Who is Right for Wilderness Therapy?

Wilderness Therapy is receiving growing attention as a means of therapeutic intervention.  More wilderness therapy treatment programs are being offered every year. If you are considering wilderness therapy for yourself or a loved one, it is important to assess whether this is the right treatment option for the individual. So, who is right for wilderness therapy?

Most wilderness therapy programs focus on adolescents and young adults with behavioral, mood, or attachment disorders. Most programs are geared toward individuals between the ages of 12 and 17 years old. Clients need to be physically capable of participating in wilderness activities, including hiking and being outdoors. Severe allergies or physical ailments can lessen the likelihood that wilderness therapy will be a worthwhile pursuit.

who is right for wilderness treatmentWilderness treatment can be utilized for a variety of behaviors and disorders, including:

  • Coping with trauma/abuse
  • Difficulty learning/focusing in school
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Eating disorders
  • Cutting
  • Difficulty interacting socially
  • Lack of motivation
  • Disrespect for authority
  • Substance abuse
  • Entitled behavior
  • Relational issues with family/peers
  • Repeated conflict with peers
  • Lack of self-regulation

Wilderness therapy is not ideal for severe psychological problems like psychotic disorders. Individuals who are extremely violent, suffer PTSD, or have severe addiction/dependency issues are not suited for outdoor-based therapy, which can be both physically and emotionally challenging.

• Don’t forget to visit the directory of treatment locations, such as those found in the state of Maryland.

Hiking and camping experiences are ideal to remove youth from familiar environments where they struggle. In a new setting, they can be taught specific skills and problem-solving techniques. Then the field guides and therapists can work with them on how to apply these skills in real life situations. This type of therapy can only be affective if the client sees the need for changing their behavior and is willing to participate in therapy activities.

Depending on the depth of the problems being addressed, wilderness therapy can be utilized as a primary therapeutic strategy or as part of a larger comprehensive treatment plan. Some patients may benefit from intensive residential or outpatient treatment in addition to the wilderness therapy experience.

Therapy of any kind is most effective when the individual has family members or loved ones who are willing to play an active role in treatment. A strong support system offers a person – particularly a young person -the motivation to change behaviors. Patients are more likely to achieve their desired treatment outcomes when family and friends acknowledge the need to develop productive means of dealing with conflict, expressing emotions, and interacting with others.

Wilderness therapy is a growing field, and can be effective for people with a variety of problems and disorders. When considering wilderness therapy for an adolescent or young adult, families should vet programs to make sure they meet their child’s needs. This includes making sure that the staff is properly licensed and has experience working with similar cases. Therapeutic staff should always be willing to build custom plans to address a client’s needs. Even if wilderness therapy in general may be right for your child, it will only be effective if you find a program willing to work for and with them.