Wilderness Therapy Programs for Teens

If you are considering Wilderness Therapy, then you may have a lot of questions. You may have tried out-patient therapy and other programs to help your teen. You may feel overwhelmed or hopeless or alone.

You are not alone. There are many other families with troubled teens who have found the help they need. You are not hopeless. There are experienced professionals ready to help. You can begin to find the answers you are looking for right here.

You will learn how it works and why it works. This information could apply to any Wilderness therapy program that follows best practices. If you want to know how RedCliff Ascent is different, please read Why Choose RedCliff Ascent? The information here is meant to inform you, not sell you anything. The goal is to help you to find the right program for your loved one, even if the program is not ours.

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    What Is Wilderness Therapy?

    The idea that nature heals is not new. Since ancient times, wise men and women have gone to the wilderness. In nature, people find clarity, they find themselves. Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH) also known as wilderness therapy applies research-based practices to this ancient process.

    Like outpatient-therapy, clinicians guiding therapy are licensed, mental health professionals. Unlike traditional therapy, Wilderness therapy involves the prescriptive use of wilderness experiences. This means that therapy happens outdoors, in the field. Trained therapists ensure that wilderness experiences meet the participants' therapeutic needs.

    When your teen comes to nature, they will be in a completely new environment. They will be away from whatever is happening at home to trigger their negative behaviors. They will be away from problematic friends. They will not have cell phones or the Internet.

    They will have a beautiful and challenging natural landscape to call home. They will share their new home with a small group of other teens who are also going through challenges. Trained and experienced wilderness professionals will guide them. Licensed clinicians will help them through the healing process. They will also have the daily challenges presented by nature itself. In all this, they will have to learn to get along.

    Many troubled teens are resistant to therapy. They also do not like to follow rules. Being outdoors decreases this resistance. Teens are in a new place that is different from anything they have known. In this environment, not following instructions leads to natural consequences. The consequences are not imposed by the field staff. Teens are always given the supplies they need to be healthy and safe. In nature, perspective is also very important. The same sunshine that provides warmth can also provide a nasty sunburn. With nature as our catalyst, our staff helps your child overcome their personal pitfalls and learn that every good or bad decision has consequences.

    The emotional walls that your teen puts up in the outside world won't serve them well in the wilderness. The novel, challenging environment will help them to open up to new experiences. The new experiences will lead to new ways of thinking.

    Many times, teens who come to the outdoors have life-changing realizations. These realizations are often about things that parents have said to teens many times. The teens did not get the message until they came to the wilderness. It is not that teens were not listening. Being in a new environment and facing new challenges stimulates new ideas.

    Stimulating new ideas is important. Most of the teens who come to us have stopped developing in healthy ways. Different teens stop developing for different reasons. That is why we begin with a period of assessment.

    During the assessment, your clinician will work with you and your teen. Together, you will develop a deep understanding of your teen's dysfunctional behavioral patterns. Together, you can address the causes of dysfunction and developmental delays. Then your teen and your family will begin to heal.

    This re-engages participants in healthy development. The experience is immersive, unforgettable, and immediate. It combines experiential learning, individual and group therapy, and purpose-driven wilderness experience.

    How Effective Is Wilderness Therapy?

    If your teen has tried out-patient therapy without success, wilderness therapy may help. It helps teens lower their barriers. Many troubled teens who come to the wilderness initially resist treatment. Then, they begin to build relationships with other teens and staff members. They develop confidence as they gain skills. Then, they see that change is possible. They develop a desire to change.

    One of the reasons for the success is its high completion rate. A recent survey conducted by RedCliff Ascent showed that 94% of teens and young adults complete the program. Only 37% of teens and young adults complete treatment as usual. Also, the quality of life of teens who complete treatment is high. Quality of life is 60.4% higher than teens who completed treatment as usual.

    Is Wilderness Therapy Safe?

    Yes. Wilderness therapy programs that follow best practices are safe.

