Ben Thwaits and Hillary Giller serve as both program leaders and around-the-clock guides on every expedition.
Ben Thwaits, Program Coordinator
Ben has worked in the mental health field for nearly a decade, but his journey there was an unusual one. After conducting his graduate research in neuroscience and ecology, and then working as a professional photographer, Ben began working as a teacher at Northwest Passage, an intensive mental health treatment center, in 2008. There, he launched the In a New Light therapeutic nature photography program, in which he guided hundreds of high-risk teens on high-adventure therapeutic nature photography expeditions around the US and abroad. He has also recently guided therapeutic expeditions for young adults to Costa Rica and the Caribbean. To date, Ben’s students’ award-winning photos have been featured in over 60 exhibitions around the US, as well as on PBS, film, books, and other media. Equal parts soft-spoken nerd and bold adventure-seeker, Ben’s passion is guiding young people to the experience of feeling fully alive. He lives in Northern Wisconsin with his wife and two young boys, all of whom are endlessly patient with Ben’s fishing obsession. When not fishing, you can find him playing various musical instruments, reading, and exploring Wisconsin's endless rivers and lakes with his family and overly rambunctious English setter. Check out Ben's TED Talk to learn more about his previous work.
Ben holds a BA from St. Olaf College and a MS from the University of Minnesota.
Hillary Giller, LMFT Expedition Therapist
Hillary has worked in the mental heath field for the past 12 years in roles of direct care, trip leader, camp counselor, teacher and therapist. Through her experiences working in schools, camps, residential treatment and therapeutic boarding schools, Hillary has been able to further develop both clinical and practical skills needed to provide safe and effective clinical judgment and guidance. Most recently, Hillary has worked at Northwest Passages' Riverside program as a child and family therapist providing individual, family and group therapy.
Hillary describes her counseling style as one of honesty, humor and creativity. Hillary see's her role as providing clients with an experience of knowing and understanding themselves better so as to tap into their own wisdom, self compassion and sense of empowerment. Hillary's approach is informed by evidence based practices including Cognitive behavioral theory, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness based Stress Reduction. Being trained as a systems thinker, Hillary offers questions and support informed by the impact of social/media pressure, cultural values, family norms and history. Hillary also utilizes and honors the interconnectedness of the mind/body/spirit as to give a integrative experience to what works and fits each person's individual experience.
In addition to a strong and dynamic clinical background, Hillary has extensive experience leading outdoor trips with adolescents and young adults including over 35 multi-day and single-day outdoor trips across the nation, in California, Upstate New York and Hawaii. Hillary holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and minor in outdoor education from the University of Minnesota Duluth. Hillary holds a master's degree in counseling psychology from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and is a licensed marriage and family therapist.