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Work in Wilderness Therapy
Get to Know Us
RedCliff Ascent exists to help families. As an employee at RedCliff Ascent, you will form authentic, healthy relationships with students as you help guide them through an experiential wilderness therapy curriculum. While working for RedCliff Ascent, your job will allow you to use evidence-based practices to support students and their families.
Our employees may enjoy many benefits and perks, such as:
Access to health, dental, vision, accident, critical illness, and other insurance plans after a probationary period
Employer contributions to Health Savings Account* (HSA) and Free Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
You may receive stay, referral, and one-time advancement bonuses
Have significant discounts for hundreds of professional outdoor gear brands
Field Guides will have long off-shifts that are ideal for planning trips
Work environment is located a few hours from Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, the Grand Canyon, and Lake Powell, and as well as Mccarran International Airport in Las Vegas
Be part of a supportive and close-knit community
*Available to full-time employees
Field Guide FAQ
Field Guides work 8-day shifts in the backcountry with 1-2 other guides in a group of about 8 students. As Field Guides are the people with our students daily, the relationships they form with our students are often the most meaningful and conducive to change. Our Field Guides work closely with our Therapists so that everyone is on the same page regarding an individual student’s needs and treatment. The core responsibilities of our Field Guides are:
- Work as a cohesive team with their costaff, providing support and feedback to each other and a consistent, quality program to their students
- Establish and maintain healthy, appropriate relationships and boundaries with their students
- Lead their students through the backcountry on regular hikes
- Supervise their students and ensure their safety emotionally, physically and medically
- Mentor their students in hard (i.e. primitive) and soft ( i.e.interpersonal) skills
- Create a safe, inclusive environment where our students can be honest and vulnerable
- Work in tandem with our therapists to assist students in their therapeutic assignments and progress
- Be creative, independent problem solvers able to manage their group on normal days as well as in difficult and demanding situations
- Ensure their conduct and actions align with what it means to be an outdoor professional
- Follow all local, state, and federal laws and regulations, and company policies
Daily routines, as well as the activities within them, are designed to facilitate our holistic treatment approach and experiential curriculum, addressing the mental, emotional, physical, and social development and well-being of our students. Six days on a shift are “expedition days” while the other two are “therapy days.” While we provide the basic outline for what each of these days should include, our Guides have the freedom to choose which experiential activities, group topics, etc. they lead their students in. This means that Field Guides can tailor their shift to meet the specific needs of their group and share their areas of expertise.
General Expedition Day Outline
Breakfast Process (BP) group
Camp Breakdown, pack up, and naturalize the area
Value-based experiential curriculum
Other Field Guide facilitated groups, such as:
- Support group
- Psychoeducation group
- Skills training group
- Mindfulness/relaxation group
Complete therapeutic assignments as given by Therapists:
- Therapy homework
- Complete pre-session Narrative Family Therapy work.
Dinner Process (DP) group
Debriefing Process group
General Therapy Day Outline
Breakfast Process (BP) group
Late morning, afternoon, late afternoon
Individual therapy sessions with Therapist (takes place all day for both therapy days)
Experiential/Adventure activity group
Value-based experiential curriculum
Other Field Guide facilitated groups
- Support group
- Psychoeducation group
- Skills Training group
- Mindfulness/relaxation group
Complete therapeutic assignments as given by Therapists
- Therapy Homework
- Complete pre-session Narrative Family Therapy work
- Milan process group
- Therapist-facilitated process group or therapeutic intervention group
- Individual meeting with Nurse (RN) for weekly medical checks
- When indicated, meeting with the Medical Director or Psychiatrist for medication management or medical check
Dinner Process (DP) group
Debriefing Process group
With over 30 years of experience, RedCliff Ascent knows what it takes to be a successful Field Guide:
- Love of the outdoors
- A passion for helping others
- Genuine belief that regardless of what’s happened, our students and their families can heal
- An insatiable desire to keep learning
- Firm, healthy boundaries
- The ability to work well with people--both students and your teammates
Higher education, certifications, and previous experience are all important and part of how we determine whom to interview. Ultimately though, we hire for character over competence. Then we provide support, resources, and abundant training for our Field Guides to continue developing the core competencies of a wilderness therapy guide.
