Emily Smith, MSW

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.