Life is very complicated; there are many problems that have no easy solution. We owe it to ourselves and our families, however, to face these problems head-on, and to provide the support that our family members need. The most important thing you can do for yourself and your troubled teen is to acknowledge what is really going on.
If you have recognized signs that your teens is in crisis, consulting with a healthcare or mental health professional is a wise decision. However, there are some issues that talk therapy alone can not overcome. For this reason, some parents elect to send their children to a program for troubled teens. While there are many treatment options available, wilderness therapy has a lot to offer for teens who are in crisis.
Wilderness therapy provides an ideal environment for comprehensive and holistic assessment. Teens in wilderness therapy programs don’t have access to drugs, video games, negative friend groups, stressors that may have developed within the family, and other distractions that often mask core issues. Because of this, a treatment team will get a rare glimpse into the psychological, emotional, biological, and social strengths and weaknesses that your child possesses. They will also be able to get a very clear understanding of your child’s inner resources and the cognitive distortions, defense mechanisms, and unhealthy coping strategies your son or daughter has developed.
Individual Treatment Plan
A credible wilderness therapy program for troubled teens should provide an individual treatment plan for your child; a therapeutic plan tailored specifically to his or her challenges, strengths, and goals. A therapist will develop this in collaboration with you, your child, professionals who have treated your child up to this point, and your child’s historical records.
Your child’s treatment should be overseen by a licensed therapist who meets regularly with your child and monitors their progress. Additionally, this type of program for troubled teens will be staffed by expert-trained field guides who offer continuous support, insight, and feedback to the participants to aid them in reaching their treatment goals.
Clinically Proven Results
In this way, wilderness therapy provides highly effective care and long-term treatment solutions for troubled teens. In multiple empirical studies conducted by Keith Russell (of the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Research Cooperative) since 2005, teens suffering from a variety of behavioral issues (eg. substance abuse, anxiety, depression) overwhelmingly reported improvements in anxiety levels and depression, and did not backslide into substance abuse. These results were maintained at check-ins six months after the end of treatment.
Although wilderness therapy is a relatively new treatment option, the clinical and academic response to wilderness therapy is overwhelmingly positive. In addition, there are multiple regulatory and accrediting organizations to ensure that wilderness therapy programs provide current, safe, and effective treatments. In fact, “… Wilderness and adventure therapy programs have formed the Outdoor Behavioral Health-care Industry Council (OBHIC; see www.obhic.com) to promote the utility of wilderness therapy throughout the country.” (p. 13, Taniguchi et al., 2009).
We owe it to ourselves and our families, however, to face these problems head-on, and to provide the support that our family members need. The most important thing you can do for yourself and your troubled teen is to acknowledge what is really going on. While there are a number of treatment options for teens who are grappling with behavioral, psychological, and emotional difficulties and need intervention, the power of wilderness therapy can change lives and reunite families. Whatever path you choose, we wish you health and peace along your journey.
Download our How to Help Your Troubled Teen White Paper to learn more about how to help your troubled teen.
The Attributes of Effective Field Staff in Wilderness Programs: Changing Youths’ Perspectives of Being “Cool” (Taniguchi, Widmer, Duerden, and Draper 2009).