The minimum requirements for a Field Guide are a high school diploma, CPR & 1st Aid certification, be at least 19 years old, and able to pass a background check. We also look for:
- Professional wilderness therapy experience
- Professional outdoor experience
- Professional experience working with adolescents
- Bachelor’s degree in adventure education, outdoor leadership, or similar
- Bachelor’s degree in psychology or similar
- Wilderness First Responder certification
- Wilderness EMT certification
- Clinical First Responder certification
- Mental Health First Aid certification
Most of our Field Guides lived in either Cedar City or St. George, Utah. Both are about 45 minutes away from our base in Enterprise, Utah. This means that 4-5 times a month, our Field Guides have a 45-minute drive to work. The cost of living is relatively low in southern Utah. Often Field Guides will rent houses, individually or in small groups. Some great websites to look for rentals are:
Cedar City might be the right choice for you if: You love the snow, want to be near Cedar Breaks National Monument, prefer to be closer to Salt Lake City, are looking for a smaller city, or you're a Shakespeare fan.
St. George might be the right choice for you if: You love the desert, are into rock climbing, want to be close to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks, or prefer to be closer to Las Vegas.
Field Guides advance on a level system, where each position requires a certain amount of field experience and skill mastery--both primitive and interpersonal. New Guides with no previous wilderness therapy experience start as Interns. The internship consists of three shifts of training in core areas. The internship is also paid. After the initial training is complete and competency is demonstrated, Interns can begin advancing. Assuming that Field Guides follow our advancement track (i.e. aren’t an intern longer than 3 shifts), the annual pay range for Field Guides is $38,500-$54,500. Head Instructors make $44,750 annually base pay. Field Guides are eligible for several bonuses:
- $1000 internship completion completion bonus
- Referral bonus
- Summer bonuses (when applicable)
Field Guides are eligible for insurance after a probationary period. RedCliff Ascent offers health, dental, vision, and various supplementary insurances, and pays the majority of the premiums for their employees. Additionally, if you elect to have the High Deductible Healthcare Plan, RedCliff will contribute to your Health Savings Account every month.
Employee Assistance Program
RedCliff Ascent offers this free resource to its employees. Our Employee Assistance Program offers free short-term counseling, assessment, referrals, help for caregivers, and crisis services. These resources are 100% free to our employees and confidential.
RedCliff Ascent will pay for their Field Guides to receive Wilderness First Responder certification. If employees are interested in other professional development opportunities, they can create and submit a proposal. Past approved proposals include Clinical First Responder training, various professional conferences, and skills gatherings.
To congratulate Field Guides and support them in fulfilling their new responsibilities, RedCliff Ascent gives certain required gear items to Field Guides as they advance to new positions, including a map and compass, hand saw, wilderness first aid kit, and GPS.
All core gear is available for purchase at our warehouse, located on-site. Often guides can purchase items here at a greater discount than elsewhere. We also have an ExpertVoice team and individual accounts set up with many professional outdoor gear brands so that our staff are able to purchase and replace gear affordably, usually 40-60% less than retail.
RedCliff Ascent is a continuous flow, expedition model treatment program for struggling adolescents of all genders, ages 13-17. Our program is founded in evidence-based practices, primitive skills, and healthy relationships. We provide a safe and supervised environment where our students’ maladaptive behaviors are disrupted, our team can accurately assess the underlying issues, and our students can begin reconnecting with their families. Through our program, students develop an active, balanced lifestyle and healthy, effective coping mechanisms. Experiential therapy, healthy relationships, the continuous flow expedition model, and primitive skills are core components of our program and have been shown to be the most effective approach.
Experiential therapy is an effective, evidence-based practice and the foundation of our program. It is used concurrently with traditional talk therapies. Experiential therapy is an approach that uses expressive and interactive activities to release the suffering and pain that has been impeding development and help students generate new insight into their experiences and behaviors. Having impactful and shared experiences with our students within the wilderness environment is how we facilitate experiential therapy.
Healthy relationships are the foundation for growth and development. Healthy development and wellbeing can be achieved when an adolescent is securely attached and has a sense of social belonging. Insecure attachments and low social belonging are two of the significant developmental disruptions that lead to dysfunctional choices, addiction, emotional dysregulation, isolating behaviors, and other destructive behaviors.
