Michael Tilden is a new counselor at Oxbow Academy. He brings a genuine love of helping others and outdoor experience which he uses during therapy. Michael has a relaxed demeanor that makes him easy to talk to, which is indispensable to his work as a therapist. Michael has a message of hope for families.
Coming to Oxbow Academy
Michael first heard of Oxbow Academy during a career fair at Brigham Young University where he was attending graduate school. His reaction was very straightforward.
“Oh, heck no! I am not doing Oxbow! Sexual treatment? That’s the one therapy that I want to avoid.”
Fortunately for Oxbow Academy, one of Michael’s professors encouraged him to apply for an internship position. Michael agreed to go, not because he wanted to, but simply because he respected the professor.
So, Michael came to Oxbow Academy for an interview.
“I immediately fell in love with it,” Michael said. “It just felt right in the heart to go to Oxbow as an intern. And so I did.”
While Michael’s heart told him that he was in the right place, he still had some anxieties when he first started working for Oxbow Academy.
“I was super nervous. Super scared to work with this population. But I immediately fell in love with it, because I think everyone has their struggles, right?” Michael said. “The students’ struggles are just sexual, and that is taboo in our society. But it is still an issue that these kids need just as much help as kids with a drug issue or a violence issue. I saw the kids as kids, and I loved working at Oxbow because of all of the focus on healing.”
One of the first things that drew Michael to Oxbow is the use of a polygraph. Students take a polygraph exam as part of the evaulation and disclosure process. The purpose of this is to create a foundation of trust on which to build.
“I like the accountability right up front. It’s like cancer. The first thing you have to do is get all that yuckiness out,” said Michael. “You have to be honest about what you have done before you can start to heal. So, you have to kind of cut out that cancer. It is a painful process. But only then can healing really occur.”
Additionally, Michael appreciated the freedom that he has at Oxbow. While there are specific tasks and phases that he must encourage students to complete, Michael has the opportunity to adapt to the needs of each child.
A small caseload is a part of what makes it possible for therapists like Michael to customize therapy to fit the needs of each student. While similar programs often assign ten or more students to each therapist, therapists at Oxbow Academy typically have around six students.
“The kids really, really get quality care,” Michael said.
The quality of care that people receive is important to Michael because he is passionate about helping people.
Apart from being of service to others, Michael’s other great passion is the outdoors. He and his wife love the outdoors. They are both avid rock climbers. They can often be seen mountaineering through the Tetons, the Sawtooths, and the Wasatch Range. Michael even proposed to his wife on top of the Grand Tetons.
“She did not know I was even thinking about it. So that was a pretty big act of faith,” Michael said. “I am normally a very planned out structured person, so that was the most spontaneous thing I have ever done. Because, if she would have said no, then it would have been a very, very long hike down.”
Michael brought his love of the outdoors to Oxbow. He is able to use his love of the outdoors to help people. Michael leads a High Adventure program. He leads students in rock climbing, rappelling, canyoneering, and other outdoor activities. During these activities, students get to confront their fears and limitations. With Michael’s help, they can process these experiences in the moment. These therapeutic experiences are tied to moments that students will remember for the rest of their lives. These experiences help to change students’ lives.
A Message of Hope
Michael is committed to the idea that people can change, and recover from sex and porn addiction.
“People can and do recover from this. I have seen it happen,” Michael said. “Our success rate is extremely high. It’s the highest in the industry. Healing can and does and will occur if people put in the effort.”
Having Michael on Oxbow’s team as a therapist has been a great benefit not only to the students, but also the Oxbow culture overall.