The Outback is an outdoor setting that offers an alternative take on traditional therapy. Photo courtesy of Samara Benza.

SAMARA BENZA, Special to The Denisonian — Jack Wheeler, therapist and Licensed Independent Social Worker at the Whisler Wellness Center, is creating a new option for students to find coping mechanisms through adventure therapy. 

There are two main components of adventure therapy: involvement in nature and physical activity. 

According to Wheeler, he hopes that students recognize the spaces that surround the campus and take time to get away from the active campus while integrating being outside. 

As the name introduces, Adventure therapy is not traditional talk therapy—it extends beyond the therapists’ four walls, so students and patients can be where they are most comfortable, whether that be in an office or out in nature alone or with people.

As part of Denison, Wheeler says that the community has the privilege to be surrounded by nature constantly. But there are still times where it is good to get away from the noise of campus and find some time to clear your head and bathe in the grace and exquisiteness of nature. There are more places to do this on campus than one might think: at the Open House, the center for religious and spiritual life, there is a meditation room, or at Slatyer and Swasey Chapel you can find mindfulness rooms, or take a journey to the Outback—a hidden oasis created by Wheeler. 

Marked only by a painted rock along a trail on the west side of Whistler, the Outback is a designated quiet space where individuals can forrest bathe. Don’t be alarmed, no one is actually bathing in the forest, you’re letting the wind, sun, and trees wash over you, allowing them to help cleanse your mind and body. 

The Outback is an alternate green therapy space that is totally confidential. Students can take advantage of this in therapy sessions or can discover the beauty on their own, whenever they’d like. It’s first come first serve, just walk up and turn the rock from “open” to “closed” to notify others that the space is being used and turn the rock back once you are done. 

If you would like, Jack has chairs and hammocks that can be used in his office, just ask!

From his time in Boy Scouts to time spent working at Paul Newman’s “Hole in the Wall” camp, Wheeler has loved nature and helping people in every way he can. He spends his time concentrating on green spaces and how they impact people’s mental health. Wheeler explains further, stating: “there’s a growing body of evidence out there that being in green environments…[is] calming and connects you and will lead you to better regulation of your chronic stress.” He is bringing his hobby into his work — by introducing outdoor green space therapy and by fall of 2020 adventure therapy. 

Denison’s nature-filled campus has a wealth of people who are willing to help in a multitude of ways, take advantage of it!