Wilderness Programs, or Outdoor Therapy Programs, are therapy programs that use the restorative powers of nature programs to help young adults and adolescents overcome substance abuse and other issues.
Nature is the Master Instructor
While strict guidelines are in place here to ensure the safety of all involved, nature is viewed as the master instructor. The main attribute is that the participants quickly realize they cannot manipulate the environment. The group environment forces cooperation and community effort and develop self-esteem, problem solving skills and the ability to respond to their surroundings and situations, as well as spiritual development and the realization that they’re part of something greater.
Wilderness Therapy incorporates challenges inherent in the natural world, such as rock climbing, backpacking and white water activities to help the individual grow and change on a fundamental level, and to provide opportunities and skills that can help one deal with difficult situations crucial to the recovery process. Benefits of wilderness therapy include:
- Developing a healthy relationship with issues of control
- Developing the ability understand the importance of teamwork and to trust one’s own community
- Establishing a deeper connection with the natural world
- Increasing feelings of joy and pleasure
- Taking responsibility for actions
- Understanding how actions impact others
Wilderness programs are either short-term and long-term, depending on the needs of the patient. A short-term program can help overcome self-defeating behaviors that cause conflict at home and prevent success in school. Longer programs are the preferred treatment because of the greater opportunities it provides to stop and redirect behaviors and thought processes.
In some situations, a wilderness program is only one segment of a greater program. A therapist may recommend that the patient enroll in a therapeutic boarding school or enter a long-term care facility, if needed.