Do Wilderness Programs for Teens Really Work?

Yes. And here’s one simple reason why this is so. There is a huge difference between a therapist’s office and the great outdoors. If your troubled teen has been having counseling with local therapists, it can be pretty easy for the teen to switch off. If your troubled teen is deep in the wilderness with Mother Nature smiling or roaring down on you, chances are you’ll pay attention to what’s happening around you.

That is one of the major attractions of a wilderness camp – the wilderness. The approach to helping a troubled teen takes on a whole new meaning in the great outdoors. The aim is not to punish or force the teen into a type of behavior. It’s just the opposite because at a wilderness camp the aim is to lift the spirits and attitude of the teen. They are given tasks and challenges the like of which they’ve probably never even imagined let alone tried before.

This approach appeals to almost everyone and certainly to young people. No figure of authority in a suit telling them why they must do something. Here they are part of a team working in a superb setting and trying and succeeding to achieve a challenging goal. There is confrontation aplenty but it is against nature and not a teacher, police officer or parent.

The wilderness is something different for nearly all teens. They are outside their comfort zone. They are made to stay alert because of their surrounds. Finding temporary shelter in the wilderness during a downpour doesn’t give you any time to think about anti-social behavior.

Then, almost without knowing it, the teens are part of a structure, a team, a project and they are moving forward to reach their goal. The wilderness is their master and their servant. It helps the staff lead the teens into a new adventure. Their self-confidence and self-esteem soar to new heights.

Back at home a troubled teen can blame their teachers or parents or the police. Mother Nature doesn’t care what anyone thinks and the teens learn this and fast. They have to concentrate on what is in front of them because there is no-one to blame. The best lesson a teen can learn is that they are responsible for their own actions. In the wilderness they quickly realize this fact.

Therapy works best when there is a good connection between counselor and subject. On a wilderness camp, the therapist is often a part of the outdoor activities. The troubled teen can develop a healthy bond with the therapist away from the therapy session. It’s a win-win situation.

One of the best features of the time spent in a wilderness camp is that the family of the troubled teen can heal itself so that when the changed teen returns home, family and friends are far better able to welcome and support their new untroubled teen.

Here are additional resources you might be interested in:

Information on Wilderness Camps

The benefits of Wilderness Camps