Parents who are having a difficult time raising a teenager with behavioral problems might be interested in learning more about wilderness camp therapy for troubled teens.
One such wilderness camp is the SUWS Youth Wilderness Program, located in Shoshone, Idaho. At SUWS, “students participate in team-building and leadership initiatives on our high and low ropes course. The perceived risk and complexity of some of the ropes course elements bring up mixed emotions in teens, giving our therapists opportunities to help students overcome challenges, build confidence and deal with frustration in a safe, therapeutic environment.” (1)
The self-confidence and self-respect that accompany successful completion of many SUWS wilderness tasks help teenagers get past the anger, confusion and frustration that have led to their previous behavioral issues. Ropes courses, as mentioned above, are only one of many challenges that students must face. Another challenge involves working with horses. “Equine therapy is a powerful way for adolescents to overcome their fears and learn new ways to approach problems. Working with horses can be intimidating and stir up feelings of frustration and anger, giving teens an opportunity to learn to work through those emotions in healthy ways. Through their experience with the horses, teens also learn trust, compassion and teamwork.” (2)
Some parents confuse wilderness camp therapy with boot camp courses. The distinctions between the two are very clear, however. In wilderness programs, “the primary facilitator of change is the wilderness itself. Nature serves as the ultimate teacher, unable to be manipulated or conned by a defiant, angry adolescent. Such an environment by necessity requires certain behaviors and actions. Teens quickly learn how cooperating with their peers results in a significantly more positive experience than when they refuse to participate in certain activities, such as fire-building, food preparation, and camp set-up.” (3)
Such a program provides strong leadership, but no drill sergeant. All activities have a purpose, and that purpose is to enrich the child’s experience, teach him or her self-confidence and maturity, and go toward “making the experience as safe and rewarding as possible. While boot camps tend to be more punitive and jail-like in nature, the wilderness therapy program is liberating and fulfilling as the child learns he or she has the ability to learn new skills and cooperate within a group.” (4)
If you would like more information about wilderness camp therapy, please visit:
- “Typical Day at SUWS” SUWS Wilderness Programs. Undated. Retr. 22 Mar. 2012 <http://www.suws.com/wilderness-programs/typical-day-suws>
- “What is wilderness therapy?” Wilderness Programs Info. 2010. Retr. 22 Mar. 2012 <http://www.wilderness-programs-info.com/wilderness.html>