Month: February 2014

Why Wilderness Therapy is so Fast and Effective

Wilderness therapy differs drastically from traditional therapeutic methods. The intensity and challenges of a wilderness therapy program results in major changes in participants over a relatively short period of time.

How are these approaches different?

Traditional therapy typically happens in an office setting. After an initial consultation, therapy is continued with regularly scheduled appointments—generally 45 minutes to one hour. Therapy happens in an isolated context following a particular modality of treatment (cognitive behavioral therapy being just one type) prescribed to address anything from depression, family issues, or a number of other mental illnesses.

The core therapeutic tool used in wilderness therapy is nature, allowing staff to step back from the traditional position of authority and let the challenges of nature drive the program. Wilderness therapy is multifaceted in its approach. Generally combining a number of treatment modalities (CBT, dialectical behavioral therapy, experiential learning, holistic nutrition, mediation, etc), wilderness therapy is a more intensive type of treatment. The setting alone sets it apart from other kinds of treatment programs. Therapy happens in nature, and this alone can be challenging for some. Participants meet with therapists once a week, but the therapist generally spends 24 hours with the participants, which includes both individual time plus a group session. During these weekly sessions, participants are restocked with food and receive needed items and letters from home. Re-supply and therapy happen at the same time, allowing for a fresh perspective to meet the new challenges that will be faced in the upcoming week.

Why is wilderness therapy a more effective treatment?

Positive changes happen faster and more profoundly in this type of setting.

The peacefulness and the lack of stimulus that comes with nature provide the key location for participants to reflect and adapt. The complete removal from a former negative situation is one of the key factors in the effectiveness of these programs. Participants are out of their comfort zone, they are uncomfortable and they are forced to confront their issues. Because there are no distractions such as friends, school and technology, participants are more open to doing the work. They have also never been challenged to the extent that they are in wilderness therapy, and as a result participants are more accessible emotionally. They are raw, vulnerable and more willing to participate in individual and group therapy. Strong relationships are formed quickly, with both staff and peers, which promotes deeper and more meaningful self-reflection.

When participants return home they are much more likely to continue on the positive path that they developed in wilderness therapy. Aftercare may include community therapy sessions in a traditional setting, but there is no substitute to the profound effect that wilderness therapy has on its participants while they are in the program. In just a few short weeks a person’s entire character can be transformed.

Why ‘Rites of Passage’ & Wilderness Therapy Matter So Much

Long Term Drug Treatment Program In Washington State

‘Traditional societies know what we are rediscovering - marking the significant passages of our life brings focus to the journey ... and a realization that life is not one continuum but a series of meaningful steps.” - Stan Crow, 1939 - 2009

What is a “coming of age” moment, or a rite of passage?

A rite of passage is a ceremony, ritual or set of activities that marks the transition from one phase of life to another. It also encompasses the activities that help the process takes place. ‘Rite of passage’ may also refer to the process of change an individual goes through while moving from one stage or role in life to another. They define the roles and responsibilities that are to be taken on. A rite of passage formalizes the process of moving from childhood to adolescence to adulthood—in other words, growing up.

Why are rites of passage important?

A rite of passage is important because it is an event that marks a transition into a new phase of life. Habitual patterns do not change on their own. Something needs to happen to spark the change. Roles and responsibilities are not automatically defined. There has to be a marked event. This is why a rite of passage is especially important during the rehab stages of high-risk youth.

In initiation rites, roles are defined and redefined and help carve out a place in the world for the individual. In contemporary North American life, the tradition of intentional rites of passage is all but lost, often leaving youth to initiate themselves. When youth are left without a conscious marking and exploration of life transitions, they have difficulty creating positive change and growth in their own lives, not to mention taking that positive change into the world around them. Providing rite of passage experiences strengthens individuals, families and communities as a whole. The individual learns what it means to be a responsible community member while exploring unique, personal gifts that can be used to serve themselves as well as others.

How is wilderness therapy a rite of passage?

Wilderness therapy is an intense program that aims to transition participants from adolescence into adulthood. It provides participants with challenges in a safe and appropriate way, facilitating an environment for someone to have that “self-discovery”. Parents cannot always provide the environment or the tools to facilitate a positive transition. Wilderness therapy allows for: the removal from one’s normal environment, stillness and quiet, self-reflection, physical activity and routine. In an unfamiliar environment, participants must become self-reliant. They can explore new ways to overcoming current and future obstacles.

Participants leave wilderness therapy with:

  • Self-awareness
  • Maturity and self-reliance
  • A desire to engage in family and community life
  • The ability to manage stressful situations
  • The aspiration to make correct choices

The most important take-away from wilderness therapy is that participants leave with a positive direction in life.  Individuals are better able to foster meaningful relationships with friends and family when they return home. Academic performance improves, physical and social activity becomes important and employment is taken seriously. Participants of a wilderness therapy program graduate with the ability to self manage their lives in a mature and responsible way.

