Therapeutic Wilderness Programs
The initial short-term intervention in a plan that leads to a longer-term placement in a therapeutic boarding school or residential treatment center
Therapeutic wilderness programs (sometimes called wilderness therapy programs or even outward-bound-style programs) tend to be the initial short-term intervention in a plan that leads to a longer-term placement in a therapeutic boarding school or residential treatment center. In fact, most residential facilities strongly recommend or even require that a student participate in a wilderness program first so that he or she will be ready for the therapeutic work to be done in school. Wilderness programs incorporate a blend of therapeutic modalities in the context of wilderness environments and backcountry travel. The approach includes sophisticated client assessment, development of an individual treatment plan, use of established psychotherapeutic practices, and coordination with the educational consultant for aftercare plans. In a crisis situation, a therapeutic wilderness program provides parents with valuable time to more thoroughly and thoughtfully evaluate school options and develop a long-term plan. Occasionally, wilderness may be the only intervention needed.
We know the therapeutic wilderness programs and their therapists so well that we can make a placement in 24 hours!
It is not uncommon for a family to wonder, “Why wilderness?” Here’s the answer:
For centuries, people have ventured into the wilderness in search of its calming and healing effects. Wilderness therapy harnesses the restorative powers of nature and adds traditional clinical therapy, experiential education, group interaction, and leadership training. This combination fosters individual honesty, awareness, openness, and responsibility, as well as community and group interdependence. It is important to recognize that wilderness therapy is not “boot camp”; instead, the routines necessary to live outdoors in a small group challenge and encourage students to develop healthy relationships with each other. Structured time in a tranquil environment offers students the opportunity to reflect, examine their lives, become accountable for their behavior, clarify their values, set their goals, and discover their hidden potential. With the threat of negative influences removed by being in a safe, controlled outdoor environment, students are poised to discover what they have taken for granted at home. They regularly face circumstances that lead to self-examination, and must communicate, cooperate, and contribute to the well-being of the group. Therapists and field instructors positively reinforce and help facilitate the growth and development that occurs for each student. Rather than become angry when things don’t go their way, students learn to approach each situation in a more appropriate, assertive manner. Instead of hiding their feelings, students learn to ask for help and talk to people they trust. Instead of rushing from one meaningless activity to the next, they learn to listen to others and exercise patience. In the moments when students are alone, perhaps sitting next to a pristine mountain stream, they begin to discover their true selves. Wilderness therapy provides growth-oriented experiences, allowing your child to face challenges designed to encourage responsible, caring, and empowered behavior. Students are not thrown into the wilderness and made to suffer hardships. Instead, they are mentored, encouraged, challenged, and given opportunities to succeed in an open, caring way.