Nature Therapy for Youth Supported by Natick SOUP

Amy Mevorach
Issue Date: 
August, 2018
Article Body: 

Winners of the first Natick SOUP grant commenced the nature therapy program they proposed on May 19.
At the first Natick SOUP event, a soup supper at Revolution Martial Fitness, four preselected groups presented proposals for projects which would benefit the community. Guests at the meal discussed the projects and voted on the one they preferred to support with a $2,500 grant.
One was Renewable Energy, driven by the vision that Natick will be powered on 100% renewable energy. The project would help Natick move towards a more sustainable future.
Another proposal, Nanny A La Carte, aims to provide Natick with a safe and reliable source of both short and long term home help. The help would include childcare, home maintenance and transportation assistance. 
The Makers Faire is driven by a love of creativity and science. This project would create an annual fair for youth to showcase their interests and hobbies.
“All the projects had a great showing and solid votes, but the nature therapy program was the winner for the night,” said Sensei Paul Castagno, organizer and instigator of Natick SOUP.  
The winners, Matthew Apeseche, a therapist and school counselor at Seaport Academy in Chelsea, and Clay Tisdale, a candidate for a career in social work and former Army Ranger, proposed a program that would combine therapy and youth mentorship in the context of wilderness retreats.
“I have found that taking space in nature away from the stress and routine of normal life is when I am best able to evaluate who I am and who I want to become,” said Apeseche. Working as wilderness therapy guide, Apeseche witnessed the transformative power of the natural world on youth. “It was faster and more effective than any other therapeutic treatment I have come across over ten years of working in this field. However, when these kids returned to their homes and communities they often fell into the same habits and patterns that got them into trouble in the first place, and the progress they had made seemed to slip away.”
Their program is unique in that it offers ongoing individual therapy for youth when they return home after the retreat, and also provides opportunities for monthly meetups with participants to encourage positive peer support. Another pillar of the program is the teen/child mentorship that it fosters. “When teenagers take on the mentor role it gives their life meaning and purpose, which I believe is often lacking for kids in today’s world,” said Apeseche.
In mid-July, they embarked on their first adventure in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with students from Seaport Academy. “This could not have happened without the support of Natick SOUP. The trip was a huge success, and we are already planning our second trip for the end of August.” The program is free to all participants.
If you would like to support the program or refer youth, contact Matthew Apaseche at [email protected] or 617-519-0867.