Meet the Guru of Outdoor Experiential Education

Little did I realize in 1994 how significant my Outward Bound experience would continue to be for me nineteen years later! Seriously, how many programs can you say that about? Not many.


I think what made my Wilderness Therapy Practicum so impactful for those ten-days in the Colorado mountains was a combination of the funky group dynamics and the masterful facilitation by OB instructor, Christian Itin…who, by the way, is our special guest on today’s show.

Probably the most amazing example of Dr. Itin’s group process mastery can be seen in the story, Conflict on the Mountain. In this story, Christian was able to gently transform a group in conflict into a high performing team simply by moving the group confrontation to another spot on the mountain. That move reignited a group vision that somehow lost its way through a series of petty personality and ego clashes. What’s even more fascinating about the story is that most members of our group were completely unaware of the shift that had taken place due to Christian’s intervention.

I also tell the story called, I’ll Go Fifth! where I was opting to play it safe by choosing to be the fifth person (out of ten) to climb the 35 ft. power pole during one of our team building days. I choose to go fifth because I was too scared to go first and too proud to go last. But then things changed for me. As we all sat under the looming power pole, looking up at the top and wondering…Christian gave one of his many pep talks about the importance of stepping out of our comfort zones…and suddenly my life was turned upside down.


A third story involves a rather difficult participant in our group, named Jonathon, whose attempt to dominate the group came crashing down the moment he was asked to fall back into the hands of his teammates during the Wind in the Willows activity. The story is called, He Fell Into the Fetal Position and Began Crying. It is a powerful example about the fall of a giant and the impact authenticity has in all relationships. Unfortunately, this story didn’t have a cum-bi-ya ending like the previous two. You see, Jonathan never quite got it and that lack of insight eventually led to his dismissal from the program.

I’m also in the process of writing another story from that experience called, It’s Not My Problem. This is a story about a quarrel two members of our group were having with each other and Christian’s decision to address it on a group level instead. Although initially I didn’t see my role in their conflict, I now understand how I was enabling the conflict by looking the other way.

Today’s show will be the first time I’ve seen or talked to Christian in person since 1994. I can’t wait to get his perspective on each story and why he did what he did. Don’t miss this one!


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