Many parents around the world know the struggles of dealing with their teenage children. The teen years can be a time of emotional turmoil as they try to figure themselves out and determine where they fit in among their peers. This can result in unwanted behaviors, such as alcohol and drug abuse, hyper-sexuality, and general rule breaking in an effort to impress their peers. Parents may feel the need to send their children to a boot camp for teenagers, but there may be another way.
Wilderness therapy has been widely spoken of as a positive way to modify behavior. While it does not use tools such as confrontation, point systems or any forcefulness, they do employ the power of self reliance. Michael G. Conner of the Mentor Research Institute says that wilderness therapy programs place the teens in a “challenging environment where determination, communication and team efforts” were paramount.
In the woods, with only food, a sleeping bag, water and general camping items, the teens quickly learn the importance of self-dependability; if they don’t handle their immediate problems while in the wild, there could be grave and severe consequences for them. The same applies to the real world. As problems arise, one cannot simply run from them and hide behind drugs, alcohol or risky behaviors. One must face them, head on, lest they end up hurt or worse.
Therapeutic wilderness programs are designed to be mentally and physically taxing. The physical exhaustion helps to break down barriers that may prevent them from opening up emotionally and truly divulging what the root of their problems are. Some programs employ what is called a “solo” period, where the children are isolated in order to allow them to truly look inside themselves, completely alone, in order to reflect and see that their problems are solely their own. They see that no one but themselves can solve them. This teaches personal accountability.
At the end of the trip, according to Wood Creek Academy, many teens have a new sense of responsibility and an understanding of where their problems stem from. The skills they learn in the wild transfer seamlessly to real life, and that is why these events come with such success.