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Wilderness Programs and Teen Help

MountainsFor the many people that know me, they know I don’t believe in  Wilderness programs  nor do I advocate for short term programs.  This doesn’t mean there aren’t reputable Wilderness programs in our country.  There are, however chances are very good, after your teen attends one – within the first 30 days, the program will tell you it is likely you will need to go on to a residential therapy program.  Which means….

  • More money (start-up fees)
  • Another trip
  • Another therapist, more new staff to become familiar with (again)
  • Another schedule
  • Another campus
  • Etc….

Back to the first one – the costs are exuberant for wilderness, and to combine it with another at least $50K for a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) or Therapeutic Boarding School (TBS) is simply out of the equation for many families.

We are about educating parents in all aspects of the teen help industry.

I’ve worked with families that have taken the wilderness road.  Now they are out of money and need  a program, but the funding is no where to be found.  What do you do?  Their teen is back to the streets – smoking the dope and failing in school. (Let’s also remember most wilderness programs don’t offer academics).

One thing these at-risk teens need is consistency.  Usually for the past several months, even years they have been spiraling out of control, driving down a negative path with a negative peer group.

Going to wilderness can be great experience – they get to vent to their counselor, talk about their feelings and dig deep inside.  They even get a new appreciation of sleeping in their bed or a bed.  They are also knowing that once they just get through these next 6-8-10 weeks – they are home free.

Now, you tell them they are not home free – they are going to the “next step” – a longer term program.  Now they have to get over the disappointment, anger, resentment and most of all, they have to start all over again with a new therapist – a new staff and a new setting.  Sigh…..

Of course this is the case for the families that can afford that next step.  If they can’t – some will be facing a probation officer or public defender within a few months.  Solid changes and “lasting” changes cannot be made within 6-8-10 weeks.

This is way an average successful program is 6-9-12 months (not weeks).

Consider taking the costs of a pricey wilderness and putting towards a quality RTC or TBS. If you have PPO insurance it can be beneficial also for these programs. Some IEP’s will cover a portion of an RTC and TBS also.

Are Wilderness program worth it?  It’s my opinion, since 2001 I have been talking and working with thousands of families – no, they simply are not worth it.  That doesn’t mean they aren’t helpful to some families, but from the many I have spoken with – their reflection is that it was a good experience, however not always a necessary one when you know you are continuing to an RTC or TBS.  Of course, we all are different.

Contact us if you would like more information.

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P.U.R.E. does not provide legal advice and does not have an attorney on staff.
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