Wilderness Programs

When teens are out of control and defiant many parents turn to wilderness programs to help. A form of short-term intensive in-patient treatment, teens can gain help with any number of the following issues:

Where are they located?

Wilderness programs are located all over the country and typically range in length anywhere from 3-12 weeks. Wilderness programs allow struggling teens to challenge themselves physically and emotionally as they live in the outdoors. Shorter programs are usually all outdoors, while longer programs go out in the wilderness for a couple of weeks and come back to a “base camp” to rest for a week or two before leaving again. Many teens enjoy wilderness programs because they given them a sense of accomplishment and new-found confidence and skills they didn’t know they had. Teens from city or urban areas are allowed to “get in touch with nature” and in turn often time get in touch with the inner parts of themselves.

What are their benefits?

One of the main benefits of wilderness programs is their ability to remove teens from the outside world. Teens are displaced from their usual, more comfortable environments, and put into an environment that is completely new and foreign to them. This helps teens in a number of ways. It helps them accept change and learn to adapt to new things. It helps them remove themselves from their past and learn a new way of life. It helps them gain trust in others as they look to counselors to lead and guide them though unknown territory. Wilderness therapy programs are very effective for those needing short-term treatment. Often times; however, teens needing more intense long-term treatment transfer to residential treatment facilities after they complete their wilderness programs.

What are their outcomes?

Some teens respond very well to outdoor wilderness programs, others find it harder to connect with nature. Teens that do not have a lot of experience in the wilderness could go either way. They may enjoy the new environment and realize they like the outdoors, or they could have a very difficult time adjusting. Talk with your child’s therapist or counselor to determine which treatment options are best for them.

Why are they so popular?

Wilderness therapy programs are popular because they often involve very disciplined and exact techniques. Therapy is also a big part of wilderness outdoor therapy. Although it may be more non-traditional, therapy does not have to take place in “an office” for it to be effective. Therapists involve teens as they are hiking, performing tasks, or taking time in nature to reflect on life. Often this kind of outdoor therapy can be less intimidating and threatening to some teens.

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