Premier Wilderness Therapy for Teens and Young Adults

Located in Northern Georgia

Operating in the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, our first group teens will participate in our innovative wilderness therapy program. With an emphasis on the CASA clinical model, Integrative Learning and the Mastery System, our students and their families will have the opportunity to heal.

First Light Wilderness Therapy provides an integrative treatment model that is centered in Developmental Re-Integration, Generational Empowerment, Interactive Education and Self-Growth,  to promote the healing of individuals and family systems.

WHO WE SERVE

We provide single gender groups for both boys and girls ages 13-17 and young adults ages 18-26.

Despite numerous therapeutic efforts, many teens and young adults struggle with the effects of early childhood stress, developmental trauma and/or adoption. They often demonstrate symptoms like

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • ADHD
  • Emotional Dysregulation
  • Depression
  • Substance Abuse
  • Difficulty Engaging in Meaningful Relationships

CLINICALLY INTENSIVE, MIND AND BODY-ORIENTED THERAPIES

New Vision Wilderness is known for its use of a variety of clinical modalities that treat the mind and body. Our mental health treatment is centered on healing the effects of early childhood stress or developmental trauma in our clients, particularly among students struggling with attachment and/or adoption. Below are some of the modalities we offer at First Light.

  • Trauma Focused CBT
  • Accelerated Resolution Therapy
  • behavior mapping
  • EMDR
  • Brainspotting
  • Heartmath
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Gestalt Therapy
  • Trauma Sensitive Yoga
  • behavioral therapies
  • expressive art therapies
  • family systems therapy
  • Somatic Psychotherapy.
  • ADMISSIONS PROCESS

    1. Please first call our admissions line to speak with an Admissions Counselor and learn more about First Light Wilderness Therapy at: (866) 489-9277.
    2. After you speak with an Admissions Counselor, you can complete our Online Application. Click here to view the application.
    3. After you’ve completed the application, our team will email you with any remaining admissions paperwork.

    First Light Wilderness can enroll students year-round, every day of the week, depending on scheduling. We will do our best to accommodate your needs.

    MEET OUR TEAM

    Jeff Holloway

    EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

    Jeff found his love for working with adolescents while tutoring under-privileged children as an undergraduate, and this experience influenced his decision to major in social work. Jeff earned his bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of South Dakota, and then his Master’s in Social Work at the University of Iowa. For the next decade, Jeff specialized in working with issues related to childhood trauma in a variety of treatment settings, including residential treatment, in-home services, foster care, and outpatient therapy. In 2002, Jeff relocated with his family from Iowa to Georgia, where he worked in administrative roles at a therapeutic boarding school, a therapeutic wilderness program and a boarding school specializing in learning disabilities. These experiences further honed his expertise in working with adolescents and with complex family systems. His desire to help families find the right treatment options for their children led him to educational and therapeutic consulting, where he helped to facilitate hundreds of therapeutic placements.

    Of joining the First Light Wilderness team, Jeff stated, “Having the opportunity to join the family of New Vision Wilderness programs and to return to working directly with children and families refuels the fire that was started over 20 years ago when I discovered how powerfully healing working in nature with a group of kids could be. I am so excited to work with this incredible team of professionals to provide healing, growth and service to families at First Light. “ Jeff has lived in North Georgia since 2002 with his wife, Debi, and their three college-aged children. When not working, Jeff enjoys golfing, practicing martial arts, and driving through the mountains on his Harley.

    Drew Hornbeck, co-founder and CEO of New Vision Wilderness, stated, "I couldn't be more excited to have Jeff's leadership at First Light Wilderness. He brings a depth of knowledge and industry experience to the team, and represents many of the core values that we hold at New Vision, particularly those of trusting relationships and evidence-based outcomes. He has a proven ability to work effectively with others, and his leadership is a critical component to ensuring the best possible experience for children and families who trust us to deliver high quality treatment."

    Jeff can be reached at: Jeffrey.holloway@nvwild.com.

    Theresa Hasting, MA, LPC-S, LMHC, SP

    Clinical Director

    Theresa Hasting received her Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from McMurry University in 2003 and earned her Masters of Arts degree in Family Psychology from Hardin Simmons University in 2005. Theresa has been a licensed counselor since 2007 and practiced in a wide variety of mental health settings. She is currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program in Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute.

    Theresa specializes in working with students with trauma histories, grief and loss, and attachment difficulties. She approaches her work from a depth psychology perspective and works with clients to understand and heal the roots of their pain rather than focusing solely on symptom management.

