Our Treatment Philosophy

Wilderness is one of the oldest types of therapy. People would and still go into the wilderness to get a new perspective, have sacred experiences, and gain knowledge.

RedCliff Ascent has been providing exceptional outdoor treatment since 1993. We are committed to the highest quality of service. We constantly strive to improve the program through accreditation, assessment, and research, and has helped thousands of teens and their families.

If your teen is going to have a healthy and effective treatment experience it has to do three things. First, it must disrupt the issues that are causing the dysfunction. Second, it must provide a deep understanding of the issues causing the dysfunction. and Third, it must help your teen to re-engage in healthy development. Wilderness is the best environment to achieve these goals.

RedCliff Ascent therapy out in the field 2

Wilderness is the best environment to achieve these goals.

You have questions, we have answers. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at

How to Support Teens in Crisis: Tips for Parents | A Student at RedCliff Ascent's Wilderness Program looks out over a wilderness scene

Free From Distractions
Disrupt the issues that are causing the dysfunction

When teens are struggling at home, at school, and in their social life, wilderness therapy provides a novel and challenging environment that disrupts the unhealthy patterns that are causing the dysfunction.

One of the unique things about wilderness therapy is that it’s unplugged; there are no distractions from the outside world. It’s just your teen, nature, and the trained individuals there to help your them. It’s a beautiful experience with healing properties that only nature itself can provide. Being outdoors has a way of opening up locked trauma and breaking down barriers; it opens possibilities and enables growth and true healing.

Nature has a way of quieting the mind, allowing for self-awareness and personal growth. Your teen can learn to reconnect with themselves and manage their emotions without any distractions from the outside world.

Being outdoors provides a critical setting for growth. Without the everyday normalities that teens have become accustomed to, therapists are able to strip away the things that might be holding your teen back. It provides a unique backdrop to help increase clinical clarity. With this base, therapists can see exactly what teens need to begin to change their behaviors.

Improving Clinical Clarity
Understand the Issues Causing the Dysfunction

Your teen will have access to the best mental health professionals avalible at Redcliff Ascent. To help your teen long-term, it’s important that we understand the issues causing the dysfunction. Healing occurs when the appropriate treatment is administered. Determining the appropriate treatment depends on understanding your teen’s internal struggles.

Therapists meet teens in the field because it is important for them to really immerse themselves in the teens’ experience. This is far more beneficial and authentic than sitting comfortably in an office setting and requiring teens to disrupt their environment. While in the field with your teen, therapists are able to get a feel for the group dynamic and work collaboratively with the field staff who are caring directly for the group. Many times, the relationship dynamics that manifest outside of the program will usually manifest in the program. When this occurs, the behavior can be challenged and addressed by the therapists and field staff. Seeing teens’ reactions to stimuli in real-time assists the therapists in creating a treatment plan specific to each teen.

In addition to therapists, field staff are integral to your teen’s success. Field staff are there to act as mentors, keep the teens safe, and act as the primary caregivers while they are away from their parents. They model several aspects of what the therapists are trying to work on with each teen - appropriate communications, relationships, etc, also known as clinical interventions. Field staff are highly trained in running group discussions and processing with the teens.

RedCliff Ascent moving camp out in the field

Re-Engaging Teens In Healthy Adolescent Development

Wilderness therapy is designed to re-engage teens in healthy adolescent development. When your teen attends a wilderness therapy program, they are taken away from negative distractions. They can engage in treatment in a way that would not be possible in any other setting.

Your teen will participate in individual, group, and family therapy sessions while in treatment. This allows them to process their behavior as well as make changes in their personal life and family relationships. They are also able to learn from their peers, realize they are not alone in their struggles, and gain motivation to make changes.

RedCliff Ascent will help your teen identify and overcome unhealthy coping patterns and teach your teen to embrace healthier ways of handling tough situations. The skills they learn will not only help them grow up responsibly but also provide a framework for being productive adults.

One study showed that by the time of discharge, 90% of teens were actively engaged in treatment. The majority of teens were no longer ignoring their problems. When researchers followed up with the teens six months after treatment, most teens maintained the motivational progress they made during treatment.

