Wilderness Therapy Programs for Troubled Girls

Wilderness Therapy for Troubled Teen Girls

Wilderness therapy is a completely outdoor-based residential treatment center that combines traditional residential therapy with an adventure-based treatment model. 

It's Crucial For Parents to Thoroughly Research Any Prospective Wilderness Therapy Program

Since its inception in the early 1960s, wilderness therapy has become one of the most popular forms of residential therapy in treating troubled teenage girls. But while the treatment has become increasingly popular with parents of troubled girls, wilderness therapy has plenty of detractors.

Unfortunately, not all wilderness therapy programs are upstanding facilities. Like any burgeoning industry, there are those among the wilderness therapy programs that use the popularity of their treatment to lure parents into sending their children to their facility. Programs like these are only interested in making money and do not adhere to industry standards.


This failure to focus on bringing their program up to code at the expense of losing money, combined with the dangerous nature of living in the outdoors without safety protocols and trained staff, makes some wilderness therapy programs inherently dangerous.

While many wilderness programs are up to code and run by caring individuals who want to save the lives of troubled girls, others fall short of adequate. Suppose parents are considering utilizing a full-time wilderness therapy program (programs exclusively set in a wilderness environment). In that case, they must first do their due diligence in carefully researching any prospective program before committing their child to their premises. 

While full-time wilderness therapy programs can be potentially dangerous, many safer alternative residential treatment programs utilize aspects of wilderness therapy (such as engaging in outdoor activities for therapeutic purposes) but house their teenage residents indoors. Programs that utilize certain aspects of wilderness therapy include therapeutic boarding schools, residential treatment centers, and even group homes.  

Wilderness Therapy Programs are Prevalent 

As of 2017, more than 100 wilderness therapy programs nationwide serve over 10,000 teens and young adults annually. These outdoor-based residential treatment facilities are committed to accreditation, effective treatment, evidence-based research, and monitoring risk management, among other things related to improving the lives of troubled teens.

Wilderness therapy is especially effective in treating troubled teens - Namely, underlying mental, emotional, and behavioral issues that cause typically cause troubled teens to act on out-of-control and self-destructive behaviors.

Wilderness therapy is quickly becoming one of the nation's go-to residential treatment programs for troubled teens. But, of course, the difference between wilderness therapy programs and other traditional residential treatment facilities is that the entire treatment program takes place outdoors - generally, (at least) tens of miles away from the nearest town or city.

What's more, according to leading experts in the field of teenage behavioral science, there is considerable anecdotal and empirical evidence that wilderness programs work.

How do Wilderness Therapy Programs for Teens Operate?

Wilderness therapy programs are typically shorter (no longer than five months) with fewer teens (12-24) than traditional residential programs, which typically last between 9 to 16 months and house dozens of students at a time.

Like most treatment facilities, wilderness therapy programs offer many different levels, styles, and treatment models. Factors such as a teenager's age and the behavioral, mental, and emotional issues they need to be treated will determine things like the intensity of their individualized treatment program, medication regimen, and drug and alcohol treatment (if applicable).

Wilderness therapy is a popular choice among today's parents of troubled teens. As to why, proponents of wilderness therapy claim that immersing teens in a wild habitat with modern therapy is overwhelmingly effective in fundamentally improving troubled teens' behavior, self-worth, and overall quality of life.

What's more, due to wilderness therapy's dynamic models of treatment and its unique setting, the adventure-based treatment is especially effective in treating those who were not successfully treated by more traditional styles of treatment - i.e., one-on-one therapy sessions, conventional residential treatment programs, and drug/drug rehab centers.

One of the parents' main concerns regarding sending their children to an outdoor-based program is their safety will be compromised while living in the wilderness. However, according to recent studies from 2017, the average injury rate of a wilderness therapy program for troubled teens is just 1.12 per 1,000 participants.

According to similar studies, some might even be surprised that wilderness therapy programs are safer than living at home. In fact, teens living at home are twice as likely to visit an emergency room due to sickness or injury than the average wilderness therapy participant.

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