What is Teen Wilderness Therapy?
Teen wilderness therapy is a “therapeutic intervention for struggling adolescents.” These programs take a natural and holistic approach to heal struggling teens.
Wilderness therapy programs use “adventure-based therapy, behavior modification, and interpersonal self-improvement. They also combine experiential education, individual, and group therapy in a wilderness setting.”
Mental health professionals “kinetically engage clients on cognitive, affective, and behavioral levels.” Most programs have licenses from the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council. And, many therapists are state-licensed, or hold a master’s and Ph.D.
Who is Teen Wilderness Therapy For?
Teen wilderness therapy is for adolescents who are struggling at home and in school.
Teens attend these programs for a variety of reasons, including:
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Gaming disorder
- Sexual promiscuity
- Substance abuse
- Emotional disorders
- Psychological issues
- Behavioral issues
- School failure
- Conduct disorders
- Mood disorders
- Low self-esteem
- Relationship problems
- Suicide Risk
Leaving a Toxic Environment Behind
Teen wilderness therapy “removes the background noise of school drama, technology, and other distracting factors. It allows the student to focus on her personal challenges.” Nature also provides a holistic atmosphere for self-reflection and healing.
Teens receive a rigorous assessment when they enter a wilderness program. Professionals “go beyond the obvious manifestations of anger, anxiety, or depression. They get to know what’s going on beneath the surface.”
Professionals work round-the-clock to build up trusting relationships with teens. “Parents will receive clinical information about their child. During weekly phone calls, the therapist discusses observations and reports on progress. The therapist also relays assignments for upcoming weeks.”
Teens Adapt to the Wilderness Model
Teen wilderness therapy teaches adolescents important life skills. It “utilizes expedition-based outdoor pursuits, such as backpacking and fire making.” These programs also “create a neutral and safe environment for teens.” Adolescents learn lessons in nature that they can apply to the real world.
The natural wilderness also “provides extended periods of introspective alone time.” The wilderness model includes:
- Immersion in an unfamiliar environment
- Group living with peers
- Primitive skill building
- Therapy sessions
These programs are “designed to address problem behaviors. They also foster personal and social responsibility, and emotional growth.”
Develop Healthy Coping Strategies
Trained therapists help teens “talk through their issues in real time. They help the student develop strategies to self-soothe more productively.”
Accountability & Personal Responsibility
Teen wilderness therapy introduces adolescents to the natural and logical consequences of nature. Teens learn to build fires, pack lunches, and solve problems. Adolescents discover essential life skills through wildlife expeditions.
Wilderness therapy helps adolescents “build success-oriented identities. They increase self-concept, hope, internal focus of control, and self-confidence. They also improve interpersonal relationships and social skills.”
Teens Work Together and Build Relationships
Teen wilderness therapy focuses on outdoor group-based activities. “Students work in groups, which offers ample opportunities to improve communication skills, identify safe ways to express emotion, and build positive relationships with peers and adults.”
Many wilderness programs offer expansive scholastic courses. Licensed teachers work with teens one-on-one and in small classroom settings. Students learn essential skills that they can use in a traditional classroom setting.
Utilizes Therapeutic Techniques
Teen wilderness therapy “incorporates all elements of therapy in a more simplified, focused environment.”
Trained professionals track teens’ progress. And, they will make therapeutic changes when necessary. Wilderness therapy incorporates various therapeutic methods, including:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Equine/Animal therapy
- Art and Music therapy
- Experiential therapy
- Adventure therapy
- Mindfulness, meditation, and yoga
Emphasizes Family Dynamics
Licensed therapists work with families through weekly therapy sessions, phone calls, and activities. “The wilderness experience creates a fresh opportunity for families to gain a deeper perspective and understanding of the components for a healthy relationship. Individuals learn how to apply these components to their own unique family dynamic.”
Click here to learn more about wilderness therapy.