Desert Transformations: cactus and teens blossom

By Matt Bulkley | Blog Education Series

STAR Guides Wilderness - Desert Transformations - cactus and teens blossom

The remote high desert of Utah is full of surprises at every turn. Among those is the prickly pear cactus. Star Guides students quickly learn to avoid this formidable desert plant. It has left its sharp, prickly quills in many who mistakenly stumble upon it. It quills can take hours to remove from an unfortunate foot or leg and the sting remains with its victim making it hard to ignore.

Similar to the prickly pear cactus, some of the youth who come to Star Guides have become harsh and prickly to the people around them. In the midst of their efforts avoid the underlying emotional pain of their condition, they lash out at the people they love and leave hurtful quills that cause pain and hurt. It is in these circumstances that problematic behaviors occur and relationships are damaged.

The prickly pear cactus grows and matures over time, it begins to develop a capacity to produce a beautiful pink or red flower which rises above the prickly quills and brings brightness and beauty to the desert floor. Instead of posing a danger of pain and harm to those around it, the cactus provides a spectacular colorful scene to the otherwise dry and brown surroundings.

STAR Guides Wilderness - Desert Transformations - cactus and teens blossom 2

Star Guides students experience a similar transformation during their time in the program. As problematic patterns of behavior are disrupted and replaced with new understanding about their identity and potential, the prickly quills are replaced with the beauty of a revised and new sense of self. The blossoming of a human soul creates a scene of beauty far greater the colorful desert. This is where healing occurs and relationships are re-kindled.

We have the great honor of watching the transformation of young souls happen every day out here in the field and it is beautiful!

About the Author

Matt is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working in the field of youth treatment and psychotherapy since 1995. He did his undergraduate work at BYU and earned his M.S.W. at the University of Utah. He has worked in a variety of treatment setting in his career ranging from wilderness therapy and residential treatment to outpatient treatment and state government.

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