The creation of healing relationships that foster healthy development is an essential part of RedCliff Ascent’s program. In psychotherapy, this is called the therapeutic relationship. The therapeutic relationship has emerged as a strong predictor of change. In RedCliff Ascent’s own research, Field Guide relationships were found to be highly predictive of positive, lasting change. The more understanding and helpful our students experienced their staff as being, the more improvements they made during treatment.
Continuous Flow Expedition
Our students do not come as a group, stay in the field for a set number of days, then leave as a group. “Continuous flow” means our students enter our program whenever their parents admit them and are in the backcountry until they complete the program. Our students can set their own pace.
“Expedition” means that our student groups live nomadically in the backcountry, as opposed to having a set route repeatedly used (contained expedition) or a base camp to which everyone returns (base camp expedition).
The expedition model provides an interdependence on group dynamics that is not experienced in other models. Within other models, interdependence on the group is not as essential to the overall functioning of the group and social feedback is not as relevant. Additionally, in other models, the social demands of the expedition model get replaced with other activities, predominantly activities designed to entertain. Fun is an important part of being an adolescent, but replacing meaningful engagement with one’s peers and self with distraction is not conducive to lasting change. Within the expedition model, a small group must rely on all of its members, whether for fun or tasks, as the trek will not end when the route is finished or the group returns to a base camp.
Primitive living is the vehicle for group interaction and skill mastery. While living in the backcountry in a primitive environment, students grow to understand that they must learn to handle the unknown. This simplified, unfamiliar, and imposing environment means that students must confront and solve real challenges--building a good shelter, bowing a fire, how to coordinate and work with others, etc. Through the simplicity of wilderness and primitive living, students are better able to identify and master the skills they need to care for themselves and function well in a community.
An important concept of adolescent development is finding satisfaction in the ordinary. One of the major downsides of modern society is the entertainment-rich environment. As a result, many adolescents struggle with managing the less enticing tasks of life (school, work, chores, etc.). Most of the daily living activities at RedCliff Ascent (chores, hiking, fire making, wilderness curriculum, etc.) are not intrinsically entertaining but are ordinary tasks requisite to live in this environment. By participating in the same tasks regularly, adolescents are given the opportunity to find fulfillment through successful mastery of the skills that directly affect them. Finding satisfaction in the ordinary is an important developmental milestone that is now often robbed by entertainment-saturated environments.
RedCliff Ascent was founded in 1993 and has provided treatment to thousands of families. Our operational maturity provides families and referring professionals a stable and reliable treatment program with a long, demonstrated history of quality, effective treatment.
You can rely on RedCliff.
When comparing programs, it can be hard to differentiate one wilderness program from another. One of the best ways to ensure quality treatment is through accreditation. RedCliff has earned the highest standards of accreditation in our industry, some of which are:
- TJC: The Joint Commission, formerly the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)
- AEE: the Association for Experiential Education
Quality: Evidence-Based Treatment
In addition to providing the highest quality treatment, RedCliff Ascent also provides highly effective treatment. RedCliff Ascent is a Gold research designated program through NATSAP (the National Association for Therapeutic Schools and Programs). RedCliff has over 20 years of research to prove our effectiveness and is an Evidenced-Based Treatment program. Our published research helps shape how RedCliff Ascent and the industry as a whole provide treatment.
RedCliff has been studied in numerous published peer-reviewed articles. The findings consistently demonstrate that RedCliff Ascent provides effective and enduring treatment outcomes. Most recently, RedCliff Ascent was found to be nearly 3 times more effective than traditional community-based treatments for adolescents.
The reason RedCliff Ascent has been found to be nearly 3 times more effective than other adolescent treatments is a consistent and collective focus on what wilderness therapy does best:
- We believe a wilderness environment is best for disrupting unhealthy systems and behaviors that are enabling an adolescent’s distress and dysfunction.
- The wilderness environment is excellent for improving clinical clarity through increased insight and formal assessments. This sets the stage for continued effective treatment.
- Finally, the wilderness environment provides adolescents with experiences they need to re-engage in healthy adolescent development.
Why RedCliff is Effective
RedCliff’s treatment focuses on the most impactful parts of the wilderness to maximize improvement and the generalization of treatment gains. Treatment at RedCliff:
- Maximizes time in the backcountry with small peer groups where frequent social influence and feedback can be given and received.
