• Lily Hope Wilkinson

Juniper Canyon: A Program Built and Facilitated By Women, for Women


Written by Kim Belair (operations director), Dr. Maddy Liebing (clinical director), and Lily Wilkinson (business development)



Why start a wilderness program for women?

We recognized a lack of resources and therapeutic programming for adult women that incorporated outdoor adventure and wilderness immersion. Wilderness was an untapped well of potential for helping women to recognize their power and strength. While our clients at Juniper Canyon are very supported, they are also deeply challenged by being in an outdoor environment. In the end we see the challenge of the outdoors and our adventures empower our clients; each week we see greater confidence and self-love grow within our clients.


We also recognized that women are often twice as likely to be diagnosed with PTSD or experience trauma than men. For many women, recovery from trauma feels safer and more accessible in all female environments. While Juniper Canyon clients come to us with mental health challenges such as anxiety or depression, or a substance abuse issue, very quickly we begin to understand those presenting challenges as responses to traumatic experiences. By having a program that is specifically devoted to the needs of women, we are able to address this trauma in both our group milieu and in individual therapy with great effectiveness and create a safe environment for women to work through these extremely difficult issues.


What are some of the benefits of an all-female wilderness therapy program?

We are able to create and foster a tight knit community for our clients, that is comprised of other women through a recognition of shared experiences in the world. We find that the community is less-distracting and a less threatening environment, especially for trauma survivors.


Our programming and clinicians can focus on how to best support one gender, the female experience, rather than also considering the different needs of other gender identities. This allows more energy to be put towards the needs of women in our program.

The leadership team at Juniper Canyon is composed of women who have a diverse set of experiences in the world and can lend them to program development in a personal and effective way. Role modeling female leadership in everything from the guides facilitating rock climbing and mountain biking to clinical and program leadership allows women to see themselves as potential leaders in the future.


How did we work to establish and maintain autonomy for Juniper Canyon?

Before we took our first client at Juniper Canyon, we envisioned a program for women, designed by women, and delivered primarily by women. By using the infrastructure and field expertise of Legacy Outdoor Adventures we had access to many resources, ideas, and support. We used the Legacy system for support in creating the most safe and sustainable wilderness program we could, but Juniper Canyon was developed with its own unique purpose, mission, vision, and goals.


The Curriculum was completed long before we took any clients, and is written specifically for women. For example it is not linear, but is circular, based on helping women achieve balance in the five domains: intellectual, emotional, social, physical, and spiritual and incorporating the Stages of Change. It requires personal evaluation and self-awareness, and we support our women in gaining the therapeutic skills to actively partake in their own journey.

Most of our field guides are women and specifically work at Juniper Canyon, thus they are consistent figures within the treatment team.


Our clinical team is also trained in treating trauma. They utilize EMDR therapy, Internal Family Systems, Mindfulness, and other trauma specific modalities, which often requires more individual therapy time on average than most wilderness therapy programs. We also offer different clinical groups like DBT, equine therapy, process groups and recovery-focused groups that offer our clients different ways to connect, develop skills, and build relationships with the world around them.


We have created Juniper Canyon specific leadership team with many years of experience in the wilderness therapy field. Please come and spend time with us. We’d love to share our program with you and let you experience some of the magic we have worked hard to create for our clients.

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