One of the best aspects of wilderness therapy is that the process of change is expedited. In any other treatment setting the typical timeline for a child to go from a state of blame and denial to a state of accountability and confidence takes around 12 -18 months, in the wilderness it takes an average of 2 months.
This is due to the wilderness setting that creates natural challenges for the teen to overcome and grow from. Many people erroneously think that saving teens from challenges will give them an advantage in life. Instead of running away from challenges, Outback works with teens to help them overcome challenges.
This process can be uncomfortable and difficult, but it is the difficulty and discomfort that prods that teen into action and a positive direction. While the wilderness provides a foundation of natural interventions, our staff and therapists are ever mindful of intentional ways to invite students to step outside of their comfort zone and into their growth zone.
Below is an example of a wilderness intervention experience:
Clay Ocarina –
“One wilderness intervention I did with a group one time surrounded a concept I call default mode versus intentional living. The motivation for this intervention was a conversation I had with the group in which they shared all the wonderful “white picket fence” dreams they had in spite of the fact that the path they were on was leading them away from those dreams. There was a serious difference from the way they were living and the life they wanted to have so I decided to help them see how this looks in real life. The following week I brought out some clay and we all made small clay flutes called ocarinas. These flutes took a long time to make and were very delicate until they could be fire hardened in a natural kiln process we do in a large fire. They took great pride in their ocarinas and began learning songs on them immediately, even though they were still fresh and somewhat wet. At this point, I began the challenge. I told them that we would not be fire hardening the clay flutes until the following week. They were surprised and frustrated because they knew their flutes were delicate and didn’t want them to break. They asked if I could take them and protect them until they were hardened. I said no. I then told them that if they wanted their clay flutes to survive, they would need to treat them very carefully and protect them throughout the week. The group became very upset. They knew that was not an easy task. I sat with them and helped them identify the dangers and create plans to prevent their ocarinas from being damaged or broken. The following week we all sat down and discussed the previous week. Half of the boys had broken or lost their ocarinas and a couple other boys had damaged theirs to the point where they would not whistle very well. There were only a few boys that had managed to protect their ocarina from being lost, damaged or completely broken. As we processed the week, the ocarinas were likened to their future dreams and goals. It is easy to say, “I want to have a successful career, a happy family or sober living”, just like it was easy to say, “I want to have an ocarina”. But in order to achieve those goals, it takes intentionally protecting them and watching out for danger areas. When we live in default mode by just going through life aimlessly, expecting good things to come to us, we often find ourselves in a much different place than we were hoping for. Just like you can’t wake up one day and become a doctor without going through years of school and training….you can’t wake up one day and have a successful career, a happy family or lasting sobriety. It takes consistent effort and intentional planning. After further discussion and careful planning, the boys with broken ocarinas were able to make new ones and fire harden them the following week.”