A Better Alternative To Scared Straight Programs & Boot Camps For Kids

Scared straight programs and boot camps for kids can do more harm than good. Wilderness therapy programs like Outback Therapeutic Expeditions are a better alternative and ARE NOT the same as a scared straight program or a boot camp for kids.

Outback is located in Lehi, Utah. Many parents in Virginia are looking for a different kind of therapy program for their troubled teen. These parents need to consider Outback’s successful track record. Effective wilderness therapy is built on the idea of pulling teens from their comfort zones. Removing kids from their Virginia homes and putting them in the Utah wilderness is first step toward an effective treatment program.

When compared with juvenile detention, wilderness therapy programs have been shown to provide better treatment and help to participants. Wilderness therapy programs are also more productive than scared straight programs or boot camps in Virginia or elsewhere.

Boot Camps For Troubled Youth And Scared Straight Programs In Virginia

There are several reasons why boot camps and scared straight programs for troubled youth are different from wilderness therapy programs.

Boot camps and scared straight programs use exhaustion, punishment, and hard labor as the basis for changing bad behavior. They believe that if a punishment is harsh enough, teens will change their behavior to avoid returning to the camp.

While these camps attempt to end bad behavior, they fail because the bad behavior isn’t replaced with anything. Replacing bad behavior with positive behavior and actions is crucial to change. Without this replacement, teens and their families struggle to find ways to resolve personal conflict and modify behavior. Wilderness therapy camps have trained therapists available to help promote and encourage this positive change.

Boot camps and scared straight programs also have unintended consequences. Their reliance on punishment encourages participants to hide or mask their bad behavior to avoid punishment. Masking bad behavior means that participants don’t actually make changes. When the camp is over, teens and their families are left to figure out what to do next, with no support from anyone. Boot camps and scared straight programs use fear to motivate their participants and teach that attending their program is the only solution to bad behavior.

A Look at Wilderness Therapy Programs For Teens in Virginia

The goal of wilderness therapy programs is to teach participants life skills and enable them to solve problems as a group and individually. Wilderness therapy camps choose to focus on the positive, not on punishment. The therapists in wilderness therapy camps teach teens how to think for themselves and make big life changes. These teens elect to change their behaviors after learning how to face their problems and replace bad attitudes with good attitudes. This results in more positive changes than teaching teens to hide bad behaviors to escape punishment.

Research has compared wilderness therapy camps and boot camps and shows that wilderness therapy camps provide teens better tools and strategies to help them in their lives.

One of the key principles of wilderness therapy is to take teens out of their comfortable spaces and provide them opportunities to learn life lessons through survival skills and object lessons. Taking kids from Virginia and having them attend a wilderness therapy program in Utah is one of the best ways to complete this.

Wilderness therapy programs allow each participant to come to the camp not knowing anything about their peers, and allows them a fresh start. This unknown atmosphere allows them to be themselves and not worry about the preconceived notions of others.

Wilderness therapy camps teach teens individual and group survival lessons. Through these lessons, camp counselors teach participants to problem solve and work together. The counselors also have the ability to be mentors and friends. These survival problem-solving lessons apply to life at the camp and will apply after they return home. They teach teens how to better realize good and bad behaviors, how to develop positive relationships, and how to effectively solve problems.

How Wilderness Therapy Programs Can Benefit Teens in Virginia

Wilderness therapy is for everyone. Troubled teens from all over the United States have flourished in Outback’s Therapeutic Expedition program. This program has helped teens and kids struggling with mental health problems, students struggling academically, and those involved in unsafe behaviors.

Outback has successfully taught teens how to develop life skills, and other tools they previously lacked. These tools enable them to reconstruct broken trust, develop positive relationships, become more social, and elevate their life’s purpose.

Some people believe only court ordered teens are able to attend wilderness therapy programs. This isn’t true. Wilderness therapy aims to help anyone struggling to make positive life changes, or those who are learning how to deal with negative behaviors. Wilderness therapy gives teens dealing with addictions (alcohol, drugs, video games, etc.), poor academic performance, mental health issues, and those struggling to make friends, a second chance.

Outback’s main goal is to help teens avoid hitting rock bottom and get back on the right path. Anyone concerned about the their teen and helping them make good choices should contact Outback today.

How Do I Know If My Child Needs Wilderness Therapy

Outback created a comprehensive assessment survey to help parents understand if their child can benefit from wilderness therapy. It also helps Outback understand the teen, and place them in the best program for their needs.

The survey is comprised of 13 questions designed to help Outback understand each child’s behavior and best help them. Parents’ responses are used to determine the best help each teen needs. Upon completing the survey, an Outback representative contacts the parents, answers any questions they may have and helps them move forward with the application.

A big part of the teenage years is decision-making. Teenagers deal with intense outside forces, and can sometimes be pressured into making poor decisions. Things like abuse, unsanitary living conditions, hormones, friends, and school, create extreme pressure on teens. These stressful situations can lead to poor decision-making. Often, these decisions have major and lasting consequences. Enabling teens by giving them the tools to make the best decisions in these situations is vital.

Sometimes, recurring bad behavior in teens can turn criminal. In Virginia, parents, teachers, and law enforcement struggle to break the cycle because they lack the ability and know-how to help these struggling teens. For parents, not knowing how to help their children can be a big strain.

Outback’s wilderness therapy programs provide the best setting to effect change in troubled teens. Juvenile detention, scared straight camps, and boot camps all lack the ability to teach effective life lessons. Outback’s methods help teens see a better way to live a balanced and happy life.

Never lose hope. Outback Therapeutic Expeditions are here to help troubled teens all over the United States. Outback’s proven methods provide parents and teens hope that the past can be fixed, how to avoid future bad behavior, and how to create a more positive and productive path forward.


While Outback is physically located in the beautiful state of Utah, students come to us from all over Virginia, the country, and the world, including (but not limited to) the following:










About the Author

McKay Deveraux, MSW, LCSW, is the executive director of Outback Therapeutic Expeditions

McKay has over 17 years of experience working with troubled teens in wilderness therapy. Before becoming the executive director at Outback Therapeutic Expeditions, McKay received his Masters of Social Work from Brigham Young University, worked as a field staff, field director, program director, and as a primary therapist at Outback.

He is honored to have served as Battalion Operations Sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves and is a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

COVID-19 Update

Outback Therapeutic Expeditions is continuing to support families through this unprecedented time. We are closely monitoring information related to COVID-19, adhering to recommendations set forth by CDC, and have implemented additional safety precautions to mitigate risks. To learn more, contact us at 800-817-1899.