Some Considerations When Looking at a Teen Wilderness Program

Does a teen wilderness program look like an attractive option for your troubled teen? Do you think some time with a physically challenging program and exposure to nature help him come to terms with his feelings and how he is behaving? Are you having some niggling doubts about the effectiveness of such a program?

Here are some things you need to look into to help you determine whether wilderness therapy will be helpful for your teen:

– Benefits being offered. A wilderness program can provide your teen with:

o A boost to his self-esteem and confidence. Being able to face challenges with the natural environment can have a strong and positive influence on the way your teen sees himself. This is coupled by a change in environment where there is plenty of sunshine, fresh air, the outdoors and the opportunity to interact and relate with other teens.

o New environment. A program like this takes your teen away from an environment where they may already be a lot of conflict and unresolved anger. Many words and actions may have passed between him, you and other family members. Taking him out of that environment will prove helpful for all concerned. In addition, a wilderness environment removes your child from distractions, destructive relationships and access to drugs and prohibited substances.

o Healthy lifestyle. Aside from physical activity that can provide your child with plenty of exercise, he will benefit from the rigors of the training – eating healthy, as well as sleeping and waking up early.

o Self-discipline. One of the things that may have fallen by the wayside is your teen’s self-discipline. The program will aim to instill in your teen a healthy daily routine and a healthy recognition of the results and consequences of one’s choices and behavior.

o Personal discoveries. The wilderness program is aimed to develop personal growth. The lack of his usual home amenities can help instill a sense of thankfulness, rather than entitlement. The need to depend on other members of his team will help him recognize his need for others and how others need him. The time provided for introspection can aid the teen in seeing his actions and choices in a more objective manner.

– Possible drawbacks.

o Your teen’s physical safety. You may be concerned about your child’s physical condition and whether he is able to withstand extreme physical challenges. You can check to see what measures a wilderness boot camp has taken to ensure your teen’s safety while he is in the program. Is there medical personnel and facilities on site? If not, how quickly can medical help arrive? What training do the personnel have about first aid response? Will the program first check the teen’s personal condition prior to accepting him into the program?

o Limitations. It is important to recognize that a wilderness boot camp is not for everyone. If your teen needs therapy, a boot camp may not be for him. It is also not for someone who has severe physical limitations.

o Potential for backsliding. Enrolling a teen who is not suited for the program can only result in a high potential for recidivism. A teen can submit to the protocols of the program and survive them, without getting the therapy they need.

– Program components. Before signing on, ask about what the program entails. A good program will provide you with a detailed outline of what you can expect. This also includes complete disclosure of the program’s policy and procedures, the structure of the boot camp and potential issues that may crop up during the program. You can also look at the program’s history and reputation. How long have they been running the program? How successful are they? Can you talk to people who have undergone programs?

– Expectations of parents. Depending on the program, a parent’s access to a teen enrolled in the program may be restricted to letters or occasional phone calls. There are also some programs that require families to participate in some activities on a regular basis.

– Costs. Boot camps can range from $10,000 to $30,000. Be sure to ask for details about the length of the program, what the fees include (accommodation, meals and outdoor activities) and the payment options.

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