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Wilderness therapy is one of the most effective forms of intervention with many young people, especially older adolescents and young adults. The typical short term (6 to 12 weeks) therapeutic wilderness program can be the most effective way we know with many young people to (1) improve motivation and (2) provide an excellent assessment so families can better plan for the long term. (Some variations of the wilderness theme will also be discussed) The value of Wilderness for many young people simply cannot be overstated.
Like most powerful medicines -- and wilderness is a powerful medicine -- it powerful benefits and has risks and side effects. Families considering wilderness need to learn both the benefits and liabilities of wilderness as they really are before making a decision. We get very frustrated by the wrong information in circulation about wilderness both pro and con. Parents influenced by those bits of wrong information are very likely to make a bad decision.
Examples of correction of false information and areas of caution:
- Therapeutic wilderness programs are not boot camps.
- Use of a therapeutic wilderness program should never be a punishment.
- Use of wilderness as an automatic reaction to all forms of serious behavior problems is seriously inappropriate. When a professional suggests otherwise the competence of that professional should be questioned.
- There are individual cases to the contrary but wilderness is rarely appropriate for a pre-adolescent child and should be considered with extreme caution for very young adolescents, notwithstanding the number of wilderness programs catering to that age group.
- Wilderness should be used with extreme caution for young people appearing to be on the autism spectrum.
- Short term programming is usually not appropriate for children and teens who appear to have significant attachment issues or have a history of early childhood trauma generally need to develop long term treatment relationships. The environment of wilderness is not problematic but establishing the short term relationships of wilderness might be.
These considerations are more fully explained in the complete article on Wilderness program.
Continue reading this article (Full article is available to public while under development. Will become members only when completed. This introduction will remain open to the public and might be expanded)
June 11, 2014