Wilderness camps for adolescents, sometimes called outback treatment, adventure-based therapy, or outdoor education is one of the popular youth programs that aim to bring therapy to an outdoor, wilderness setting. This experiential education aims to remove coercive and overt behavior modification that other models of therapy uses. They don’t use manipulation or psychological games. They don’t use force on the children that are in their program. While there are many different types of wilderness camps that reflect different models of therapy, most wilderness camps use experiential education to help participants become self-reliant and learn to develop self-respect.
What is experiential education?
In this kind of educational model, educators engage with students to learn through direct experience. This way, learning will become more focused and in the process, students learn not just about the subject matter but also important values that go with gaining knowledge experientially.
What is adventure-based therapy?
This kind of therapeutic process have been gaining popularity in the last 40 years. Adventure therapy uses outdoor games, cooperative games, activities that involve employing trust, using problem solving skills, and the likes in order to apply psychological treatments. The challenge involved in wilderness activities are significant in eliciting the behavioral changes that the child needs.
What happens after wilderness camp?
Many teens who go through outback treatment in wilderness camps for adolescents report that they feel more empowered and enabled. After staying in the wilderness camps, they learn to be independent, self-reliant, and patient. At times, the logical progression after wilderness camps is for young people to attend therapeutic boarding school, in order to continue the process that has been started in camp.
There have been some controversies about the nature of some wilderness camps, though.
There are people who advertise their camps as wilderness camps for adolescents but are just boot camps in a wilderness setting. However, outback treatment programs are built on therapeutic models and boot camps are based on military models. Wilderness camps also has clinically trained staff working with the participants, as opposed to military boot camps where most staff are more from military or correctional backgrounds.
It would help if parents looked more closely into the wilderness camp’s youth programs first before signing their children up. Certain things should clue you in on whether a wilderness camp uses a more clinical model for their therapy or whether the program uses a military model.
You can begin by asking the qualifications of their staff and whether there are clinicians available in the camp, and how accessible are they to the children. You can ask about their license, who gave them their license, and what they are licensed for. You can ask for an example of a typical day that children spend in the camp and the typical activities that children engage in. You can look over the literature of the wilderness camp to check about the philosophy of the program.