    Theresa has extensive training in trauma informed care; examining the impact that trauma and stress have on a person’s neurochemistry, brain development, attachment style, cognitions and behaviors. She is a Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) Educator, a registered Sandplay Practitioner, and National Trainer for Nurturing Parenting Programs®. There is also trained in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and EMDR. Theresa tends to utilize a holistic approach to working with students, working with somatic experiences through mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and regulating activities; utilizing evidence based modalities to address emotional and cognitive difficulties; and addressing underlying intrapersonal and interpersonal systems. Theresa enjoys working with family systems and helping families work on new, healthier means of interaction.

    Prior to joining the New Vision team, Theresa worked in an outdoor behavior health program for 5 years where she provided individual therapy to adolescent clients and their families. Theresa has expertise in developing training for staff and families on Trauma Informed Care topics, Nurturing Parenting®, and Trust Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI) principles. She also has experience as a clinician for adolescents and adults in psychiatric settings. Theresa has worked with youth and adults who have experienced physical and sexual abuse, attachment trauma, adjustment issues, depression, anxiety, emotional and behavioral dysregulation, substance abuse issues, psychosis, and interpersonal conflict. Theresa has presented at many state and national conferences. She is a member of the American Counseling Association (ACA) and Sandplay Therapists of America (STA).

    Dr. Elnur “El” Gajiev

    Primary Therapist

    Dr. El is a Clinical Psychologist and educator who brings a diverse breadth of knowledge and experience to the First Light Wilderness Team. Prior to joining First Light, Dr. El provided care and support in residential, hospital, school, and community-based treatment settings, and served as a lead therapist at an outdoor behavioral health program on the Big Island of Hawaii, where he incorporated the many benefits of nature into the transformative therapeutic processes he shared with his students and families.

    In his approach to care, Dr. El embraces a framework that is informed by neurobiology and focuses on his student's innate capacities for growth, resilience, and balance. He naturally integrates each client's strengths and growth points in a holistic manner. His approach brings together treatment modalities that have been supported through vigorous research and practice in conjunction with individually-crafted interventions to creatively and effectively address a vast array of clinical concerns and presentations. He believes that true change occurs within the context of secure, attuned relationships, and invests in mindfully nurturing and emboldening the inherent wisdom within his students and families as they move towards truly meaningful and sustainable change.

    In addition to his direct clinical care, Dr. El has served on the faculty at the University of Hawaii, as well as the board of the Hawaii Psychological Association, and is credentialed as a National Health Service Psychologist. In his spare time, he can be found reading and writing poetry, practicing martial arts, teaching, and exploring the many wonders of nature.

    Emily Smith, MSW

    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.

    Nicholas Pellitteri, BS

    Program Director

    The power of nature and the transformative experiences that occur there have always been evident to Nick. He started recreating outside as a child in his home state of Wisconsin and by age 14 spent his full summers working a variety of outdoor jobs. Despite his love of home, the draw of the woods and far away adventures kept Nick traveling and working at a variety of camps, trail crews, and anywhere he could breathe the fresh air and explore new forests, rivers and mountains.

    After finishing his degree in Forestry and Recreation Resource Management at the University of Wisconsin Nick moved to Utah to work in wilderness therapy. Over his nearly seven years there he honed his skills in therapy, staff development and program leadership finding ways to help youth and young adults grow, first as a field staff and later as a field director.

    In 2014 Nick made a switch to the non-profit world to help improve access to the outdoors for people of all abilities and socioeconomic statuses. He continued to grow as an industry leader in experiential and adventure education before his love of wilderness therapy drew him back to join the NVW team.

    Zach Pratt, BS

    Field Director

    Zach grew up in central Missouri, spending his days on the river or in the woods. He attended Missouri State University, where he studied conservation and anthropology. After he graduated, Zach moved to Asheville, North Carolina. He was looking for a job that lined up with his area of study and came across wilderness therapy. After one week in the field, he knew that this was his passion. He spent four and a half years working as a field instructor. He had to hang his boots up due to the birth of his son. He then transitioned to working with Calo in Lake Ozark, MO. Zach continued working directly with students, and eventually moved into the Neurotherapy department. He worked as a Neurotherapy technician for over three years, helping students calm their nervous system and train their brains to operate more efficiently when under stress. He is very excited to continue to work with Embark Behavioral Health and get back to his roots with First Light Wilderness. In his off time he enjoys being a family man, going for hikes, reading, riding his bike and being outside.

    Stephanie Lewis, BA

    Program/Admissions Support Specialist

    Stephanie brings 10 years of Wilderness Therapy experience with her to the New Vision team. She began as a field staff before moving into the office to support parents during their child’s time in the woods. She has spent the past 7 years in admissions connecting with parents and supporting them through what can be a challenging and emotional process and is passionate about helping families find the help they need.