RedCliff Ascent Treatment Principles

RedCliff Ascent has extensive experience in the wilderness therapy industry. This history has allowed for many studies to explore the impact of wilderness therapy on individuals. RedCliff Ascent has conducted research since its inception; and, through our research, we have identified seven principles for effective wilderness therapy treatment.

The Seven Principles For Highly Effective Wilderness Therapy Treatment

RedCliff Ascent Appropriate Relationships

Must Foster Healthy, Appropriate Relationships

Healthy relationships are not only the foundation for growth and development, but the launchpad for a successful future as well. Insecure attachments and low social belonging are two significant developmental disruptions that lead to dysfunctional choices, addiction, emotional dysregulation, and other destructive behaviors. An environment where social influence and feedback can be given and received is absolutely vital. A successful wilderness program, such as RedCliff Ascent, will provide a safe environment where teens can connect with both their peers as well as authority figures and build healthy relationships in a group setting.

RedCliff Ascent Entire Family

Should Involve The Entire Family In The Treatment Process

A family’s level of functioning is strongly connected with the healthy psychosocial development in children and adolescents. Furthermore, parental involvement and family support during treatment have been found to significantly affect the teen’s progress during treatment, as well as the ability to adapt after treatment. It is also vital that therapists understand each individual family system when assessing a treatment plan for each teen. Problematic behaviors that teens display often are rooted in family issues, not just the individual's pathology.

RedCliff Ascent Challenging Environment

Provide A Novel And Challenging Environment

Walsh and Golins (1976) describe the novel physical environment as a place of contrast where the world views that adolescents take for granted are confronted. This allows teens to see with a fresh perspective, as well as realize any new options available to them. One common theme in feedback from RedCliff Ascent’s program participants is that the challenging and novel environment provided them with a new perspective on their life and everything they knew before wilderness therapy. Growth occurs outside of the comfort zone and is accelerated in environments that push physical and mental limits.

RedCliff Ascent Skill Mastery

Require Skill Mastery Through An Experiential Curriculum And Primitive Living

In the wilderness environment, skill and structure mastery are important parts of overall teen development. Skill mastery is specific to learning a new skill, such as storytelling or rock climbing. Structure mastery occurs when a teen gains awareness of the social norms, expectations, and rules of their environment. As their competency develops, so too develops their sense of responsibility for these areas, thus eliminating the need for an external influence to motivate them.

RedCliff Ascent Integrated Care Approach

Use An Integrated Care Approach To Assess And Treat The Teen

Assessment and treatment at RedCliff Ascent are based on the Integrated Care Model, viewing the teen as a whole and integrated person. This model focuses on treating the teens holistically and addressing all risk factors concurrently in a teen’s general and mental health. Academic well-being is also included in this approach.

RedCliff Ascent Based On Evidence

Provide Treatment Interventions That Are Based On Evidence

The evidence-based practice combines research and clinical expertise in the area of each teen’s characteristics, culture, and preferences. Clinical expertise includes conducting assessments, treatment planning, implementing treatments, and monitoring progress. Treatment services are most effective when they are responsive to each teen’s specific struggles, strengths, personality, sociocultural context, and preferences.

RedCliff Ascent Promote Change

Uses Ceremony And Nature To Promote Change And Internalize Growth

A ritual is an action with a specific ancestral or cultural form and purpose, and a ceremony is a community celebration or commemoration often having symbolic importance to the people performing it. Ceremony gives inner experiences and outer form, allowing the participants in the ceremony to internalize the growth they have achieved. It has a variety of different forms; at RedCliff Ascent, we use ceremonies to validate growth and promote change.

RedCliff Ascent Grad hug

What Happens After The Student Leaves?

Wilderness therapy provides an opportunity in which each participant is put in an environment where their every action has real-life consequences. Taken away from the home, teens come to understand the course of their actions and the reasoning behind the decisions they make. They become accountable for themselves and those around them. In the wilderness, they learn to confront what it is that is causing their struggles.

Does My Teen Need Treatment?

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