A brat camp is a wilderness therapy for troubled teens. The term “brat camp” is derived from the idea that bratty teens are sent to these places in order to straighten them up. However, brat camps need to be taken into context, and seen as part of the solution rather than being the only solution to teens’ problems. After all, children only stay in brat camp over a short period of time, and the rest of their life stretches out ahead of them.
Not all brat camps are the same, in the same way that not all wilderness therapy camps employ the same methods. Some brat camps lean more towards the military camp model but most lean towards the clinical therapy model that is more typical to traditional wilderness therapy.
Brat camps remove the usual distractions and means of escape that young people turn to in their everyday lives. There are no malls to go to, no internet or video games to help burn their time away, no harmful substances to exploit, no other outside influences to affect their decisions. It’s a more contained environment but at the same time, their peer group within the camp becomes a microcosm of a family model.
Why use wilderness therapy?
Nature is unrelenting. It is no respecter of social class, age group, or gender. Teens have a feel of dealing with something bigger than what they’ve ever deal with in their life. Those who went through wilderness therapy say that they feel more empowered afterwards, that they feel more powerful and are more able to make better decisions for themselves.
One of the major challenges children have to face is learning how to effectively socialize with other people, especially those their age. Learning how to interact with people in order to resolve conflict, express anger or frustration, or accomplish a task and learning how to trust people do not come easily with problematic teens. During brat camp, teens are taught through practical ways how to do these things. Aside from the therapeutic side of their daily routine and counseling sessions, activities are designed to teach socialization skills to children.
Since all these are happening sans the everyday distractions that children these days face on a daily basis, they have a better chance to really focus on what’s going on with their lives.
How can you help your child further?
As mentioned earlier, brat camp is not the only solution, and it would be unrealistic for parents to think that they can ship off their children to brat camp and they’ll be “fixed” when they come back.
This is the reason why most brat camps will involve parents in some counseling sessions or will receive instruction and advice on how to help their teen after brat camp. It’s important to look at it as part of the entire healing process. Given the right support and family environment, your teen will be more able to appreciate the value of family (and belonging in one) after brat camp.
At times the best way to go is to continue what the brat camp started by looking into therapeutic boarding schools after the short stay in brat camp is done. Depending on the child, being plunged into an environment that’s extremely different from the controlled environment of a wilderness camp may not help at all.