Position: Wilderness Therapist
Emily comes to First Light with an excitement that has been driven since her early years in undergraduate education, when she first learned about wilderness therapy. From the moment that she knew that there was an industry that coupled her two passions, empowering young people and being submersed in nature, she knew that she had to be a part of it. Emily earned her bachelor’s in social work at Western Illinois University and her master’s degree in social work from Aurora University. She first began her work with young people and their families at a state-operated residential treatment program, where she quickly saw how interaction with nature, or a lack of such contact, can impact the health, development, and overall well-being of those who are finding their way in the world.
Emily has experienced a variety of roles while working in the wilderness therapy industry, from direct care as field staff, logistical support, working with canines, supporting families, and serving as a clinical intern while completing her degree. She steps into her clinical role with awareness of the value that each component of the wilderness experience contributes to a student’s growth and progress. Emily’s clinical focus begins first and foremost through building relationship and trust with her students. She believes that there is no better avenue for healing than a strong relational approach coupled with thoughtful and intentional harnessing of the naturally powerful wilderness setting. Emily enjoys exploring with her family and their dogs, a good game of cards, and singing, dancing and listening to any and all music whenever the opportunity arises.
Position: Wilderness Therapist
Kayla comes to First Light with a passion for wilderness therapy and family programming. She received her BS in Psychology and MS in Community Counseling from University of North Georgia (then North Georgia College and State University). She completed her practicum and internship at an all-girls boarding school and stayed there for 3 years. For 15 years now, she has worked in education or adolescent development in some capacity from university, all-girls then an all-boys boarding school, and wilderness programs. She has a background in individual, group, and family therapies. As part of her training as a trauma responsive therapist, Kayla is phase I Brainspotting trained.
The therapeutic focus she brings to First Light is diverse. She holds family systems and teaching assertive communication as a cornerstone in any work that she does. This passion for bringing families together and bridging the gaps that develop as adolescents differentiate, struggle, and grow is essential in developing sustainability within an adolescent’s treatment.
Personally, Kayla has her hands full with two small children. This means a lot of gymnastics, basketball practice, and balancing chaos. She and her family love to dance, watch movies, and be as active as possible both indoors and out!
Mycala is a nationally certified counselor who comes to First Light Wilderness with a diverse mix of clinical and wilderness experience. She earned her Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Georgia State University, and has worked in residential, wilderness, outpatient, and telehealth settings. Mycala is certified in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) certified and in Phase 1 Brainspotting.
Mycala’s passion for using the natural world as a tool for growth and healing grew in her time as a field guide in wilderness treatment programs, as well as during her time leading outdoor trips for leadership development and teambuilding during college. She has experience facilitating high ropes Challenge Course activities as well as leading expeditions with teens in Alaska, where she also focused on facilitating the development of self-awareness and outdoor education.
As a wilderness therapist, Mycala draws on the lessons of the natural world in provoking insight with her teen clients. Mycala’s clients are most often experiencing issues with depression, anxiety, trauma, family dynamics and communication, attachment, and ADHD. She enjoys sharing her passion for creative interventions, as well as using an intentional focus on improving group dynamics as a tool for mirroring how her clients can better understand their role and responsibilities in both family and peer relationships. Mycala believes that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach in her clinical work, and is deeply invested in understanding each client and family’s struggles and strengths in order to identify the best opportunities for growth and healing.
In her spare time, Mycala loves to play volleyball and coaches on a nationally competitive travel team.
Position: Primary Therapist
Jamila joined the First Light Wilderness clinical team in 2021. She is primarily focused on working with our younger students, both male and female. Jamila earned her undergraduate degree at Georgia Southern University and her master’s degree in Counseling at Argosy University.
Jamila’s clinical experience is extensive, and she is well-versed in working with a a broad range of clinical and family issues, having worked in Georgia’s foster care system with complex medical and mental health diagnoses, focusing on family reunification and adoption. Jamila’s desire to increase family engagement in therapy led her to incorporate the outdoors and physical movement in order to increase impact and improve outcomes. After 8 years of clinical and case management experience, she immersed herself in wilderness treatment for 2 years, working in direct care with students, as well as facilitating family intensives.
Jamila is passionate about working with younger boys/girls/non-binary students, with individuals with Autism Spectrum diagnoses, learning disabilities, transracial and intercultural adoption, and both episodic and systemic trauma. Her approach is playful and creative, and she is intensively trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solution-Focused Therapy and Mindfulness, as well as in non-violent crisis prevention and de-escalation techniques, parent coaching, grief/loss, complex trauma, and sexual trauma.
Jamila is also passionate about increasing BIPOC representation and promoting increased diversity in the field of wilderness therapy, and hopes to have an impact on those who might not otherwise feel represented. She actively works to address the complex issues related to trans-racial adoption and is highly proficient in teaching healthy boundaries, family conflict resolution and positive communication. In her free time, you will likely find Jamila hiking with her dogs or fly-fishing.