- What is Wilderness Therapy?
- Wilderness Therapy Programs
- Confusing Wilderness Therapy with Boot Camp
- Wilderness Therapy is Teaching and Healing
- Wilderness Therapy and Teamwork/Community
For teens that suffer from emotional, mental, and substance abuse issues, there is no better path than wilderness therapy. A chance to become one with nature and to rediscover oneself, wilderness therapy provides an extraordinary setting in which young people can grow and learn.
What Is Therapy?
The clinical definition of therapy, or psychotherapy, is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a “process of treating mental and emotional disorders by talking about your condition and related issues with a mental health provider.”
During this journey of psychotherapy, teens find out about their emotions, thoughts, and feelings like never before. In learning about these deep thoughts and feelings, teens also learn better coping strategies and stress management during psychotherapy. The first step is acknowledgment and learning; the second is action-based.
The Rites of Passage approach coordinates regular, textbook therapy along with a more holistic approach – with nature as a backdrop, teens learn about holistic foods, holistic healing, and fundamentally, a better way of life. Rites of Passage has trained therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other members of the team to help every teen through their walk.
Wilderness Therapy Programs
Renowned academic researcher Dr. Keith Russell has determined that wilderness therapy programs should meet certain criteria in order to be successful. Rites of Passage exceeds all of the minimum criteria to be a successful wilderness therapy program. Some of the recommendations from Dr. Russell include:
• Open-door between the therapist, patient, and family
• State (and federal, if applicable) licensing
• The patient receives aftercare treatment through the treatment center
• Group therapy within the wilderness setting
• Field guides have the necessary training in optimal areas (substance abuse, co-occurring disorders, etc.)
• Each client has an individual plan and goal closely monitored by licensed therapists
• In addition to wilderness therapy, weekly licensed clinical therapy sessions
Confusing Wilderness Therapy With Boot Camp
Many parents may be familiar with the term “boot camp” and believe wilderness therapy equates to roughly the same thing. This is not so – the foundation of wilderness therapy is compassion, coupled by relationships built on trust. While boot camps do serve a purpose in justice and law enforcement systems, that is not the goal of Rites of Passage. While boot camps run on a “coerce and control” type of environment, here at Rites of Passage we believe in “progress, not perfection.” Each teenager has an individualized treatment plan, and will progress at different levels. We believe forcing teens does not fundamentally help their mental or substance abuse problems. Our goal here is to ultimately build confidence and self-reliance.
Wilderness Therapy Is Healing and Teaching
Being one with nature promotes healing. In this type of environment, it is easier to rediscover one’s purpose and place in life, without the distractions of ordinary life, in this digital and modern age. Daily benefits such as cell phones, TV, and cars also are distractions. Completely “getting away from it all” is an optimal chance to start from scratch. Beyond being a healing environment, our students also learn much in the great outdoors. No cell phones are allowed here; there is no television, and during our wilderness treks, there also is no shower or bed. With our guidance, teens really will need to learn quickly how to care for themselves in this environment. This type of life lesson is invaluable – teaching us all of the things that we take for granted on a daily basis.
Wilderness Therapy and Teamwork/Community
When one is out in the wilderness, modern social standards such as possessions, economic wealth, or social status do not matter. Here, everyone is an equal. Regardless of how they initially feel, the teens must learn how to work together to make life in the wilderness work. After living with each other 24 hours a day, seven days a week, teens learn the value of teamwork and looking beyond social boundaries. This is a life lesson that teens can easily take back into their own communities, thus bettering the world around them.