Safety and Risk Management

Why Equinox is different

Most wilderness therapy programs take clients to isolated wilderness areas for weeks or months at a time. While this might be beneficial for some, we believe that most clients are better served in their community setting. At Equinox Counseling and Wellness Center, we provide a comprehensive, evidence-based treatment program that keeps clients in their communities with their families, in their schools, and engaged in the relationships that need attention. Wilderness and adventure based experiences are utilized only when clinically indicated. Our team guides clients from one day to several days/weeks into wilderness settings for experiential intensives. Upon returning from these experiences, the client receives expert community coaching on how to generalize their learning from the intensive to real-life situations at their home, school, job, sports team and any other relevant areas. We tailor each wilderness and adventure experience to the unique needs of each client because that’s how we believe therapy should be done.

Safety is our highest priority

The use of adventure and wilderness experiences as a part of the therapeutic process has inherent risks. At Equinox Counseling and Wellness Center, we take you and/or your child’s safety seriously—so much so, we don’t do anything with your child that we would not do or have not done with our own children. We employ a sophisticated risk management process that is designed first from a place of incident prevention and then from a place of emergency response.

9 practices that shape our culture of risk management

We employ the use of tailored wilderness and adventure experiences when it is clinically indicated for a particular client, and in some cases, with the client and his or her family. Upon returning from an intensive, the experiential learning and therapeutic process continues in the form of supportive community coaching, action-based therapy, therapeutic care, mentoring, and group therapy where appropriate. These interventions are minimally disruptive to the clients’ important routines and responsibilities, and allow for immediate application of new skills at school, on the job, in family relationships, and with peers.

One hundred percent of our staff hold college degrees in counseling, psychology, social sciences, wilderness recreation, wilderness therapy or other related fields. Our staff complete a thorough vetting process including work history, references, background checks, formal interviews (office and field), field observation, drug screen, driving record, and a comprehensive interview regarding the theoretical foundations of their work. Selecting the right staff for these important and critical experiences is good for everyone. A person’s ability to talk about the what, whys and hows of wilderness therapy is one thing, however, most important is the ability to do it and do it it well. These are the people working with your child.

Wilderness and adventure intensives are one aspect of our comprehensive counseling program. Every client’s Equinox experience is unique. Interventions of any kind are only used when clinically indicated, and only after thoughtful consideration and planning. Specific venues, activities, and intensive length are chosen based on the therapeutic need of each particular client.

All Equinox staff hold a minimum of current first aid and CPR training. Lead field staff hold a minimum of current Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification, and are present on all backcountry outings. In addition to these credentials, all staff receive in-depth training on our internal emergency medical protocols.

All our field staff complete 10 days of formal training during their first year on our field team. Each year thereafter, each staff completes three to five days of refresher or higher level training. Training topics include, but are not limited to:

  • The Equinox Way
  • Pre-course planning
  • Technical wilderness skills
  • Safety and risk management
  • Emergency medical response protocols
  • Runaway prevention and protocols
  • Self-harm prevention and protocols
  • Behavioral management
  • Group management in a wilderness setting
  • Weather preparedness
  • Communication protocols

Staff who lead technical climbing, ropes courses, and winter backcountry experiences have completed rigorous professional training in their disciplines, and many hold credentials from certifying organizations. Some of those organizations include: the American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA), the Professional Climbing Guides Institute (PCGI), the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT), the Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI), the American Avalanche Institute (AAI) and the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE).

To insure prompt response and immediate deployment of resources, we assign an on-call administrator for every wilderness and adventure outing. When notified by field staff, they immediately mobilize the necessary resources to assist the field team and to make emergency family notifications if necessary. Following any incident or deployed emergency response plan, the entire field team and the Equinox administrative team completes a detailed review of the incident and takes appropriate action including revising protocols, staff training, and corrective action.

We use only the highest quality technical equipment and clothing. There are several organizations that set standards for the various aspects of our work. All our equipment meets the standards set forth by the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA) and the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Equinox Counseling and Wellness Center has developed pre- and post-course processes to insure a high level of excellence and risk management for client experiences. Prior to any intensive, the treatment team completes a pre-course process, which includes matching the client’s therapy goals to the appropriate activity, staffing the experience, choosing the specific activity site and reviewing site specific protocols, risk managment, gear selection, dates and times, weather forecast, and activity sequence leading up to the experience. After each experience the treatment team completes a post-course review and summary of how goals were met, the client’s experience, highlights of the trip, incidents and what could be improved in the future—and very importantly, how the treatment team activates on specific strategies in their everyday work with the youth to ensure optimal transition and practice of skills once back in their community and home setting.

Our policies and protocols are a critical component of our safety and risk management process. This document contains best practices and information to guide decision making during pre-course and while in the field, as well as proper wrap up during the post-course activity.

Let us know if we can answer any questions.

To learn more about Wilderness and Adventure Therapy with Equinox, contact our office at 303-861-1916 or contact us.