Why Teen Wilderness Programs Are Expensive

If you have been online searching for wilderness programs or wilderness therapy for your troubled teen, you have quickly realized the costs are staggering. They can now start at $600 to $800 daily and that doesn’t include your transportation or your equipment. Why exactly are wilderness programs for troubled teens expensive?

One wilderness program, that has had two teen deaths, explains the costs on their site:

The cost of wilderness therapy programs can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the length of the program, the location, and the type of services provided. Typically, the enrollment fee covers food, lodging, transportation, and equipment.

This program charged around $715 per day. The majority of wilderness programs are populated by referrals (families) from Educational Consultants that are members of the IECA and NATSAP. Parents hire these professionals since they are unaware of what direction to take when dealing with their troubled teenager.


Overall the cost of therapeutic boarding schools and residential treatment can be an expensive journey, adding the additional cost of wilderness can be more than most can afford and very rarely (if ever) covered by insurance.

Parents will use their 401K, IRA’s, college funds, borrow money from relatives, take out educational loans or even borrow against their home if they are able — to find ways to finance mental health help for their teenager.

It’s imperative you make educated decisions before spending your money.

Most parents are unaware of the fact that these short-term programs will likely yield short-term results and in the majority of these cases, their teen will be referred to a long-term therapeutic boarding school (TBS) in order to achieve long-lasting behavioral changes. That means — new start-up fees, transportation (again), and the most troubling concern; your teen becoming deflated thinking they were going home only to discover now they have to all start over again in a new program.

Some (if not most) IECA Educational Consultants will tell you that your teen needs to be broken down first and wilderness can do that.

In reality, any quality RTC/TBS is designed to help with these types of teens. Some of these RTC’s and TBS programs actually have the first 21-30 days that are like a wilderness however your teen is working with the same team of counselors they will be working with for the next 6-9-12 months.

Another words – it’s one program without changing staff or campuses, and you won’t be paying second fees.

Understanding the Myths of Teen Wilderness Programs

Myth: Many parents are led to believe that the majority of quality residential programs won’t accept a teen that hasn’t completed a wilderness program. That simply is not true. 

Myth: Any teen that is using drugs needs to do a wilderness first. This is absolutely not true.

Myth: All teens do wilderness first, if not they won’t succeed. My educational consultant said so. Again, absolutely not true.

Realizing the Facts of Wilderness Therapy

Fact: Wilderness programs are not necessary to enter a many quality therapeutic boarding schools and residential treatment centers.

Fact: Wilderness programs are an expensive band-aid. They will cost a family from $500-800 per day and the duration is about 4-9 weeks. The fact is — long lasting behavioral changes can’t take place in short-term programs. This is why the majority of students that attend wilderness programs transition on to a residential boarding school.

Consider this, it didn’t take 4-9 weeks to get to where you are today, it’s certainly not going to take 4-9 weeks to reverse that behavior – and have it stick!

In interviewing parents, since 2001, that have used wilderness programs – the feedback has been consistent. Although many students have good experiences – it was never enough to change behavior. If they had it to do over – they would opt-out and go straight to residential therapy.

Fact: Teens need consistency. Program hopping is not beneficial to anyone (except the programs that are being paid – and the professional you are paying). Finding the one residential setting that can offer your teen long-lasting changes is likely best for the entire family. In many cases, they also have parenting workshops that bring the entire family back-together.

Be an educated parent, you will make wiser and better financial decisions for your family and teenager.

Also read:

The Success Rates of Teen Help Programs

5 Benefits of Boarding Schools for Troubled Teens

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