- Involves the entire family in the treatment process, not only the adolescent or young adult.
- Provides a novel and challenging environment.
- Requires skill mastery through an experiential curriculum and primitive living.
- Uses an Integrated Care approach to assess and treat all areas of concern and views the adolescent as a whole and integrated person.
- Provides clinical interventions that are evidenced-based and culturally sensitive, and employs progress monitoring to accomplish treatment goals.
- Uses ceremony and nature to promote change and internalize growth.
- RedCliff has developed a model of family therapy specifically for wilderness therapy:
- Our family therapy model helps families unpack their family story in a safe way so parent(s) and child can feel heard and validated.
- Our family therapy allows families to participate in therapy on a weekly basis even though they are not physically with their child.
- Therapy sessions occur through a series of narrative writing assignments and activities.
- Our family work is founded in Systems Theory, not just in psychoeducation for the parents.
- Family therapy is integrated throughout the treatment process.
- Family therapy is individualized for each family and their specific dynamics and needs.
A Team Approach
Treatment at RedCliff Ascent is a collaborative team approach. The Treatment Team, which includes the Clinical, Field, Administrative, and Medical Departments, meets weekly to discuss cases and make program and treatment adjustments as needed in order to provide the best treatment to each individual student. This allows open communication and supports a holistic view of each student and their challenges. Topics include how a student is functioning within their group, which therapeutic approaches and interventions are most appropriate, how the student is doing with their current medications (if they are on any), how the students is doing physically with their new diet, sleep schedule, regular exercise, etc. and what challenges and successes Field Guides have reported working with this student.
RedCliff has the systems maturity to make data-driven treatment and programming decisions. RedCliff Ascent has a robust monitoring system that provides critical treatment and program data to the team throughout the treatment process. Key treatment providers are immediately notified in real-time if a family or client is struggling significantly during the treatment process or if the likelihood of a negative outcome becomes high.
RedCliff works actively with insurance companies during and after treatment to get families reimbursement for their experience at RedCliff. Even though these resources may not be available to the family while in our program, they can be critical down the road to help support any continued treatment that is needed after RedCliff Ascent. We strive to help our families along their entire treatment experience.
RedCliff Ascent is 60% more cost-effective than traditional adolescent treatments, meaning that not only is treatment at RedCliff Ascent effective in general, but it is also very cost-effective relative to other options.
RedCliff Ascent serves adolescents ages 13-17 who are struggling with emotional, behavioral, interpersonal, and substance use disorders. This includes:
- Adoption issues
- Attachment issues
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Emotional disorders
- “Failure to Launch”
- Family issues
- Gaming addiction
- Internet addiction
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD )
- School refusal
- Substance use disorders
Many of our students have been in treatment before and failed to engage or make progress. The term for this is “treatment resistant.” RedCliff’s program is uniquely well matched to work with these students because our program is completely immersive in the wilderness experience.
Learning what firm, healthy boundaries look like, then establishing and maintaining them within the right balance of structure and warmth, is the greatest challenge of all Field Guides. Enabling, oversharing, being critical or controlling, falling into the roles of parent or friend, or personalizing a student’s behavior/experiences are all evidence of broken boundaries. Relationships are an essential part of our program and good boundaries are the path to authentic, meaningful relationships.
On a personal level, poor boundaries also contribute to burnout. Field Guides find longevity in this work when they have healthy boundaries with students, and between personal and professional life.
Balance & self-care
8 days of work followed by 6 days of adventure and play makes it easy to neglect the foundation of self-care: consistency in meeting basic needs. Eating 3 nutritious meals every day, going to bed at the same time and getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night, regular exercise, engaging with your community, etc. are critical for staff to “recharge” during their off time. Field Guides can get so caught up in the possibilities of their long off-shifts that they end up more exhausted by their off time than their time in the field.
90-100* days. Monsoon season. Snow. Field Guides experience it all. Everyone has their favorite season and develops tricks for living through their not-so-favorite seasons.
Only seeing part of the journey
While RedCliff Ascent is often a critical turning point in our students’ healing, their journey doesn’t end with us. Each student’s path to healing (or should we say, of healing) is unique. Our core philosophy is to Disrupt, Assess, and Re-engage, and that looks different for every student. “Completely fix all the problems” isn’t a realistic expectation for our program OR our students and their families. We help our students recognize and abandon maladaptive behaviors, understand what is really going on, and develop the tools they need to reconnect with their family and take ownership of their healing. Field Guides need to trust that their good work is impactful even though students don’t leave our program perfect, or in the same place in their journeys.
