Wilderness Therapy Camps and Programs – Costs and Considerations

Sending your son or daughter to a wilderness therapy camp is not a light decision and it should not be made lightly. It is important to understand what you are getting into and what you are getting your child into when you agree to enroll the youth in a wilderness therapy program. There are serious considerations of this decision not the least of which are the costs of these programs. The first step, then, is for parents to educate themselves about wilderness therapy camps in general and about the specific camp you may be considering to try to help turn your troubled teenager around.

Wilderness therapy camps and programs are primarily designed as a drastic step to isolate a youth who is defiant or exhibiting signs of being troubled or antisocial. The program will take your son or daughter along with a number of other troubled youth and expose them to a harsh and primitive lifestyle of living in the wild with limited access to communications or modern conveniences. Food will be what can be prepared in camp and the youth may live in tents going through rigorous physical programs all day under the guidance of a program administrator who will have no tolerance for misbehavior or complaints.

The level of harshness of a wilderness therapy camp may vary from quite strict to mild. The duration of a wilderness therapy camp can range from one to three months or longer. There is no question that this is a lengthy period of time for a young person to have to “rough it” with people they do not know and with no opportunity to get out of the situation. In many ways, these programs are designed to “crack” a tough exterior of a troubled youth to open them up to reorientation to a lifestyle of cooperation and responsibility.

Costs Count

When considering whether enrolling your son or daughter in a wilderness therapy camp is the best move for your family, some practical matters have to be taken into consideration. Cost is a significant issue when considering this kind of camp. By some estimates the daily costs of having your offspring at a wilderness therapy camp can run as high as $400-$500 a day.

When you consider that to be effective, the duration of most wilderness therapy camps runs between 30 and 90 days, you can begin to get an idea of the cost challenge that a family will face. Another factor is that in most cases, insurance will not cover the costs of a wilderness therapy camp. That means that for most families, sending a child to this kind of facility is a serious cost issue that is as big as the purchase of a new car or the costs of sending a youth to a year at college.

It is easy to say that no price tag is too high when it comes to stopping the downward spiral of your child. But cost is an issue for many families especially in these difficult financial times when many families are dealing with job losses or credit problems that will take years to resolve.

The reason it is wise to understand the cost challenge of resorting to a wilderness therapy program is to cause parents to consider all of their alternatives before turning to this kind of solution. Before sending a child off to a rigorous and expensive program like this, it smart to take full advantage of counselors or youth psychologists who may be able to help a troubled youth turn things around without going to such extremes. A wilderness therapy camp should be considered a “last resort” because of the cost issue and because of other things you should take into consideration about what will happen with your child during those weeks he or she is away.

Things You Must Know

Aside from the costs, sending a youth to a wilderness therapy camp is a big step for the family and in the life of that youth. It is only responsible to do some serious research to narrow down the type of camp you will send your child to so you have a confidence that the staff will be a good fit to the needs of your son or daughter and that the program is will be the right choice to turn that youth that around.

The first tip any counselor who is helping a family make this tough choice will give is to take all the time you need before you make this decision to ask a lot of questions. Do not alert the troubled youth in your home that the option of sending him or her to a wilderness therapy camp is being considered. But do your research and narrow down which wilderness therapy camp may be a good candidate to try to help your child.

Then take that research to the next level and ask questions. That means contacting the wilderness therapy camp directly or even making an appointment to visit them in person to witness the kind of facility they have and how they conduct the program that your child will be in for many weeks or months. Some good questions to include on your list are…

1. What are the qualifications of your counselors?
2. What kind of lifestyle will my child live while on a wilderness therapy camp?
3. How often will food be delivered to the camp and will it be healthy food?
4. How will food be kept fresh in a wilderness setting?
5. What arrangements will be made if a youth is hurt or becomes ill?
6. Will you son or daughter be allowed to communicate with you while in camp?
7. How long has this particular wilderness therapy program been in operation?
8. What are the guiding principles of counseling and rehabilitation that will be used to turn troubled youth around? 9. Can you provide references of successful cases where youth were helped by this program?
10. What is your percentage of failures of youth who enter the program?
11. Have there been any incidents of serious injury or death while youth have been at this wilderness therapy program? 12. What is the experience level of the adults who will be camping with the youth?
13. How will emergency situations such as dangerous weather be handled while the youth and their counselors are camping in the wilderness?
14. How long as the wilderness therapy camp been in operation?
15. What medical facilities and expertise do you keep on site?
16. Is this wilderness therapy program appropriate if your child is suffering from diagnosed psychological problems such as bipolar syndrome?
17. Is this wilderness therapy program appropriate for a youth dealing with drug or alcohol addiction?
18. How is conflict between campers handled on site?
19. What will the youth do each day?
20. Will youth with a history of violence be part of the group your child will be camping with?.

This is just a start of the kinds of questions to ask when you review a wilderness therapy program for your child. By being particular up front and learning all you can, you can reach a point where you are satisfied that the wilderness therapy program you are considering is the right thing to do. When you get to that point and you finally do pack your son or daughter up to go off on the big adventure that lies ahead for him or her, you can do so with confidence that the youth that returns to you some weeks later will be a changed boy or girl who will be well on the way to a happy and productive life.

Here are additional resources you might be interested in:

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