Wilderness therapy is most effective if parents take an active role in their child’s recovery. The role of the parent in the process is continuous: it begins with the initial phone call to a wilderness therapy program and ends with a continued commitment to an aftercare plan.
Initializing the process is only the first step. Involvement during the program requires that a parent communicate effectively with both their child and the wilderness therapist to maximize the benefits of the experience. Parents will have the opportunity to communicate weekly with a therapist about the progress of their child and to discuss ways in which they can make positive contributions and provide the appropriate encouragement and support.
Letter-writing is an important communication tool utilized by wilderness therapy programs. One of the ways in which parents are involved during the program is through the writing and exchanging of letters. With the help of a wilderness therapist, parents and participants are asked to exchange meaningful correspondences that address the reasons why a person has ended up in the program. This tool pushes the participant to understand the consequences of their actions and allows for them and their family to begin the process of healing. There are essential items that participants and parents must both include in these correspondences if they are to be impactful.
A letter written by a participant may include:
- How they ended up in the program
- Identifying past wrongs
- The ways they are improving on treatment goals
- Behaviors that affected their family
- An apology
A letter written by a parent could address:
- Examples of how the participant’s negative behavior has affected the family
- The repercussions of past actions
- Their own role in the situation
- Plans for restructuring the home life
- How they can offer support
- Taking responsibility
These letters can sometimes be difficult to write and to receive as they are meant to center on deep issues that may have never before been addressed. It is important that these letters are impactful and that the dialogue revolves around addressing both problems and solutions. This exchange works to open up the lines of communication and can serve as a foundation for a healthy relationship moving forward.
Parental involvement in an aftercare plan is essential to continuing on the right path. Taking an active role in the health of a child means being accountable for making changes in the home environment. During the time that the child or adolescent is participating in the program there are many things a parent can do to prepare for their homecoming.
In preparing for an aftercare plan parents should:
- Read up on relevant literature
- Restructure the household ground rules
- Address specific family dynamics
- Seek personal therapy
- Set up family counselling sessions
- Find support systems
Parental non-involvement in the wilderness therapy process can cause a participant to relapse when they return home. Parents must be willing to contribute to an aftercare plan because in many cases the home dynamic will need to change as much as the negative behavior of their son or daughter. A parent must recognize their role in the recovery process in order to safeguard their child from re-engaging in negative behaviors and activities.
The role of the parent in the process of therapy and recovery is one of continued involvement; the long-term success of the child depends on it. Wilderness therapy can provide parents and caregivers the tools they need to help ensure that the positive changes made in the program continue upon returning to home life.
Call Rites of Passage Wilderness at (800)794-0980 to learn about our Wilderness therapy programs, and the recovery abilities of nature.