With so many distractions in today’s society, few teens have actually ever taken the time and reflected on the history of their life. Even fewer have ever recorded it on paper and then shared it with others. While in the field, students at Star Guides write a detailed autobiography. Guided by their therapist, the student is provided a specific set of instructions for completing this assignment. The autobiography is divided into three sections and in total the final product is between 15 and 20 pages in length. Another important component of student therapy involves sharing the autobiography in the treatment group setting. This allows the teen to experience how others react to hearing their life story and to gain confidence in being authentic and open with others about their life experiences.
There is truly something unique that comes from writing a life story while living detached from the amenities of civilization. Time in the wilderness reveals a youth for who they are, both good and bad and these realizations assist the youth in recognizing how their life experiences have impacted who they are and who they are becoming. Included in this process is the disclosure of the problematic behaviors that have resulted in the teen’s need for participation in treatment. For some, this process is the first time in their lives they have been able to actually talk about past traumas and this becomes an important part of the healing process.
Additionally, while students complete their autobiography, back at home parents of Star Guides students write a matching biography of the student’s life from the parent perspective. This writing is then shared with the student by the therapist and allows the youth to incorporate parent perspective into their understanding of how their life events have molded them. The parent biography tends to be a powerful piece of information for the student because for many, the distractions of life back at home made it difficult for them to truly appreciate and understand their parents’ perspective on their life. Parent perspective becomes much more impactful when it is received while residing in a primitive camp setting in the remote desert of Southwest Utah.
The student autobiography and parent biography serve as important components of the Star Guides treatment program.
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.