    Prior to her time in wilderness, Stephanie earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from New Mexico State University. She spent time teaching in South Korea and traveling the United States as a tour guide. Stephanie is an avid reader and enjoys spending time outside with her son and husband.

    Lacey Ely

    Admissions

    Lacey grew up in Southern Missouri where she developed a love of the outdoors. She followed this passion, and spent over three years working in an outdoor therapeutic wilderness program as a Senior Field Instructor. While there, she mentored under a respected trauma therapist in a young adult and adolescent girls group. After Lacey’s time in the woods she transitioned into the role of Parent Coordinator, where she created lasting relationships with parents and referral partners. In 2016, Lacey accepted a role with Calo Teens and Preteens where she flourished in the admissions department, advancing to a Senior Admissions Coordinator. After spending four years with Calo, she transitioned to New Vision Wilderness. Lacey is a Wilderness First Responder and has over a decade of outdoor leadership experience. Lacey lives in the Blue Ridge mountains with her partner and their two boys, Harvey and Arthur, and their dog, Tuesday. The family often create their own outdoor adventures.

    Emilio Acosta

    Emilio Acosta

    Field Staff

    Emilio Acosta is a graduate of Georgia State with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He is passionate about working with youth. Emilio has worked with students of varying abilities, ranging from reading disabilities to Tourette’s syndrome. He is an avid backpacker and a lover of the outdoors.

    Hanna Brooks

    Hanna Brooks

    Field Staff

    Hanna Brooks grew up in North Caroline and spent several years majoring in psychology from UNC and exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains. Most recently, Hanna pursued environmental education/trail stewardship in Massachusetts and wilderness therapy at NVW Northwoods. What draws her into the field of wilderness therapy is utilizing empathy and supporting youth along their therapeutic journeys in a calm wilderness setting. In her spare time, you’ll find Hanna hiking, jamming to music, drawing, and spending quality time with friends.

    Maureen Fitzgerald

    Maureen Fitzgerald

    Field Staff

    Maureen Fitzgerald is a strong woman who believes the benefits of nature can provide growth and development in all aspects of our everyday lives. Nature/wilderness have provided her with so much patience, love, kindness and compassion that she feels determined to keep that fire burning! Maureen loves cooking, horses, and playing music. Maureen’s motto: let’s make this world a better place with one person at a time!

    Raquel Leal

    Raquel Leal

    Field Staff

    Raquel Leal is an outdoor enthusiast and has been in the recreation industry since 2015. She enjoys helping people of all ability levels and providing exposure to the outdoors. She has been passionate about inclusion ever since her first summer camp counselor/care giver position at Camp Red Leaf. After completing her bachelor’s degree at Western Illinois University in RPTA (Recreation, Parks and Tourism), she has been looking for ways to help introduce the wilderness to others that haven’t had the accessibility to it. She enjoys canoeing, kayaking, and hiking as leisure activities. She also has a love for all animals and hope to adopt a dog one day!

    Erik Matlock

    Field Staff

    Erik Matlock is a husband, father and grandfather with a wide variety of skills from several industries and a Georgia native. He’s been involved with children and youth mentoring since the early 90s.

    Steven Nutt

    Steven Nutt

    Field Staff

    Steven Nutt is from the north suburbs of Chicago, Illinois and has a passion for helping all types of people in an outdoor setting. He graduated from Western Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration and a double minor in communication and outdoor leadership. Steve has worked in the outdoor industry for seven years with experience in guiding wilderness expeditions, directing outdoor recreation program for at-risk youth and people with developmental disabilities as well as after school programs and summer camps. In his off time, Steve loves to canoe, kayak, car camp, travel and find live music.

    Shannon Poulos

    Shannon Poulos

    Field Staff

    Shannon Poulos grew up playing and exploring the forests and rivers of northern Illinois. She quickly recognized the impact the woods had on her life and how important spending time in the wilderness is. After graduating from Carroll University, Shannon took her degree in clinical psychology and began her journey in wilderness therapy. She moved down to the Blue Ridge Mountains and has been facilitating growth and healing in the Southern Appalachian wilderness for some time.

    Josh Prince

    Josh Prince

    Field Staff

    Josh Prince has spent most of his life in North Carolina and is currently pursuing a Master's in Social Work at Appalachian State University. Josh developed a deep appreciation for nature while studying Geology as an undergraduate. While teaching high school science a few years ago, he realized that his true passion is working with young people in behavioral health settings. When not working, Josh enjoys golfing, cooking, fishing, working on cars, traveling, and hiking.

    How To Contact New Vision

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