieve that vision.   

In the wilderness, our students will have a fresh start. They will be in a new and unfamiliar environment, free of the constant cultural stimuli experienced in today’s world. The wilderness is humbling.  It invites vulnerability and decreases distractions. Within these powerful surroundings, our students build identity, develop skills, find strength in their community, and improve their family dynamics.  Every aspect of our program is intentionally crafted to facilitate growth in students and their families.

BaMidbar’s Theory of Change

BaMidbar’s program leads to changes in UNDERSTANDING:

Identity

  • Increased self-knowledge
  • Understanding of personal emotional response
  • Recognizes personal strengths
  • Stronger sense of identity and values
  • Sees change as learning opportunity
  • Connects Jewish metaphor and storytelling to life

Skills

  • Fundamental skill development, including: communication, conflict management, addiction awareness, goal setting
  • Technical skill development, including: primitive living skills, activity-based concepts like rock climbing and mountain biking
  • Greater understanding of Jewish ritual and practice
  • Concepts of self-care
  • Understands recovery concepts such as 12 Step program in a Jewish framework

Community

  • Realization of impact of actions on others
  • Sees oneself as valued member of team
  • Respect, empathy, and caring toward others
  • Sense of belonging and connection to Jewish community
  • Understanding of Tikkun Olam, the Jewish concept of civic engagement

Family

  • Parent and student understand need for guidance, structure, and independence
  • Parents gain increased understanding of fundamental skills, including communication, conflict management, and strengths-based approaches to parenting
  • Student relates group experience to family relationship
  • Spiritual leaders better understand how to support families struggling with addiction or mental health challenges

Changes in understanding lead to changes in ATTITUDES:

Identity

  • Increased self-esteem
  • Insight into behaviors
  • Spiritual connectedness
  • Sees self in larger tapestry of Jewish people, history, and values
  • Increased appreciation for natural world
  • Feels a sense of purpose and a belief in a positive future

Skills

  • Goal oriented
  • Increased self-efficacy, sense of accomplishment
  • Appreciation for outdoor activities
  • Connects Jewish values to process of recovery
  • Desires independence and autonomy
  • Commitment to healthy decisions

Community

  • Open to conflicting values and new ideas
  • Desire to meaningfully contribute to team
  • Sense of membership, belonging, safety, and structure in community
  • Realization that personal actions impact others, and a desire for that impact to be positive

Family

  • Caring family relationships demonstrated through compassion, understanding, respect, interest, safety, and trust
  • Student feels that he or she has meaningful participation and voice in decision making
  • Family feels supported by home spiritual community

Changes in attitudes lead to changes in BEHAVIOR:

Identity

  • Increased intrinsic motivation
  • Healthier emotional expression
  • Willingness to ask for help
  • Integrates and applies learning with less fear of change
  • Makes time for meditation, prayer, and/or self-reflection
  • Identifies as a Jew

Skills

  • Practices self-care
  • Persistence in task completion and resiliency in face of challenge
  • Uses fundamental skills to guide healthy decision-making
  • Increased executive functioning
  • Uses Jewish practice as positive coping mechanism

Community

  • Authentically engages in community
  • Maintains healthy peer and adult relationships and has strong peer and community support structures
  • Seeks Jewish community in aftercare
  • Engages in community service and civic engagement

Family

  • Parent and student communicate openly about challenges and successes
  • Parenting exemplifies strengths-based approach, with appropriate guidance, structure, challenge, and independence
  • Parent and student utilize transition plan to support positive reintegration into aftercare environment

Development of program activities is guided by research and best practices in the outdoor behavioral healthcare field.

Sources:

  1. Almquist, P. (n.d.) Keys to Quality Youth Development. University of Minnesota- Extension.
  2. Arnett, J. J. (2004). Emerging adulthood: The winding road from the late teens through the twenties. New York: Oxford University Press.
  3. Building Blocks for Competency Models – Foundational Competencies (n.d.). Employment and Training Administration. US Department of Labor.
  4. Fishman, B. (2016, February). Why Jewish Organizations Should Rent Space to 12-Step Meetings.
  5. Fry, R. Pew Research Center. (2013, August). A Rising Share of Young Adults Live in Their Parents’ Home.
  6. Hoag, M. J., Massey, K. E., & Roberts, S. D. (2014). Dissecting the Wilderness Therapy Client: Examining Clinical Trends, Findings, and Patterns. Journal of Experiential Education,37(4), 382-396. doi:10.1177/1053825914540837
  7. Hoven, J. (2014). A Systematic Review of Wilderness Therapy: Theory, Practice, and Outcomes. Masters of Social Work Clinical Research Papers. Paper 279.
  8. Mawson, E., Best, D., Beckwith, M., Dingle, G. A., & Lubman, D. I. (2015). Social identity, social networks and recovery capital in emerging adulthood: A pilot study. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 10(1). doi:10.1186/s13011-015-0041-2
  9. Norton, C. (2009) Understanding the Impact of Wilderness Therapy on Adolescent Depression and Psychosocial Development. 21st National Symposium on Doctoral Research in Social Work.
    Russell, K. C. (2000). Exploring How the Wilderness Therapy Process Relates to Outcomes. Journal of Experiential Education,23(3), 170-176. doi:10.1177/105382590002300309
  10. Steinberg, P. (2014). Recovery, the 12 steps and Jewish spirituality: Reclaiming hope, courage & wholeness. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing.
  11. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2015).  Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.