Drug Rehab Treatment Clinic Alternative

Do Drug Rehab Clinics Actually Make Drugs Look ‘Cool?’

It is widely acknowledged that acceptance in peer groups is a powerful force during adolescence. These groups provide an important developmental point of reference through which adolescents gain insight into the world outside of their families. Peers are influential and inspiring—in both positive and negative directions. Success of the peer group approach in a rehabilitation setting depends on the context under which it is employed. Drug rehab clinics, while they seem effective, can have drawbacks as well.

Drawbacks of a Clinical Setting

One concern of a clinical rehab setting is that it surrounds addicts with other addicts.  In such a setting youth see their peers as other drug users. They can glamorize and validate the behaviour. There is a natural tendency to want to fit in and identify with peers—other addicts who share a similar experience. Upon completing a clinical program, most adolescents find themselves engaging in the same damaging activities. This is due to a combination of the peer dynamic reinforced in rehab as well as returning to familiar and destructive peer situations.

Advantages of Wilderness Therapy

The positive influences of peer dynamics in wilderness therapy are manifested in many ways. Under this approach, each person has a different issue and is thereby exposed to different challenges. What bonds participants is their accomplishment of challenging daily activities and their transition into self-reliant adulthood, not the problems that they each have.

An important part of a wilderness therapy program is the strategic conversation. Participants are only allowed to talk during group discussion or with their therapist/leader. Group discussion centers on predetermined topics that participants have had to reflect on during the day. This allows for honest and productive conversation that is not centered on someone’s problem. Instead, discussion will focus on self-realizations that everyone can learn from.

In some programs, once it is established a participant can be accountable to himself, he then becomes accountable to others as a peer mentor. A peer mentor is a positive contributor to the peer dynamic of wilderness therapy. Peer mentoring is exercised in varying degrees from behaviour modelling to direct peer interaction and involvement.

Approaching the peer-dynamic in this way results in the re-structuring of both thought and behaviour patterns that are likely to carry forward upon returning to a normal living situation. Those who complete the program make better choices, are less co-dependent and actively choose a positive path for themselves.

For more information about the advantages of wilderness therapy over drug rehab clinics, contact Rites of Passage Wilderness at (800)794-0980.

When Tech Replaces Values, How Wilderness Therapy Can Help

We have all become reliant on technology in our daily lives, to some extent. For a troubled teen the reliance can be even more detrimental. Online persona often becomes more important to a teen than how she is perceived in her actual life. It is especially difficult for a teen to become “unplugged” from reality if she’s never been forced to unplug from the technology. For this reason, there are many benefits wilderness therapy can provide in this regard.

The effects of too much technology include:

  • Poor health and diet
  • Reduced physical fitness
  • Family values no longer important
  • Disconnected emotionally
  • Decreased personal interaction
  • Withdrawal from extracurricular activities
  • Depression
  • Poor academics
  • Development of a narcissistic personality
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Video game addiction

The overuse of technology can result in a variety of mental, physical and social problems.

A strong reliance on technology generally comes with the withdrawal from social interactions. Social skills are not developed and individuals can become self-involved and introverted. In the most serious cases, an overuse of technology can lead to a substance abuse problem or an addiction to gaming. An advantage to wilderness therapy in addressing these issues is that there is no technology in nature. Participants are made to engage in the behaviors that technology hinders, such as social interaction and physical activities.

Wilderness Therapy is about re-prioritizing one’s values in life. Without the crutch of technology, participants are forced to address core issues. Importance is placed on having participants look at their overall direction in life and figure out how they want to proceed into the future. They leave being able to manage their technology use in a healthy and responsible way.

Wilderness therapy begins by removing all of the negative items the child wouldn’t go thought before (cell phone, internet, social media). It then addresses problems in a way that a clinical setting cannot. When completely removed from familiar and habitual situations a person does not have the means to continue destructive behaviors. For instance, they cannot meet up with their friends online to chat and check a Facebook page. This type of program strips away the false ideological ideas of what is important in life, and what comes to the surface is a re-prioritization of values.

What do participants of wilderness therapy leave with?

  • Realization that family is the most important thing
  • Desire and ability to make good decisions
  • Fostered independence
  • Self-reliance
  • Social and team skills
  • Willingness to make big changes back home

Children and Young adults are not faced with the same challenges as their parents and grandparents. There are very different inputs than those of the past, and, in many cases, these inputs do not promote the family structure. No doubt technology enriches and makes our daily lives easier, but spending too much time with technology is actually doing more harm than good. Wilderness therapy facilitates the removal of a person’s dependence on technology and allows them to evaluate current values and goals.

Rites of Passage Wilderness