Wilderness Therapy Programs for Teens and At-Risk Youth

Many parents who have struggled with troubled teens know that majority of the time, any positive influence that they exert on their children won’t be as effective as the influence of their peer group. The problem is that teens who are struggling with behavior and attitude issues who are negatively influenced by the wrong kind of crowd can go on a downward spiral pretty fast. Some parents send their children to therapy a few times every other week or so, but then majority of their time is still spent outside the home. At times traditional therapy doesn’t make a dent on the problem because of this. It’s hard to keep teens focused on the solution when in a sense, you’re speaking a language they don’t care to understand at this point.

Especially for teens that have problems with alcohol or substance abuse, keeping them at home would not be advisable. If they are not taken out of their immediate surroundings, they will still have access to people who influence them or enable them to feed their addiction. If you keep them at home and under your constant watch, it’s counterproductive for you and is actually just attacking the symptom rather than the underlying cause. Teens who struggle with substance abuse don’t just need to “get clean” in order to kick the habit. There’s a whole lot more to addiction than parents can handle.

One of the best ways to help teens surmount these challenges that they are facing and to restore them back to the family as better individuals is to look into wilderness therapy programs.

There are currently a lot of wilderness therapy programs for teens and at-risk youth around the country. The wilderness therapy approach has proven to be very effective for teens, but there are so many programs out there that have different ways of doing things. How do you know which one would be best for your teen?

There are things you can ask which will lead you to the right program for your child. One would be asking what kind of therapy do they provide for teens. There are some boot camps that are branding themselves as “wilderness therapy” in an attempt to self-identify as therapy, without really having any clinical basis at all. Such boot camps may have a lot of structure and discipline going on, but they don’t really provide intensive psychotherapy nor do they provide an effective aftercare program. They essentially use negative discipline tactics in order to force behavior modification, and it rarely inspires true change for most teens.

Ask about how often therapy is given to your child. Most good wilderness therapy programs will have individual therapy sessions several times a week as well as group sessions every night. Group therapy sessions are necessary in order to use positive peer influence and initiate the formation of good relationships and camaraderie among teens who have similar struggles.

It’s also good to ask whether they can give academic credits for teens who stay there. There’s really no set number of weeks of stay for each child. However, it’s always advisable to stay for no less than 90 days in order for the therapy to be as extensive and ultimately as helpful as possible. In the process, it’s good to know whether your child will be able to earn academic credits in order not to be left behind in school.

Aftercare is also an important part of successful wilderness therapy programs for teens and at-risk youth. The healing process doesn’t stop as soon as teens step out of therapy. Therapy, after all, is not a cure-all that will fix everything that needs to be fixed. Especially for teens that struggle against addiction, depression, ADD/ADHD, and the likes. For some, it’s a long struggle and reintegrating back to society is a huge challenge. Asking about what kind of aftercare services they offer can help you decide on which wilderness therapy program would be best for your teen.