What Is Wilderness Therapy?
Wilderness therapy is a form of adventure-based, outdoor-residential therapy that is used to address underlying mental, emotional, and even spiritual issues that cause self-destructive living habits in young people.
What sets wilderness programs apart from other types of residential treatment is that the entire healing process takes place outdoors in a natural, wild environment - typically, many miles removed from civilization.
While no two programs are the same, most top-tier wilderness programs utilize similar psychiatric treatments such as experiential, group, mindfulness-based, and cognitive behavior therapies.
They are also relatively small in size and short in duration when compared to other, more mainstream residential treatment centers.
Like most treatment centers, there are varying styles and levels of treatment at a wilderness program. Depending on factors such as one's age and reasons for being treated, behavioral and mental health interventions may include individualized treatment, group and/or family therapy sessions, medication management, family-repair workshops, drug and alcohol detoxification, and one-on-one therapy sessions with a mental health professional - just to name a few.
Proponents of the adventure-based therapy claim that wilderness is effective in modifying one’s behavioral patterns due to a combination of one being immersed in the natural and wild environment (removing one’s self from all distractions of the outside world) and implementation of modern therapies.
Additionally, some behavioral experts suggest that due to its unique environment and usage of contemporary treatment strategies, wilderness therapy is most effective for those who have had little success with more conventional treatments, such as one-on-one therapy, traditional residential treatment, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
There are several types of wilderness therapy programs that offer adventure-based therapy to varying demographics. However, the industry’s most prevalent and widely targeted demographic is that of troubled teens.
Wilderness Therapy Programs for Troubled Teens
With the rise of addiction, anger management, and other out of control behavioral issues in today's youth, there are more treatment programs for troubled teens than ever before in America. Among the vast and varying forms of therapeutic and behavioral treatment programs for troubled youth is wilderness therapy.
Wilderness therapy programs for troubled teens strive to rehabilitate the behavior, mental health, and family dynamic of troubled youth.
Other than operating entirely outdoors, wilderness programs are unique when it comes to the duration of treatment. Whereas most residential treatment facilities require teens to stay a minimum of 9 months to a full year, the majority of wilderness programs for troubled teens require campers to stay no longer than 3 to 5 months.
The Unfortunate Downside of Wilderness Therapy Programs for Troubled Teens
Unfortunately, the wilderness therapy industry has had quite a few blows in terms of controversy and inconsistency in quality.
According to independent researchers, due to lack of oversight, there is much to call into question about the validity of some of these programs.
For instance, research has shown there are facilities that operate under the guise of providing today’s most “cutting-edge” wilderness therapy, when in reality they are nothing more than clinically disproven and outdated boot camps - albeit, military-styled behavior modification with the distinction of operating entirely in the wilderness. These findings are rather problematic considering that most of today’s leading behavioral experts claim boot camps for troubled youth are not only ineffective in changing the behavioral and mental health issues in adolescents, they are also likely to make matters worse.
The Elk Mountain Academy A Residential Treatment/Wilderness Therapy Program Parents Can Trust
One of the major issues regarding wilderness therapy programs is the high cost of treatment. This is due to the fact that most wilderness therapy programs operate as a "first step" program. In other words, most wilderness therapy campers (80% according to recent statistical analysis) either go to a subsequent residential treatment facilty upon completing wilderness treatment, or are leaving another treatment facility to participate in wilderness therapy leaving parents to foot the bill on two separate (often states-apart in distance) treatment facilities.
Luckily for those seeking the combined services of wilderness therapy and subsequent residential care, Elk Mountain Academy offers both types of treatment under one facility.
Rather than having to locate and transport their teen to a separate facilty (the cost of which would cost thousands of dollars in transport fees, alone) parents of troubled girls can simply send their daughter to our facility where they will complete a wilderness program before enrolling in our reputable residential treatment program.
Our multidisciplinary staff is dedicated to helping each resident embark on a new and more productive path in life. Our clinical staff, both on and off campus, is made up of psychiatric specialists, primary care physicians, a dentist, an orthodontist, & licensed psychotherapists, as well as teachers, mentors and residential care staff.
For more information regarding our treatment program, please call us today at (208) 266-1122.