What Is A Boot Camp?

Boot camps for teens are based on military-style tactics: excessive discipline and pushing hard to emotional and physical extremes. The intent is to instill a degree of strength through fear and aggression.

Why Are Boot Camps For Teens Ineffective?

The Focus is on Negative Reinforcement, Boot camps come from a place of an assumption that the teens are bad and need to be pushed hard as a form of punishment. The goal is “character building”, but teens are more likely to be broken down and exhausted than rehabilitated. Troubled teens can be resistant to strong pressure, and they typically don’t experience any lasting change.

There Is No Search For The Core Of The Issue To Create Change

Delinquent behavior in teens is always rooted in something deeper–there is no such thing as surface-level undesirable actions. A boot camp for teens focuses too much on discipline and punishment without finding the source of the issues and using rehabilitative methods that are centered around positive reinforcement and proven therapy practices.

Teens Experience Isolation

While wilderness camps for teens separate teens from technology, there is a strong emphasis on bonding with fellow campers and counselors. It tends to be easier to relate to other troubled teens through positive experiences and bonding activities, which can help reduce the feeling of all-around loneliness. Families are also not involved in boot camps, which can further distance teens from solutions that are based in collaboration with their support system.

What is a Scared Straight Program?

Boot camps and scared straight programs for teens are very similar conceptually: instill fear and use excessive discipline to counteract the behavior of troubled teens and scare them into better behavior. They use a type of exposure therapy where troubled teens are forced to confront “their future” by touring prisons and interacting with aggressive inmates, but this form of therapy can be traumatizing and counterproductive. Scaring troubled teens into better behavior can still lead to high recidivism rates.

Why Are Scared Straight Programs Ineffective?

Similar to boot camps, scared straight programs don’t address the source of what motivates a teen to act out. They are often exposed to people in prison who yell and try to instill fear through shock and exposure to horrific situations. But teens tend to experience something at their core or in their environment that can create fear and anger–a saturation of more fear and anger in a single experience can perpetuate those feelings and create a sense of resentment.

Wilderness Therapy Is A More Effective Treatment Option

Wilderness therapy for teens is the ideal solution. These programs revolve around outdoor experiences that bring troubled teens up close with nature while removing distractions like technology and teaching therapeutic coping skills. The teens interact with the outdoors and participate in activities that are positive and engaging. Nature has been proven to increase all-around happiness and create a sense of serenity, which are the ideal solutions for addressing troubling behaviors.

What Makes Wilderness Therapy For Teens So Effective?

Fear and discipline are not at the core of wilderness camp–in fact, instilling fear and using negative tactics are typically forbidden. Teens actually build character by bonding with other teens and counselors. The goal is to build positive change that will build confidence, identify core issues, and rehabilitate troubled teens to reduce recidivism and further acts that are based on negativity.

Is The Family Involved?

Yes. Families are encouraged to be a part of wilderness camp rehabilitative processes from beginning to end. It is crucial to keep the teen’s support system intact and eliminate any feelings of isolation or abandonment.

Additional Reading:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/249049075_Brat_camp_boot_camp_or_Exploring_wilderness_therapy_program_theory