Do Wilderness Therapy Programs Work?

Parents searching for options for their struggling youth may be overwhelmed at the choices and options of programs available. A summer wilderness program is one of the options that many parents have found to be successful. Outdoor education is a choice to consider for any parent.

What is a Wilderness Therapy Program?

Wilderness programs are the use of wilderness expeditions for the purpose of therapeutic intervention. There are many approaches and models for these therapy programs. Groups of persons either make a journey through the wilderness or live in an area or region that is off the beaten path for an extended period of time. Generally, participants are guided towards self-reliance, self-discipline, and self-respect.

Who Should Use Wilderness Therapy Programs?

These programs aren’t just for “bad kids” and shouldn’t be labeled as troubled youth camps or programs for troubled youth but more of an alternative to boarding schools. Teens who are enrolled in these types of programs may struggle with academic difficulties, ADHD, depression, substance abuse as well as behavior problems. There are even advantages to well-adjusted youths participating in wilderness programs due to the experiences gained.

How do Wilderness Therapy Programs Work?

The duration for wilderness programs for adolescents can be within a summer or a year-round time period. The aim is to remove youths from outside influences and separate them from pressures and distractions. When they are physically removed from electronics and outside influences they can gain a connection to the natural world through personal discovery. This helps the young adults overcome personal challenges through exploration, adventure, and cooperative work while they gain survival skills such as building fires and knowledge of plants and wildlife.

While everyone will have a different experience with wilderness therapy, they work for many because:

• They help adolescents gain self-reliance through learning survival skills

• They encourage cooperation through work

• Offer enjoyment of exploration and adventure

• Remove individuals from stressful situations and outside influences

Family advocates - providing guidance to parents of struggling teenagers in Alaska

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