Wilderness Therapy Alaska Style
Klawock, Alaska is home to Passages Alaska, an adventure and wilderness-based therapy program for adults that launched in the spring of 2020. Owner and Clinical Director Sean Tomkinson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has brought together a team devoted to the enrichment of adults aged 18+. Their mission is to inspire the enrichment and mental and emotional wellness and strength of individuals through wilderness therapy.
Tomkinson discovered wilderness therapy in 2008 and has admired the process ever since. He notably shared that though there are successful wilderness therapy programs across the United States, Southeast Alaska provides a unique and natural environment in which to provide a spectacular setting for staging a therapeutic intervention and allowing students to get in touch with the natural world. Alaska’s wildlife and habitat in all of its forms are what he considers the assets that set Passages Alaska apart from the industry at large.
In working with Alaska SBDC Rural Program Director, Jennifer Adams, Tomkinson explained they focused on getting the Passages Alaska “business plan tightened up and made some referrals for a lender that could help us get off the ground.”
Tomkinson is proud of how his business has grown from the day start-up financing was received, the staff was trained, the first Passages Alaska student was accepted, to growing both professionally and personally today. This growth and implementation of wilderness therapy allow the talented professional team of Passages Alaska to provide a therapeutic foundation and intervention services that are individualized to the student’s needs in a safe and impactful way.
Exploring the coastal water of Prince of Wales Island and Sea Otter Sound provides a challenging and rewarding experience. For many, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity or remains a wishlist item. The therapy is coupled with opportunities to witness Alaska’s beauty and wildlife first-hand and understand how man interacts with and is an important part of the larger system that surrounds us.
Following the at-least eight week program, students take with them an enriched appreciation of themselves and their place in the world as they have thrived and lived in one of the most beautiful and dynamic places on earth: Alaska.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Passages Alaska remained committed to making its presence and services both known and respected in the industry.
Though at launch Passages Alaska was serving male clients, those who toured the program noted they would be very interested in sending female clients to Alaska for the immersive and therapeutic experience as well. Due to popular demand and following a successful season, Passages Alaska will offer a “girls group” option in spring 2021 with all-female staff to serve as a “Wilderness Warrior Princess” group to meet this need.
Tomkinson looks forward to continuing to improve their processes and is proud of how their outstanding staff has developed over the summer as they prepare for the expansion and seasons to come.