    A 10-year research on risk management showed that OBH programs have fewer reported injuries than backpacking, downhill skiing, and practicing football.

    For troubled teens, wilderness therapy is much safer than staying home.

    When your teen comes to treatment, they will be supervised by trained professionals. Your teen will always be with someone who is skilled in handling the outdoors. Many programs also teach these skills to teens. Your teen may become someone who is skilled in handling the outdoors!

    How Much Does Wilderness Therapy Cost?

    Because of the high level of care given to each teen, the cost is high. Trained clinicians, experienced field staff, and proper equipment all add to the expense. However, the long-term cost of troubled teens not receiving the help they need is higher.

    A recent study compared teens who attended RedCliffAscent against those who took part in treatment as usual. The survey showed for every $1.00 spent on wilderness therapy there were a $9.00 to $12.00 savings later on. Troubled teens who did not attend experienced less improvement. They and their families often experienced additional costs. These costs included additional treatment and litigation fees.

    How Long Is Wilderness Therapy?

    Most often, troubled teens come to wilderness therapy for eight to ten weeks. However, the time your teen spends in the wilderness may be longer or shorter.

    Different programs may vary in length. Also, different teens may progress through the same program at different rates. If your teen adapts well, then their time might be shorter. If your teen struggles at first, their time may be longer. Most programs adjust their time according to each teen’s needs. There is not a one-size-fits-all timeline.

    What Are The Benefits Of Wilderness Therapy?

    Treatment isn't only about helping teens. It is about healing the whole family. Parents have the opportunity to assess what life without the teen is like. Teens have the opportunity to experience the natural world. Without distractions like video games or social media, they see new aspects of who they are.

    Therapists and well-trained staff members support teens and parents to restore healthy communication. Teens and parents exchange letters. Taking the time to construct a letter encourages thoughtful communication.

    Over time, exchanging letters provides families a safe way to communicate. Each member of the family can give and receive feedback. They can strengthen their relationships.

    Also, therapists meet with families each week. Most often, therapists and families teleconference. The therapist provides insights into the student's progress. Parents also learn parenting, communication, and other skills.

    Most often, teens come to treatment for mental or behavioral issues. Therapists provide treatment for those issues. Therapists and staff members also teach troubled teens healthy coping skills. The mental or behavioral issues are often the cause of the developmental delay and must be treated to re-engage teens in healthy development.

    Learning these skills leaves teens better able to succeed. They learn to relate to other people in healthy ways. Teens learn healthy outlets for their feelings.

    What Happens After Wilderness Therapy?

    The goal of treatment is to help troubled teens heal and bring families back together. For some teens, that will happen directly. They will return home. Other teens may still require additional help. They may move on to a different program.

    For teens who move on to a different program, wilderness therapy can still be a valuable part of the healing process. It can help to smooth away the rough edges of their character. They are more receptive to learning and make better progress. They also develop skills that help them be successful as they continue to receive treatment.

    Whether the teen returns home or goes on to another program, it is natural for there to be a period of adjustment. The teen has spent several weeks in a new environment. They have experienced life-changing events. The home environment may not have changed as much.

    The home may have many of the same triggers that it did in the past. Teens in their families will have memories that are deeply tied to old, negative behavioral patterns. That is why many programs provide aftercare. Aftercare supports teens and their families through the transition home. RedCliff Ascent, for example, provides aftercare in the graduate’s own home.

    How Can I Learn More About Wilderness Therapy Programs for Teens?

    RedCliff Ascent wilderness therapy program for teens begins and ends with evidence-based practices. We ask parents to provide information about the specific challenges facing their family. The information is provided in the form of a patented assessment. There is no charge for the assessment. Any information you provide is confidential. We value your privacy and never share your contact information.

    Take the assessment to find out if wilderness therapy could be helpful for your teen. After you complete the assessment, a RedCliff Ascent representative will contact you. You will hear from us within two business days. The representative will answer your questions. If we do not think that our program is right for you, then we will direct you to find a better fit for your child.