TWG 2.0: The Evolution of the Transformational Wilderness Guiding Certification Program - Part 1

Written by Michael Jospe Posted in Wilderness Guiding

Written By Michael Jospe

TWG 2.0: The Evolution of the Transformational Wilderness Guiding Certification Program - Part 1

 

I wanted to take some time to share some of our vision for the future of the Transformational Wilderness Guiding Program. There is so much, and it is evolving more quickly than I can update the information on the website. Here is a preview of what’s to come. We hope to have all literature on the website updated by the end of the spring.

 

 

Contents: 

In 2009, after about 5 years of teaching classes at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison, instructing for Naropa University’s Wilderness Therapy Master’s program, as well as their Ecospychology program, I launched the first incarnation of this program. It was called “Therapeutic Wilderness Programming.” There were a small group of students at Western that were committing themselves to all my classes, were continually looking for more, and were wanting to work professionally as wilderness therapists. I collaborated with Western to offer them a certification.

After a few years, the University changed its policies and dropped the program. I went out on my own and slowly transitioned the program to Boulder. It was interesting - right around the time that things changed at Western, an interest in the program started to build. Folks from Naropa’s masters and undergraduate programs, as well as working professionals around Colorado, began to register.  It is evident that more and more helping - professionals are looking for a way to work with people that is transformative, involves nature, and offers a non - pathological approach.

I am so grateful to the students in this program. Their level of competency, professionalism and passion keeps inspiring me to raise the bar of education and meet them so that they walk away feeling more confident, clear, and effective as guides. Today, more folks who live outside of Colorado are finding the program. So, along with the never - ending improvement of the curriculum and structure of EBI, my next big challenge is finding ways to support students’ efforts to become certified. What follows is a reflection of this growth.

In 2009, after about 5 years of teaching classes at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison, instructing for Naropa University’s Wilderness Therapy Master’s program, as well as their Ecospychology program, I launched the first incarnation of this program. It was called “Therapeutic Wilderness Programming.” There were a small group of students at Western that were committing themselves to all my classes, were continually looking for more, and were wanting to work professionally as wilderness therapists. I collaborated with Western to offer them a certification.

After a few years, the University changed its policies and dropped the program. I went out on my own and slowly transitioned the program to Boulder. It was interesting - right around the time that things changed at Western, an interest in the program started to build. Folks from Naropa’s masters and undergraduate programs, as well as working professionals around Colorado, began to register.  It is evident that more and more helping - professionals are looking for a way to work with people that is transformative, involves nature, and offers a non - pathological approach.

I am so grateful to the students in this program. Their level of competency, professionalism and passion keeps inspiring me to raise the bar of education and meet them so that they walk away feeling more confident, clear, and effective as guides. Today, more folks who live outside of Colorado are finding the program. So, along with the never - ending improvement of the curriculum and structure of EBI, my next big challenge is finding ways to support students’ efforts to become certified. What follows is a reflection of this growth.

Our program is currently structured in this way: 12 modules offered over three semesters. Each semester consists of 4 modules, and each module is approximately one month long. Each module includes a Face-to-Face gathering, an online discussion, and a phone / video conference. The three semesters are spread out over the course of 18 months. 

12 trips to Boulder have been an obvious obstacle for both current and prospective students, and we have been seeking ways to make the flow of the program more flexible and accessible to folks outside of the local area. There are two important factors that must be taken into consideration: One, the program currently uses a cohort model wherein a small group goes through the entire program together. The cohort has proven to be an integral and cherished part of the program because the learning is mostly experiential. Two, the content is so unique and essential that nothing that can be cut out. So, how do we make this work? How do we create more flexibility given these important pieces? We think we have a solution and hope to implement it soon.

What we intend to do is break the curriculum into two parts, rather than three semesters. The first part will be be called “The Foundation” and will consist of four modules taken sequentially: one module per month for four months. The second part will be called “The Toolbox,” and will consist of the remaining modules, which do not have to be taken sequentially, but require the prerequisite of the Foundation Modules. What this means is that there will be two calendars running simultaneously and year round. Every 6 months, the four sequential Foundation Modules will be offered for incoming students. Additionally, a Toolbox Module will be offered nearly every month of the year (sometimes back - to - back, even) allowing students to piece together a schedule that meets their needs. Yes, this might cause cohort groups to fragment a bit, but my sense is that groups will generally stick together. And, mixing together people at different stages in the program will provide rich opportunities. Also, as times goes on we might find clusters of students coming from similar geographical locations (i.e. the Pacific Northwest, California, or the Northeast). If this occurs, we plan to offer gatherings in these locations whenever possible to help with travel costs.

For some time, I’ve been looking for ways to keep graduates involved with EBI and the TWG program. There are a few ideas brewing, but two are worth mentioning here. I want each new igroup of students to have a designated advisor, someone who will help them navigate through the program requirements, encourage deeper learning during the online discussions, answer questions about content, and be a supportive mentor and guide as students complete the program. I see this as a great opportunity for TWG grads who are well on their way professionally and are excited about mentoring future students.

Additionally, I’m going to start inviting TWG graduates to be T.A.s for Face-to-Face intensives. These folks would help me with the details of the gatherings, assist in exercises, and be available to answer questions. This is a great opportunity for graduates who are looking to mentor other students and help out while attending the training again to deepen their own understanding of the concepts.

There are a few important additions to the current certification requirements that are coming up in the future. I feel that these additions are essential and will greatly add to the quality of the training and the confidence of the graduates.

First, this program is called Transformational Wilderness Guiding and currently, there are very few wilderness skills that are being taught. I’ve been trying to squeeze them in here and there, but meeting for three days at a time makes it difficult to really allow for the space needed to teach the wilderness leadership skills that I feel are essential for TWGs to know. Even if they don’t end up taking their clients and students into the remote wilderness, I want to know that TWGs possess the skills and confidence to do so.

Therefore, starting in the Fall of 2014, in addition to the Wilderness Quest, it will be a requirement for students to take 8 - 10 wilderness leadership courses in order to be certified as a TWG. It will not be required for students to take the course with EBI. Like the Wilderness Quest, if a student has previous experience and training that meets the required competencies (which many do), they can get this step “signed-off.”

Starting in 2015, EBI will be offering the Wilderness Quest and the Wilderness Leadership courses during the months of July and August. TWG students (current and graduated) may enroll in these courses at a discounted and packaged rate.

*This summer we are only offering the Wilderness Quest: July 12 - 19, 2014.

 

Second, many coaching programs require their students to choose a personal coach to work with during their training. There is generally a minimum number of required sessions, and the coach must possess a minimum amount of training and experience to qualify as “approved.” After about 5 years of running this program, I’m starting to see the wisdom in this requirement. Therefore, it is now a requirement to complete a minimum of 10 sessions with an approved Transformational Wilderness Guide during the course of the training. Students will be given a list of names of certified guides that are available to work with them, and will work out the details of their meetings independently of EBI. Students will be required to submit a form, signed by their Guide, that confirms the requirements have been met.

This is exciting to me for a few reasons: A) Students are able to experience, for themselves, being guided over a prolonged period of time. B) It creates another opportunity for program graduates to mentor current students. C) It provides an opportunity for graduates to build their practice.

Well, that's it for now. More on the way. I hope this answers questions for folks! Always feel free to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to get more information.

 

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