Mountain Air: Relapsing and Finding the Way Back…One Breath at a Time


by Rajani Venkatraman Levis (MS, LMFT)

Holli Kenley presents us with a short, well-crafted book that illustrates the recovery process through skillfully Mountain Airintegrated descriptions of nature and of personal process. Kenley intertwines personal, interpersonal and transpersonal themes in an accessible manner and I am pleased to recommend this book to colleagues and clients.

While not all therapists work in the field of substance abuse and recovery, all of us are familiar with emotional or behavioral relapses. Mountain Air uses the word relapse in its broadest sense, and reminds us that when we relapse into unhealthy behaviors, we essentially stop taking care of ourselves. As therapists, we can all agree with the need for self-care as primary to our ability to be present with our clients, and not just as a tool that we teach our clients. And yet, we know how easy it can be, to put the interests of our clients or others above our own need for a walk, a break, a day off, or some other personal or self-care activity. Under Kenley’s broad definition of relapse and recovery, Mountain Air is a book that can benefit all of us.

It wasn’t until my second read that I noticed and appreciated the foreword. In her foreword, Jondra Pennington shares that when she first picked up this book, she could “only read it in small doses, unable to tolerate any more than that before a puzzling visceral gut feeling became nearly intolerable.” I felt validated in my need to approach this book in bite-sized chunks with contemplative breaks in between. I would certainly caution clients in recovery that Mountain Air is a self-help workbook that is best explored one chapter at a time.

The incorporation of the Topics for Journaling & Recovery Work section at the end of each chapter makes this an outstanding self-discovery and recovery book. The prompts offer a gentle way to personalize the discovery process encouraged throughout the book. For example, at the end of Chapter 2, Kenley gently invites us to explore our self-care or protective healing practices and to investigate how they were abandoned or let go of easily, as well as which ones were retained and why they were more integrated into ongoing self-care practices. Without judgment, a variety of topics are offered for discovery after each chapter. These include complacency, self-blame, self-pity, shame, feeling out of control, timing, masks and lies, codependent behaviors, and self-doubt. Artfully drawing on lessons from nature, Kenley addresses both the challenges to and the innate movement toward health and wellness.

Kenley has wisely walked a fine line in using self-disclosure to support others in recovery, while gracefully avoiding the details that might not serve a therapeutic purpose. By broadening the definition of relapse and recovery, Kenley has made a valuable contribution that supports clients and therapists in uncovering their authentic selves.

Mountain Air is not a quick read by any means and at just under 80 pages, the slim size belies this heavy-hitter. It is billed as a self-help book in the area of substance abuse and addictions, and I can certainly see myself offering it as a resource for clients in recovery. In addition, I would certainly recommend this book to everyone as a good resource for rediscovering life, embracing healing lessons from the past and inviting daily renewal into our lives.

Lewis, R.V., (2014). Book reviews. The Therapist, 26 (1), 93-94.

~ ~ ~

Visit to learn more about the author and her work.