Outdoor Activities Do More Than Just Support Therapy—They Are Therapy

Exposure to nature and exercising outdoors can improve a person’s mental health immensely. Through utilizing outdoor recreation in our treatment program, our teens experience the therapeutic effect of the great outdoors in a way that few will ever forget. 

Last summer, our outdoor program launched a new pontoon boat. It was an immediate hit with our students. “We had some pretty cool feedback from the kids,” says chief operations officer Carl Baisden. “Many said it was their favorite activity since they had arrived at Turning Winds. 

The boat is about to be launched again. 

“The kids just love the boat,” says program director Enoch Stump. “We’ve had some amazing clinical moments with the boat, doing teamwork initiatives and peer pressure dynamics—topics that are really relevant to the kids.” It’s not the only activity around water that the kids get to enjoy.

“Many of our staff are passionate about fishing and this is a great time of the year to fish, says Stump. “We got great streams, rivers, and lakes for fishing and the kids get to clean and sometimes cook the fish they bring back.”

There will also be hiking trips, canoeing, and kayaking over the summer. 


The activities component is central to the therapeutic approach at Turning Winds. “We believe in an emphasis on therapy, of course, but the activities are also very important,” says Baisden. “Sometimes, when I talk to people about our activities, they say ‘Oh, that’s fun!’ and it feels a little tragic when it’s watered down to ‘just fun.’ If it was just that we wouldn’t invest that heavily into these kinds of activities. What we’re trying to achieve is not just kids enjoying life—we’re trying to get them to genuinely fall in love with living again.”

The emphasis on activities is something that sets Turning Winds apart. “In the old version of Turning Winds, activities were there to supplement treatment,” says Baisden. “In the last 24 months, we’ve pivoted quite aggressively to an understanding that activities are treatment—it’s part of the treatment process. So when we go out and have fun, we don’t just go out for the sake of having fun, we have a therapist there and I think it does some magical stuff for these kids.”

This approach avoids a formal setting; the clients don’t feel they are in treatment and it’s easier for them to open up and be vulnerable. “We allow clients to develop a different relationship, a different rapport with the clinical staff that they wouldn’t have if they only had stuffy weekly meetings in an office,” says Baisden. 

Turning Winds felt so strongly about this aspect of treatment that we created a new department. “That’s how important this is,” says Baisden. “It can’t just be under one of the managers, we needed a full-time director managing all of those activities, tying the clinical components into it, staffing them appropriately, allowing clients to have these high-value clinical experiences.” 

“Whenever our teenagers are goal-oriented and focused on a topic, they’re better behaved, they’re more engaged, they are better versions of themselves,” adds Enoch Stump. “The core of what we’re doing is we help them create self-worth and they feel better about their interactions with their friends.”

Experiential learning at Turning Winds is not limited to Montana. Twice a year, Turning Winds organizes international service trips for our clients. As with the pontoon boat, it’s not just a fun tourist excursion but an uplifting therapeutic experience since the trip is focused on helping other people and experiencing a culture different from our own. 

At Turning Winds, it’s the people who make the difference. Over two decades, we’ve built a team of some of the world’s finest academic and therapeutic professionals, all of whom share the same goal: to help teens re-engage meaningfully with their lives, families, and their futures. 

Contact us online for more information, or call us at 800-845-1380. If your call isn’t answered personally, one of us will get back to you as soon as possible.


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Picture of John Baisden, Jr

John Baisden, Jr

John Baisden Jr is the father of seven inspiring children, and he is married to Kara, the love of his life. Together they have created a family-centered legacy by leading the way with early childhood educational advancement. John loves to write and is an author of a children’s book, An Unlikely Journey and plans to publish additional books. Show More

John is a visionary in his work and applies “outside-the-box” approaches to business practice and people development. He is the Founder of Turning Winds, along with several other organizations. He has extensive experience launching and developing organizations. His skills include strategic planning, promoting meaningful leader-member movement, organizational change, effective communication, project management, financial oversight and analysis, digital marketing and content creation, and implementing innovative ideas through influential leadership. As a leader, John seeks to empower others and brand success through collaborative work. His vision is to lead with courage, grit, truth, justice, humility, and integrity while emphasizing relational influence rather than focusing on the sheens of titles, positions, or things.

Finally, John is passionate about life and promoting equity among those who are often overlooked because of differences that frequently clash with the “norm.” He lives in Southern Idaho and loves the outdoors and the life lessons that can be learned in such an informal environment.

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