Dori Bergman Combines Art and Wilderness Therapy

Dori Bergman

Oil Painter

Dori in her element

Dori Bergman is a painter and self-proclaimed outdoor artist who currently calls New Hampshire home. As an artist, Dori draws from her education in wilderness therapy to depict an emotional landscape along with a physical one.

Her bright colors and smooth lines offer clean representations of outdoor experiences, combined with less tangible things. In her painting called “Baggage,” women hike with backpacks sporting patches of color labeled: anxiety, grief, depression, addiction, fear of abandonment, body image issues.

Dori’s art, and the thoughtfulness she brings to each canvas, remind us to reflect on what an outdoor experience can be, beyond the literal peaks.


Meet Dori

Sometimes I feel scared and confused, angry and frustrated, sad and hopeless. Like this great big gigantic world is closing in on me. And I am so small… But then I paint. Because the canvas can be anything I want it to be.

Do you know how this feels? I fill my carefully handcrafted universe with the wildest of dreams.

One day I will create a magical outdoor program for young girls with anxiety and depression. I’m going to call it Woodsman. For now, I have a bachelor’s degree in wilderness therapy—where my passion lies not in the outdoors, but rather, using it to help people. I’m currently pursuing a master’s degree in outdoor education at the University of New Hampshire. When I’m not taking classes or exploring the beautiful White Mountains, you can find me painting about what inspires me most: women in the wilderness.

“Always Be Kind” — This painting is about how you never know what someone might be carrying. So always, always, always be kind.

“Bushwhacking” — Bushwhacking is not about taking the path less traveled. It is about forging your own path entirely. I made this painting after moving into my first apartment. When I decided to bushwhack!

“Winding Road” — Countless opportunities have led me deeper into the outdoor industry, where I feel more and more inspired. The question isn’t “Can I make a difference?” I know for certain that I will make a difference. I just wonder: How? This painting illustrates a confusing time in life. One month before graduating college, I decided to change plans and switch direction. It taught me that life is not a straight line; I can’t write my story out ahead of time. Furthermore, we can’t discover where we fit without trudging through everywhere we don’t. And maybe this place where you “fit” does not even exist. Because you have to CREATE it.

“Role Models” — This painting is about role models. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called my big sister in tears, because life didn’t go the way that I planned. No matter how old we become, we will always need mentors to guide us through the darkness. Perhaps the biggest reason I want to be an outdoor educator is so that I can be a role model to others like so many were to me.

“Wilderness Therapy” — This is the first in a four-part series about wilderness therapy. Upon arrival, clients have very low motivation. Once clients are in the wilderness, motivation manifests itself naturally, easily and quickly. But why is motivation so important? It can actually change our beliefs! Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s ability to succeed. If a client is motivated, she believes she has control over her life direction. That leads to change.

“Connection” — For me, it is not about the view but those with whom I am able to share it. Far from today’s technology and social media, I can connect with others on a deeper level. In the wilderness we face struggle together, and overcome it together. I hope this painting reminds you that you are never alone.

“Empathy” — This painting is about empathy, a skill learned through practice. 5 ways toe empathize with someone who is struggling:
1. Listen without judgment
2. Validate their feelings- “What you’re feeling is totally normal”
3. Open up about something that you struggle with in your own life (empathy is a 2-way street)
4. Remind them that you care about them
5. Just be there

I believe that creativity can be used to enhance outdoor education in so many ways. Most importantly, I see it as a vehicle for self-reflection. Self-reflection is important in all outdoor programs because participants need to reflect on these new experiences in order to transfer what they learn into new knowledge. Artistic expression can allow them to deeply process their thoughts/emotions and take meaning from the experience.

Also, art can give people a way to share that experience with others back at home! For me, art has become a way to share what I have learned in outdoor experiences with others, and inspire more women to get outside.

Learn more about Dori Bergman on her website,, and see more of her paintings and outdoor adventures on Instagram @myoutdoorart.

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