Wilderness Programs for Troubled Teens

Are  you seeking help for your troubled teen and have been referred to wilderness programs or wilderness therapy? As you are learning more about places for troubled teens, wilderness is one of your options, however it is one you must take time to learn more about before making your decision.

Did you know that one online search for “wilderness programs for teens” yields nearly 5 million results? This is a big business and can be very daunting to a new parent that doesn’t understand this industry.

Since 2001 we have educated parents about schools for troubled teens including wilderness programs and short-term programs. In our decades of experience, it is rare that we have witnessed long-lasting behavioral changes in short-term programs.


What is certain is that troubled teens will thrive in consistent and positive environments. When parents contact us requesting boot camps or scared straight programs, we are unable to assist them since these are models, in our opinion, have been non-effective.

There are many good wilderness programs in our country, but what separates the good ones from the right one for your troubled or defiant teenager?


3 Steps to Choose the Right Wilderness Program


It is important to read about the myths of wilderness programs this way you will better understand why choosing the right one makes sense.

Fact: It likely didn’t take your teen 4-9 weeks to get to where he/she is right now in their behavioral patterns, which means it definitely isn’t going to take this length of time to change this behavior — and have it stick. This is why when you speak with parents that have engaged in wilderness programs, they were likely referred to a long-term therapeutic boarding school after their time in wilderness.

This not only has your teen changes campuses, but now switching therapists, repeating his counseling and telling his traumas all over again. Parents (by the way) will be paying all new start-up fees and transport fees. Let’s repeat from above — teens thrive with consistency; this is likely something they have been lacking at home, no one benefits from program hopping — except the programs.

Step 1 in choosing a wilderness program for your troubled teen:


Select a wilderness program with a therapeutic boarding school on the same campus. With this, your teen will be transitioning with his/her therapist as well as the peer group they were with. “CONSISTENCY” is key to success and you won’t have to worry about transport fees or new start-up fees. The best part is, your teen has already become acclimated so won’t be as deflated as they would be if they were in a wilderness program and now having to be transferred to yet another program.

Most of these programs offer month-to-month contracts so if you feel your son or daughter is ready to come home after 6-9 weeks, that is your option. The best part is, if you start having bumps in the road, you could always send them back to the therapeutic school since you are already familiar with the counselors and they have the background on your child. It can be a win-win for everyone.

Step 2 in choosing wilderness therapy for your defiant teen:


Since 2001 we have been educating parents about choosing the right therapeutic boarding schools for defiant teens, with treatment-resistant teens (defiant), research has shown that outdoor behavioral health can promote healing and treatment. Choosing the right wilderness program that combine professional clinical treatment with challenging outdoor activities is crucial.

Going back to Step 1, programs that offer both wilderness and therapeutic boarding schools also offer 3-30-day wilderness opportunities depending on your child’s needs. This can be extremely beneficial since every teen is not coming into the program with the same issues and while some may need 6-9 weeks, some may only require a weekend until they transfer to the school setting.

Step 3 in choosing a wilderness program for your teen:


Is your teen struggling academically? The majority of wilderness programs do not offer academics — although we are now focused on their emotional well-being; many parents are concerned about their teenager losing up to 3 months of their education. By choosing a wilderness program with a therapeutic boarding school your teen will more likely be able to stay on task with his schooling.

A final thought about choosing a wilderness program is the costs. Wilderness programs and wilderness therapy average daily rate runs about $450 to $650. At $550 a day, that is $15,500 monthly not including your equipment costs or transportation fee. In most cases, medical insurances will not cover wilderness programs. Keep in mind, this doesn’t cover your next step — a therapeutic boarding school.

If you decide to choose a wilderness program with a therapeutic boarding school, you likely will be paying less — as well as in most cases if you have PPO insurance with out-of-network benefits, you will have some coverage. You won’t be sacrificing quality — you will be gaining consistency.

For more information on wilderness programs with therapeutic boarding schools, contact us.

Also read:

5 Benefits of Therapeutic Boarding Schools.

Does My Teen Need a Boarding School.

Sucess Rate of Therapeutic Boarding Schools.

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