Making a difference
Field Guides mentor teenagers who desperately need help. You know you are making a real difference. In a world full of suffering, you help people heal. Many Field Guides have gone through their own difficult journeys and honor those who helped them through “paying it forward” with our students.
Getting paid to camp and hike
“Active lifestyle” is an understatement. Your job is doing things other people take time off of their jobs to do. You also get to refine and master skills like map and compass navigation and shelter construction, so you just get better at doing what you already love to do.
Working with good people
This work attracts good people. You work with a supportive, close-knit team who care deeply for each other as humans, not just coworkers. Often the relationships formed with your co-staff become lifelong friendships.
Having 6 days off while living near:
- An international airport
- Some of the most breathtaking National Parks in the USA, including Zion and Grand Canyon
- Miles and miles of public lands suitable for all kinds of outdoor recreation: mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding, hiking, camping, kayaking, fishing, you name it! The adventure possibilities are endless.
Planning trips to visit family and friends is also much easier when you have nearly a week off at a time.
All the pro-deals. So many pro-deals. Any gear you’d need for this job (plus a LOT more) can be purchased usually for between 40-60% off retail. We have access to hundreds of brands, including many outdoor gear and apparel industry leaders. It’s amazing. And it can also be a problem. You definitely have uses for 27 pairs of Chacos, right?
The wilderness is a healing environment for everyone, not just our students. Through the shared challenges and successes of each shift, Field Guides develop confidence, competence, and insight the same way our students do. Personal development and healing are inherent benefits of this work to those who are open to them.
- 80+ hours of initial training plus ongoing training in field and clinical skills
- Certification in rapport building, de-escalation techniques, and safe intervention
- Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification
- Professional mental and behavioral health experience
- Mastery of primitive skills, backcountry navigation, and outdoor leadership
- Opportunity to attend industry conferences and skills gatherings
- Opportunity to pursue additional certifications relevant to Field Guide work, such as Wilderness EMT, Clinical First Responder, or Mental Health First Aid.
In general, no. We do take on clinical interns occasionally. Regarding Field Guides, the State of Utah requires that someone have 24 days outdoor youth program experience and pass a proficiency exam before they can supervise our students. To meet these requirements and provide initial training, all new Field Guides complete a 3 shift “internship” before becoming full-fledged staff. However, this internship is paid, only intended to last those 24 days, and is a pathway to regular, long term employment.
Our program is not seasonal, therefore we do not hire seasonally. Because new Field Guides can’t supervise our students for their first month and a half of employment, hiring Field Guides short term is very expensive with limited benefit, and the high turnover also contributes to greater burnout for all of our Guides and inconsistency in the program we provide our students.
Our goal is to provide the best wilderness treatment, the most effective family therapy, and the best customer service possible. Hiring short-term is a strategy that ultimately does not help us meet this goal or serve the best interests of our students and employees.
Yes! A licensed dietician created and annually reevaluates our diet to ensure our staff and students have foods sufficient in marco and micro nutrients, and calories, for the environment and exertion of our program. Oats or farina are our breakfast staples and rice & lentils is our dinner staple. Combined with our other foods, you'll find our diet to be nutritious and flexible. Here is our field diet with indications of gluten free (GF), dairy free (DF), vegetarian (VG), and vegan (V).
- Oats (GF, V)
- Farina (V)
- Rice & Lentils (GF, V)
- Seasonal fresh fruits & vegetables (GF, DF, V)
- Dehydrated vegetable & herb mix (GF, DF, V)
- Potato pearls (GF, DF, V)
- Dehydrated refried beans (GF, DF, V)
- Powdered milk (GF, VG)
- Powdered wheat in the winter, whole wheat tortillas in the summer (DF, V)
- Trail mix (DF, VG)
- Chicken-flavored bouillon (GF, DF)
- Beef-flavored bouillon (GF, DF, V)
- Assorted spices (all GF, DF, V)
- Peanut butter (GF, DF, V)
- Cheese (GF, VG)
- Canned tuna, turkey, and ham (GF, DF)