Wilderness therapy and experiential programs work to help individuals instill a new or renewed sense of autonomy.

Wilderness therapy and experiential programs are an outdoor format for behavioral health, which are markedly different from more traditional outdoor leadership programs such as Outward Bound and NOLS. The focus on developing a sense of autonomy is promoted through task accomplishment and therapy, and participation in outdoor living circumstances that impose natural consequences.

Therapeutic wilderness/experiential programs, when managed by effective and experienced teams of professionals, can provide the best first step to long-term treatment.

Benefits include:

  • a dramatic change of venue for those who do not make effective progress in more traditional office-based therapy,
  • immersion in 24 x 7 care, from which one cannot run or hide,
  • removal from multimedia distractions (mobile phones, TVs, gaming, the web) and other influences that impede therapeutic gains, and
  • careful assessment of longer-term needs in a safe outdoor clinical laboratory.

Although some wilderness programs have been positioned by the media as unproven and unsafe, many are heralded as efficacious clinical alternatives that have changed lives. The median stay for optimal results, as supported by research, ranges from 6-12 weeks. Although many move on to a longer-term therapeutic setting, having finally set the stage for real clinical progress, this is in no way a panacea.

Our consultants take each individual case into consideration and carefully track progress in wilderness every week for the duration of a teen's stay in order to effectively assess his or her needs for aftercare.

When reviewing options in wilderness therapy, you also need to consider which specific therapists in each would be the best match for your child and which would be available at that particular time of entry.

Additionally, you need to know the composition of the group your child is potentially joining within each wilderness program you are considering in order to be sure he/she is placed with appropriate peers.

The Goldberg Center can help you investigate all levels of the decision process when reviewing the many options for wilderness therapy.

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