How Does Wilderness Therapy Work?

Wilderness therapy programs are rapidly becoming a highly recommended method of assisting troubled teens with emotional, addiction, adjustment and psychological problems.

It has been shown by studies that the actual setting has a hugely beneficial benefit to the residents. Traditional therapy sessions do not always work and the wilderness environment plus appropriate therapy programs is proving more and more successful.

It needs to be understood that the outdoor activities often enjoyed as part of a wilderness program are not in themselves the panacea for troubled teens. Rather it is the combination of a detailed assessment of the young residents, plus the vigorous outdoor adventures with the planned therapy sessions which give the greatest results.

The average age of young people on this course is between 12 and 17 and each is encouraged to understand their problems and to develop self-awareness and take responsibility.

The culture of society today and the structure of many families means young people often grow in a climate of drugs, sex and violence and often without a stable two-parent household. This places the wilderness therapy program in the perfect position. They offer a calm and beautiful surrounding with experienced adults who are trained to assist confused and angry young people. It is no wonder their programs work so well.

Some of the factors which explain the operation of a successful wilderness therapy program include the staffing type and ratio, the philosophy of the operation and the actual surrounds. Many wilderness programs have an overall director, a person in charge of medical therapy including psychological, therapists and professional outdoor education staff. This gives a great depth of experience and training to the team with ancillary workers such as kitchen staff and animal handlers giving further support.

The philosophy that any young person can have their life turned around given the right environment, therapy and challenges means that everyone is working towards a positive result. The aim is never to punish but to promote, to help each resident build their self-esteem and self-confidence.

Placing the facility in the wilderness with its pristine environment, spectacular views and superb spaces for adventure makes the camp odds on to provide the best foundation for success.

Staff know that the teens who come to them are troubled, that they are angry about life and resentful of authority. The professional staff know the mind set of their charges and go out of their way not to confront the teens but to help them settle in their new surrounds. Then by carefully diagnosing their weaknesses and offering them challenges which bring success, the teens gradually begin to change their attitude.

By believing that all residents have an innate goodness, the staff concentrates on bringing that goodness to the surface allowing the young people to change their attitude and thus their lifestyle.

By allowing the residents to discover feelings of respect and consideration both for themselves and those around them, a growth of goodness and self-improvement is soon self-evident. Today’s wilderness therapy programs are not unlike the Outward Bound activities popular in the 1960s. The end result is a life-changing and life-affirming experience for the troubled teens.

Here are additional resources you might be interested in:

Wilderness Camp Therapy Programs

How Wilderness Camps Discipline Teens