Should You Consider a Troubled Teen Summer Camp or Wilderness Camp?

Many teen summer camps or seasonal therapeutic schools are available for troubled youths across the Untied States. Some offer scheduled day programs, while others have more stringent forms of residential curriculum and therapy. In general, however, most provide support including psychotherapy, individual counselling, and group sessions in addition to discipline, wellness, and leadership training – all set in a natural environment.

Even though many troubled teen camps take place seasonally and for certain periods at a time, they do have merits. Many are devised with an effective curriculum to address many internal teen issues with positive results – from depression and drug abuse to combative and violent behavior. Yet, once the issue is addressed, it’s important to realize that at the end of the program additional therapy or one-on-one treatment may be required on an ongoing basis.

Trouble teen summer camps and the programs available are just as diverse as the challenges adolescents face. Here are some off the details about two of the more common ones parents and teens may often hear about:

Troubled Teen Boot Camps

Troubled teen boot camps are often considered controversial due to their tough love and disciplined, military-style approach to therapy, wellness, and confidence building. Some are very strict and others have a good mix of discipline and therapy. According to an article from, a lot of parents consider a troubled teen boot camp in the event of repetitive encounters with the law and to prevent potential incarceration, increased substance abuse problems, or resisting other self-destructive behavior. As a result, it’s recommended to choose a troubled teen boot camp that has strict admission policies, a therapeutic environment, skills teaching, parental involvement, and positive discipline.  A good, reputable boot camp will offer all of these forms of treatment.

Teen Wilderness Programs

A far cry from the disciplined environment of a trouble teen boot camp, teen wilderness programs (or Outdoor Behavioral Health (OBH) programs), tailor therapy more to individual needs, including behavior modification, self-improvement, in addition to individual/group sessions in a natural, wilderness setting.

With a focus on education and life skills as well, teen wilderness programs span across the U.S. and reportedly serve thousands of individuals every year with much success. A study conducted by the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council (OBHC), which included interviews with random participants, revealed positive improvements were maintained even one year after a completion of an OBHC program. More specifically, 83 percent demonstrated much improvement, “58 percent were doing well or very well, and 81 percent rated OBH treatment as effective. Only 17 percent were still struggling at the time of the research.”

What Camp to Choose?

Not all programs are everything to all troubled teens. A more disciplined troubled teen boot camp may be necessary depending on the severity of the issues, or a teen wilderness program may be an ideal choice with its balance of behavioral therapy, education, and confidence building. Regardless, troubled teen summer camps are a great start to coping with internal and personal adolescent struggles.


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