Wilderness Treatment FAQs

What is Wilderness Treatment?

Wilderness treatment is a type of therapy program that involves established, clinically accepted therapeutic techniques into an outdoor setting. This is not a “boot camp” approach, but mental health professionals provide therapeutic services for clients in the desert or in the mountains, while camping, hiking, and engaging in other outdoor activities. This non-traditional setting is positive for clients, as it does not feel like therapy, and therapists are able to approach the work in a relaxed, non-threatening way.

Who Usually Participates in Wilderness Treatment?

wilderness treatment FAQsIn most cases, the typical participants in wilderness treatment are at-risk teens, ages 13-17. At-risk teens are those who can exhibit a variety of challenges, including drug or alcohol use, rebellion, and clinical diagnoses of behavioral or emotional disorders like attention deficit disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, or anxiety and depression.

• Don’t forget to check out the directory of WTC locations, such as the page for Georgia.

Sometimes, wilderness treatment programs offer opportunities for young adults as well, between ages 18 and 28. Young people that may benefit from wilderness treatment are those who have experienced trauma, addiction, depression or anxiety, personal challenges, or lack coping skills.

Who Are the Professionals Who Will Interact with My Child?

Wilderness treatment programs typically have a wide range of professionals on staff. There may be doctoral-level psychologists and/or psychiatrists. Counselors or therapists that specialize in different areas of disorders or in different forms of therapy may also work with clients. A medical doctor is available 24 hours a day. A critical part of wilderness treatment programs are the teams that serve in “the field”; these guides work with your child in the woods, on the lake, or in the desert – teaching from our curriculum, guiding group sessions, and facilitating the program’s activities. Because therapy is most effective when a client’s entire environment is considered, professionals who work with families are also involved in wilderness treatment programs.

How Does It Work?

Typically, the first thing that happens is the client undergoes a needs assessment. This helps the entire team who will be working with your child know the best path for helping them achieve their treatment goals. After that, your child will be assigned to a single-gender group; teen therapy groups are either all-male or all-female. They participate in program activities for a designated length of time, usually eight to ten weeks. Although this seems like a long time, a stay of this length helps the therapist to break down any barriers and address the main challenges that the client has.

What is the Cost of Wilderness Treatment?

In many cases, wilderness treatment has shown to have effective outcomes. However, it can be expensive – as much as $20,000 to $30,000. And insurance does not typically pay for all of this, beyond a few specific therapy sessions. So, access to these programs may be limited to some people. However, it is hoped that with continued documentation of effectiveness, this type of non-traditional therapy is one that can be covered by insurance in the future, so that it is accessible to those who need it.