What is wilderness therapy?
Getting off the couch and into nature isn’t just good for your body: it creates a hugely positive impact on your mental, social, and emotional wellbeing. Many teens find hope and healing through wilderness therapy, which utilizes adventure activities, experiential education, and group therapy to support recovery.
Who does wilderness therapy help?
Wilderness therapy programs typically treat adolescents to young adults with behavioral and/or emotional issues. Depending on the program, they could treat by gender, issue, or age.
Typically, individuals that attend wilderness therapy programs struggle with these issues:
- Mild to moderate mental, behavioral, emotional, or social disorders
- Have been through traditional counseling or residential treatment programs, but haven’t made the progress they hoped for
- Their family, school, or social situation interferes with their ability to cope with problems
- They learn best by doing and participating, rather than by listening or reading
- Hard time sitting still for one-on-one counseling or group therapy sessions
- Repeatedly struggled with substance abuse or addiction
What makes wilderness therapy unique?
Wilderness therapy offers many unique attributes that deviate from the norm. Some of the most notable include:
- Survival Training: While learning how to build shelters, cook their own food, and find their way through the wilderness, residents build confidence in their natural abilities and develop a better sense of self-esteem.
- Active Programming: Getting plenty of exercise, establishing a regular sleep schedule, and consuming a healthy diet—all core elements of wilderness therapy programs—have been scientifically proven to aid mental health recovery.
- Stimulation of Creativity: Just like many forms of cognitive therapy, spending time outdoors forces teens to think creatively about problems, develop healthier thought patterns, and cooperate with teammates to achieve their goals.
- Empowering Atmosphere: By letting teens take the lead on their own adventures, wilderness therapy encourages them to identify internal areas for change.
Finding the wilderness therapy program for you
- Most wilderness therapy programs specialize in certain treatment areas, so think about your individual needs. Do you want a program that focuses more on academics, or more on social development? More on substance abuse, or more on dealing with depression?
- If you can manage it, visit the program location, meet with the staff, and ask questions about the kinds of activities they run. Some teens do better with intense, survival-style programs, while others benefit from a more relaxed approach.
- Determine your budget for the program and look for a program that suits your financial situation. The length of the program, activities planned, and size of the group can all affect the final cost of therapy.
Why send your child to a wilderness program?
Participants in wilderness therapy quickly bond with their leaders and peers, creating a support system that encourages their progress and stays in touch even after they leave the program.
02FOCUS ON ISSUES
Friends, events, and social media are great in moderation, but often distract teens from their goals. Getting away from these influences bolsters recovery and stabilizes treatment.
The prospect of residential therapy can be intimidating for many teens. Spending a few weeks in the woods is a low-pressure environment for participants to work toward their goals.
04HEALING IN WILDERNESS
Humans evolved in and around nature–it has unique benefits that no therapist’s office can offer. By tapping into that natural medicine, individuals can overcome anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues, and much more.