How to Select a Wilderness Program or Therapy Camp

There is a certain important decision making moment in the life of a family when you realize that you need some form of retreat to help a troubled youth turn things around. The first decision point is when parents realize that their efforts in parental leadership are not getting the job done.

This is not to say that parents that send their kids to a teen wilderness program or to a therapy camp are bad parents. Many times teenagers get into trouble with drugs, bad peer group influences or emotional problems even in the best of homes. So there is no shame in turning to a retreat type of solution to give your son or daughter the kind of jump start they need to stop a downward spiral into further emotional, physical and social failure. If anything, your decision to seek additional help is very good parenting because it shows you will stop at nothing to help your child.

Where to Turn?

The next important decision to make is what kind of retreat program to use that will be just the thing to help your son or daughter get on the right path in life. There are a variety of kinds of programs and camps that are available that offer excellent programs that could be the right fit. But the diversity of programs means that you will have some research to do to find just the right program for your child.

The first tip for finding the perfect wilderness program or therapy camp is to know your child. Do not be too hasty in selecting a program just because it worked for another family that you know. Your son or daughter is unique and the nature of the problem that is causing bad behavior or troubling habits may be deep seated. The important thing is to understand the cause of the problem, not just the evidence that you have a troubled teenager living in your home.

For example, if your son or daughter is getting in trouble with the law, the real cause of the problem could be hidden. It could be an emotional program for which counseling and therapy is the best thing. It could be bad influences from peers which would indicate that a season in a challenging environment like a wilderness camp is in order. If the problem is medical or drug related, a therapy camp may be the best thing.

By all means, do not diagnose the problem too quickly and do not hesitate to call on the help of professionals to understand exactly what is causing your teenager’s difficulties so that the cure will fit the illness. Your child no doubt is under the supervision of youth professionals such as teen counselors at your church or youth workers at school. Consult with them about the nature of the problem before you come to a conclusion.

It is also appropriate to take advantage of the advice of a youth psychologist. Far better to take a few weeks or months and give your child the chance to make progress in private therapy than to send him or her off to a teen wilderness program or therapy camp that is not the right fit for the teenager.

The Therapy Camp Route.

Your child’s psychologist and counselors will be able to help you determine if the best solution is to send your child to a therapy camp. Therapy camps are often specialized places that focus on the specific problems a youth has. The programs are run by trained professionals who have had the education and experience in helping kids with problems like your son or daughter is experiencing.

By utilizing the wisdom and expertise of those who know your child well, they may be aware of teen therapy camps that will have a program that is just what your child needs. The program at a therapy camp for drug addiction will be much different from a therapy camp that is designed to help kids deal with their psychological problems such as depression or bi-polar syndrome.

Evan after you have narrowed down the specific kind of therapy camp that is a good fit for your child, don’t stop there. You may still have numerous therapy camp options to choose from. Various factors may influence your decision. Cost and distance from home may play a role in your decision. Also look into the therapy camp that is on your final list of potential programs to help your child and evaluate their history, their record of success and the credentials of the staff. A visit to the therapy camp that you may finally choose is entirely appropriate as well.

The Wilderness Program Route.

A wilderness program is an outstanding route to use when your son or daughter has behavior problems or is dealing with issues because of bad peer group choices. By giving your teenager the chance to “rough it” for a significant period of time, that challenge can give a youth the self esteem and renewed focus to be able to battle those influences when he or she gets home.

Commonly, wilderness programs involve extended periods of time where youth dwell in a camping setting, working together using basic survival skills they learn and being exposed to nature, hard work and refreshing recreation all completely removed from friends and family. They dwell with other youth who are enrolled in the program in a setting where they start out as strangers and quickly bond as team members in taking on the challenges that are put before them.

A wilderness program is often just the thing to break the hold of a bad peer group environment and to ground a youth in values of hard work, teamwork and the rewards of living an active and healthy lifestyle. The time outdoors affords ample opportunities to reflect on their life choices and the youth at a wilderness program and interact with counselors in a relaxed setting as they go fishing or relax around the camp fire. Many times, young people experience real breakthroughs because of the environment of “back to basics” living, exposure to nature and strong relationship building that happens in a wilderness program.

The process of selecting the right wilderness program for your son or daughter is the same as the process we discussed about narrowing down the right therapy camp. Make sure the program that the wilderness program is a good fit to what your child’s needs right now. Do you research and take into consideration the advice of your child’s psychologist and counselors, the qualifications of the wilderness camp, how far away it is and the costs. By developing a detailed checklist like this, you can narrow down your search and find the best wilderness camp experience for your troubled youth.

Take Your Time

Above all, unless there is an urgency to getting your child into a program, take your time in evaluating your options for your child. If you do not feel satisfied that you know enough about the specific camps that are under consideration, be persistent in finding out what you need to know and getting all of your questions answered.

Don’t hesitate to talk to people who have used the camp and to call or visit the camps being considered. They should be more than happy to show you their facilities, let you interview their staff and even witness activities that are going on at the camp so you can get a good feel for the camp before you make your final decision.

If you are thorough in your research so you feel confident that the wilderness program or therapy camp you chose is the right one for your child, your fears will be subdued and you will be willing to pay the costs and send your son or daughter to that program confident that it is the right thing for him or her. Then when your child returns from that retreat setting excited and showing signs of recovery, you will know you made the right decision.