A wilderness program really does sound the perfect fit for a troubled teen. The staff members are professionals, trained therapists and the scenery and backdrop are stunning. In this spectacular setting, a number of troubled teens discover all about survival and the beauty of the wilderness while being counseled by expert therapists. It seems to be the best possible solution to a serious problem with unhappy young adults.
As wilderness programs have now been in existence for quite some time, studies have been completed on the success or otherwise of such programs. Overwhelmingly the studies have shown that regular therapy sessions where the teen meets once a week for counseling and then goes home, are not nearly as effective as the time spent by teens over several weeks living at a wilderness camp.
Of course every parent wants their troubled teen to get over their problems but to do so and then relapse when they come home is of little if any use. The aim is to achieve a lifelong recovery. Studies show that many teens who attend weekly sessions either do not last the course and drop out or if they do persist, make little if any progress.
Such is not the case with teens who attend a wilderness program. It seems to be a combination of various things which produce the excellent results. Being removed from their problems, being challenged by difficult but achievable tasks, living with your therapists, mixing with other teens who have problems and of course the magnificent scenery – all these things combine to make a stay in a wilderness camp a truly beneficial experience. And best of all, the benefits are for the long term.
In their home environment, the troubled teen could scream at her parents, make threats, sulk in his room, slam doors and generally be a real worry. Out in the wilderness all that behavior is forgotten. For a start there are no doors to slam. But then the therapists are not doctors in white coats sitting in a consulting room. The therapists are adults in hiking gear and the consulting room is beside a river or beneath a giant tree watching the sun rise or set.
The added benefit is that because the therapists are literally on site, they can observe and change tack as required in helping the teens gain self-respect and discover what it is that is really troubling the. The doctor is in the house.
Here is a word of warning about choice of wilderness camps. They are not all the same. Some have much more emphasis on survival in the wilderness, on living off the land and roughing it in extreme situations. Others leave the beauty of nature to be the backdrop to their hiking and fire-making. The therapy takes pride of place and while the lifestyle is invigorating, the aim is to help not humble the teens. Know the different types of camp and choose wisely.
Get everyone involved with your teen and help them kick start their recovery.
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