Wilderness Therapy Programs for Troubled Teens

Wilderness Therapy for Troubled Teen Girls

Wilderness therapy is a specialized residential treatment center that provides traditional residential-style treatment to troubled teens in a remote, outdoor environment. In addition, wilderness programs utilize adventure-based treatment therapies to treat the behavioral, emotional, psychological, and in some cases, spiritual issues of troubled teens. 

Ephesians 1:3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,"

While generally expensive, wilderness therapy programs are among the most sought-after and provenly effective forms of residential therapeutic treatment for troubled teenagers. 

Wilderness therapy programs can offer valuable discipleship opportunities; they should be approached as one aspect of a holistic discipleship journey. Continued engagement in a local church community, ongoing discipleship relationships, and support from Christian mentors and leaders are essential for well-rounded spiritual growth and development.

Christian wilderness therapy programs often include dedicated Bible study and devotional time where troubled teens can engage with scripture, reflect on its meaning, and apply it to their lives. Through guided study, discussion, and reflection, participants can better understand the Gospel and its relevance to their personal struggles.

The Success of Wilderness Therapy Programs Vary - Do Your Homework!

It's important to note that the success of wilderness therapy programs can vary depending on the individual and the specific program. Factors such as the quality of staff, the program's structure, and the willingness of participants to engage in the therapeutic process can influence the outcomes.

Parents or guardians should research and choose a reputable program that aligns with their values and meets the specific needs of their troubled teen.

That said, the naturally challenging environment of wilderness therapy isn’t for everyone, and there are a number of wilderness programs whose quality widely varies. 

In the following, we do our best to educate parents of troubled teens on wilderness therapy, how it functions, and whether or not it’s the best fit for their son or daughter. 

Did you know that wilderness therapy is one of the most widespread forms of treatment in the U.S? According to the latest statistics, over 100 wilderness programs throughout the U.S. treat over 10,000 troubled teens each year.


How Wilderness Therapy Programs Typically Operate 

Apart from wilderness therapy’s unique environmental aspects, they operate and function much differently than other forms of residential treatment. Among these differences is the duration of wilderness therapy programs. Whereas residential treatment centers and therapeutic boarding school programs last anywhere between 9-18 months, wilderness therapy programs graduate their campers within a shorter time frame of 3 weeks to 3 months. 

 A teen’s day-to-day schedule typically involves a consistent regiment that includes hiking, survival skills training, outdoor skill development (such as weaving baskets, making temporary living quarters, lighting fires, etc.), and intensive one-on-one therapy with a counselor or therapist. Like other forms of residential treatment, wilderness therapy programs typically utilize things like standard-level systems and individualized treatment. 

While no programs are exactly alike, any reputable wilderness therapy program employs certified therapeutic staff, including counselors, therapists, and/or psychiatrists specially trained to treat teens in the wilderness.

John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Full-Gospel Spirit-filled Christian discipleship through wilderness therapy programs for troubled teens combines the principles of Christian faith with the therapeutic benefits of wilderness experiences.

John 3:34 “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.”

Prayer and worship are essential components of Full-Gospel, Spirit-filled discipleship. Wilderness therapy programs allow participants to engage in individual and group prayer, intercession, and worship. These spiritual practices can help troubled teens develop a stronger connection with God and experience His presence in their lives.

Is Wilderness Therapy Effective? 

Wilderness therapy is a popular form of treatment that over 10,000 families turn to each year to treat troubled teens' emotional, behavioral, and psychological issues. That said, the veracity of the treatment itself is complicated. 

Regarding therapeutic value, wilderness therapy as a concept is scientifically backed by evidence-based research and a growing number of leading experts in the field of teenage behavioral science. While few studies haven’t been published on the treatment’s veracity, anecdotal and empirical evidence is mounting. 

Whether a particular wilderness therapy program is effective depends on the company. As previously mentioned, the quality and reputations of wilderness therapy programs vary greatly. However, those with a highly trained staff and evidence-based treatment curriculum are generally highly effective in providing long-lasting behavioral and psychological improvements in enrolled troubled teens.    

Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

Wilderness therapy programs that are grounded in the Full-Gospel Spirit-filled tradition incorporate Christian teachings and principles into their program structure. Participants are encouraged to explore their faith, deepen their relationship with God, and understand how their faith can guide their personal transformation.

Moreover, proponents of wilderness therapy claim that due to its treatment models and unique settings, wilderness therapy is often effective in treating teens who were resistant to more traditional styles of treatment (one-on-one therapy sessions, conventional residential treatment programs, and drug/drug rehab centers).

Given that many therapeutic boarding schools and RTCs partner with wilderness programs for treatment-resistant teens might be further evidence of these claims.  

Ephesians 3:18-21 "may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and IN CHRIST Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."

Proponents of wilderness therapy also claim that immersing teens in a remote wilderness setting free of distractions of the modern world, combined with modern therapy, is overwhelmingly effective in fundamentally improving troubled teens' behavior, self-worth, and overall quality of life. Further, those who subscribe to this opinion say that learning how to adapt to the great outdoors and overcome the daily challenges therein gives teens self-confidence that their technology-dependent generation rarely feels. 

Is Wilderness Therapy Safe? 

Among the most common concerns parents have is whether or not their child will be safe while enrolled in the inherently dangerous wilderness. Parents concerned about their child’s safety in a wilderness program might be surprised to learn that, according to the latest statistics, the injury rate of teens in a wilderness program was just 1.12 per 1,000 campers. Based on these findings, it is statistically safer for a teen to be in a wilderness therapy program than in their hometown. 

Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, BUT THE FREE GIFT OF GOD is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

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