In the very center of the STAR Guides wilderness field is Square Top mountain which rises more than 7000 feet in elevation and is a visible landmark for STAR Guides groups wherever they they find themselves in the field. Square Top is named such because of its flat, square top on the very top of its peak. The steepness of the terrain leading to the peak is formidable no matter what angle or route the climber takes to reach the summit. Many groups have set lofty goals to reach the summit, but few actually arrive due to the steepness of the terrain. Some groups begin the ascent, but encounter problems with the terrain, the weather or with the group commitment to get there and end up having to return to the desert floor only to admire the peak from a distance.
This experience in trying and failing resonates with most of the STAR Guides students as they have battled their addictions/compulsions unsuccessfully in the past. Many have tried and failed repeatedly and as a result become discouraged and disheartened, sometimes resigning themselves to the belief that they are destined for a life of addiction and problems.
Then the day arrives that something amazing happens……opportunity, effort, persistence, self-discipline, courage and commitment come together and a task that once seemed impossible or improbable becomes a reality. A group of youth stand together with their leaders after a long day of intense hiking positioned on top of Square Top and look down on the desert floor in awe. In this magical moment, youth who previously did not believe they were capable of managing their addictive/compulsive behaviors realize they can take on any challenge and succeed. These are the moments in which true change occurs. Past problem behaviors are let go and are replaced with confidence in taking on life challenges. The power of standing on the summit of Square Top mountain goes far beyond what can be achieved sitting in a counseling office, a detention center or residential treatment program. The power of this moment is only found in the wilderness and is what change is made of.
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.