HMHI Expert Spotlight: Joe Walker, MPA, TRS, CTRS
Meet Joe Walker, MPA, TRS, CTRS, recreational therapist and Challenge Course Coordinator for the ROPES Course at Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI). We asked Joe a few questions about his work at HMHI and what he enjoys doing when he's not working.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and grew up enjoying the mountains around Jackson, Wyoming. In 2012, I received my bachelor's degree in therapeutic recreation and became nationally certified and state licensed as a recreational therapist. In 2016, I received a Master of Public Administration degree. Now, I have a family of four and am proud of all they do.
What do you do at HMHI?
I have several roles at Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI). Primarily, I am the Challenge Course Coordinator, organizing safe and fun experiential events on the HMHI ROPES Course, focused on individual and group development. Additionally, I am a Recreational Therapist working as part of the Expressive Therapy Department, a multidisciplinary team of other recreational therapists, art therapists and music therapists, using diverse experiential modalities to provide group therapy to the patients at HMHI. Lastly, I annually support the emergency management aspect of HMHI by maintaining and updating the emergency boxes at the hospital and clinics.
"The HMHI Challenge Course facilitates self-efficacy, increased sense of belonging , and improved interpersonal skills."
Joe Walker, MPA, TRS, CTRS
Tell us more about ROPES and Autism Adventure Camp.
The mission of HMHI ROPES can be found in its acronym: Recognizing Opportunity through Problem-solving, Experiences and Support. The HMHI Challenge Course provides access to groups of any age, ability, or experience level to engage in group development activities, and receive the benefit of outcomes-based programming such as self-efficacy, increased sense of belonging within their group(s), and improved interpersonal skills, all within a distinct natural setting along the Wasatch front. The Course has participants from the hospital, university, community, and from various non-profit organizations around the state, who engage in initiative games, low course and high climbing activities.
The Autism Adventure Camp, or Camp Au'venture for short, is a summer day camp for autistic campers ages 8-12 to meet new friends and engage with peers in community settings. The camp lays the foundation for developing and practicing social skills in a fun, informal setting both on and off campus.
How did you get started in this line of work?
I learned early on that I wanted to get into this line of work when I struggled with my mental health as a Filipino American teen living in a small rural town. I benefited greatly from talking with the school counselor to help resolve my anger and frustration. When I entered high school, I learned about adventure therapy and began noticing how hiking in the wilderness helped me feel confident and empowered to be my authentic self.
What do you do for fun when you are not working?
My favorite things to do when I am not working include walking, hiking, paddle boarding and picking up trash in the surrounding area. I consider myself a casual mountaineer - I like to safely summit peaks if I have the confidence, skills, gear, and pleasant weather!
Anything else you want to add!
This year (2022), we sought and received funding in the form of a $100,000 grant from the Utah Outdoor Recreation Fund, to assist in the construction of a new, universally accessible, ADA-compliant challenge course to replace our current aging course.