Tips When Choosing A Wilderness Therapy Program

This summer, help your troubled teen get back on more even footing towards his journey to maturity. A wilderness therapy program can help your teen realize his value and his positive traits even as it provides him with the opportunity to get away from the pressures, peers and bad influences.

The program will usually involve outdoor recreational activities (camping, fishing, hiking and trekking). These activities are aimed towards promoting your teen’s self-esteem and outlook and challenge him to look more deeply into himself and see the changes he needs to make. The program can also serve as a guide for a teen to resolve his behavioral issues.

However, you also need to do your homework so that you know you are enrolling your teen into a troubled teen program that you can trust. With this, you can rest easy, knowing that your teen is safe and in good hands.

Recognizing the risks

The outdoors (the natural environment, the absence of distractions, uncontrollable weather) is actually a strong reason why teen wilderness programs are effective. The rugged wilderness (along with a structured day) promotes a sense of wellbeing and discipline in your teen. However, we should also recognize that there are risks involved. Nature is something that we cannot control. There should be safety precautions and mechanisms in place.

Knowing what to look for

In knowing the risks involved, we can then go to the next step of asking questions about what a particular wilderness programs offer. Here are some things you need to ask to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your teen:

–          Licenses and certifications. Does the program have a license to operate? If there is a government or professional organization that provides accreditation for the program, does the program have the accreditation or affiliation?

–          Experience and reputation. When did the program start its operations? What do other past enrollees have to say about the program? One thing you can also do is to check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the program has received complaints. Where there any lawsuits or complaints filed against the program in the recent years?

–          Staff. Are there medical staff in the team? Are these staff members licensed? Are they trained in emergency response? How much experience do they have with holding wilderness activities and working with teens? If your teen has a specific need (i.e. ADHD, Adjustment Disorder, etc.), are there members in the staff who are qualified to meet the needs of your teen? For rock climbing, canoeing and other adventure activities, check to see that at least one staff member is certified or trained for them.

–          Safety protocol. What are the safety protocols in place? How will the team react in case of emergency? How will they activate medical transport? In case of natural calamities such as floods or storms, do the program have an emergency response plan?

–          Size of each batch. How many teens are currently enrolled in the program? What is the ratio of staff to enrollees? How many staff members will be present during their wilderness expedition?

–          Philosophy of the program. The wilderness challenges will often have their own prizes and penalties. If so, what penalties will be given? Are these given on an individual basis, or as a team?

In addition to these, you also need to ensure that your teen is medically cleared to go through the teen wilderness program.

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