Matt, you’ve been working with FTGF for several years now. How did you get involved?
I am a counselor at Elevated Counseling in Denver, where we partner with Fishing the Good Fight. I began there as a counselor there in December 2021. Craig (one of the owners) asked if I’d help run the spring 2022 men’s group. I said yes, and fell in love with how much vulnerability and willingness to connect the men brought. I then facilitated two of the retreats last year, which were nothing short of magical.
Had you always wanted to be a therapist? How did you find yourself in that profession?
I’ve always loved working with people and helping facilitate personal growth. I was an outdoor guide/instructor for a long time with teens and young adults at Outward Bound. While co-managing another outdoor program, I realized that I needed something more sustainable and challenging, so I went back to school and got my master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. I continue to bring that experiential and outdoor lens to my clinical work whenever I can.
What about fly fishing? Do you remember the first experience you had, rod in hand, that had you hooked?
I grew up lure fishing in a lake near my house. But the first fly fishing experience I had was actually on last March’s Fishing the Good Fight retreat. I managed to land a fish and the feeling was so satisfying!
How do you believe that being in nature affects mental health? How does it enhance or change what we might consider traditional talk therapy?
I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of nights in the wilderness on backcountry expeditions with folks, and I have seen the power that the natural world can have on us. Being outdoors engages the senses in a way that traditional talk therapy in an office cannot. Therapists and clients build relationships that are often deeper and richer in an immersive, outdoor setting. The outdoors allows a place where we can learn to take care of ourselves on a physical level (eating well, sheltering ourselves, wearing appropriate layers), which can translate to everyday life. It also allows us to slow down and take our time to connect together, which is so needed in today’s world of disconnection and distraction.
For the last couple of years, FTGF has expanded our programming and we now offer regular Men’s Groups, including guest speakers and group therapy by a licensed professional. For a person who has never participated in group therapy before, what should they expect?
This is a great question. The power of group work is a little bit difficult to articulate. I would say you should expect a place where you can discuss what is going on in your life (what’s really going on) and where you can be heard and not judged. There’s a phenomenon that happens in group therapy called “universality” which essentially means we often find out that we are not alone in our struggle, whatever that may be. This connection is often very healing for men, who tend to have less social connection. Group can also offer a proverbial “hall of mirrors”, or a place where people can reflect things back to us, and offer feedback about some of our potential blind spots. It is also super fun!
What is your philosophy or approach to mental health and therapy?
I have deep respect for anyone who seeks therapy. Seriously, it’s scary! My philosophy is one of highlighting people’s strengths, telling the truth, and offering compassion. So I try to start from a place of seeing other’s strengths because there is so much good in us that gets overlooked by the critical parts of ourselves. But I also believe in telling the truth, so I try and help to create a place for people to do that, both in individual and group settings. As someone who has a background in outdoor work and experiential therapy, I bring some alternative clinical modalities with the philosophy of “show me don’t tell me” which can allow us to go deeper.
Now to get into the more fishy questions…What’s your best fly fishing-related memory?
I am very new to the fly fishing world, so I would have to say it’s the first fish I caught on the Salida retreat last year. What a rush!
Where are some of your favorite places to fish?
I really loved fishing on the Crystal River, near Carbondale. I just love that part of the state and found it absolutely breathtaking.
What is your best advice for someone who wants to get into fly fishing?
My best advice would be to ask someone who knows what they are doing (not me!). In all seriousness though, I would suggest going out with people who know what they are doing and are just excited to do it. I think that’s where a lot of the power of Fishing the Good Fight lies. Volunteers are so patient, understanding, and excited to help you catch fish. They will meet you where you at skill-wise. It’s contagious energy.
What are your go-to gear items when you’re out on the water?
Again, I’m super novice at this, but I need to be comfortable because I run cold. I would say my Patagonia puffy jacket has served me well in that regard.
Finally, where can folks find you?
Most days, folks can find me at Elevated Counseling in Denver. I also run workshops for Onsite Workshops in Tennessee several times a year.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (720) 441-3484