I participated in the 2018 summer program at Free Spirit, where I was a young adult mentor (I was 19 at the time). While there, I had the opportunity and the challenge to navigate the difficult status as a leader among peers. The activities during the program (wood and steelworking, backpacking, long-distance sailing, etc.) put you out of your comfort zone and bring your personal struggles to the surface. For me, I was in extremely uncomfortable situations where, due to my role as a mentor, I needed to be a mediator and "play the bad guy" even though my own anxiety disorder and issues with compartmentalization compelled me to withdraw, bottle things up, and eventually "explode" emotionally.
Despite this (and also because of it), I view Free Spirit as one of the most empowering, meaningful, and formative experiences of my life. The staff knows what they're doing; they are people you feel you can confide in and who work closely with Tamir and Nili to provide useful advice and implementable coping skills to each individual participant. It also goes almost without saying that many of the locations we visited in Israel and in Cyprus (that sailing trip I mentioned) were spectacular, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
The main thing that differentiates Free Spirit from other therapeutic programs is its emphasis on personal choice. There aren't a whole lot of restrictions that people who are familiar with therapeutic programs may be used to (and loathe); the consequences of choices you make, positive or negative, are instead used as jumping-off points to assess, correct, and modify behavioral patterns. For that reason and the others I mentioned, I would highly recommend Free Spirit because it can break therapeutic ground in ways that other programs often can't while simultaneously providing an unforgettable experience in the process.
What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
We did a 24-hour sailing trip from Haifa to Limassol, Cyprus, where we spent a weekend. While there, we went cliff jumping. I have a terrible fear of heights but I was able to gain the resolve (after a lot of encouragement from my peers -- and a passing cruise ship!) to take the leap.