At Trails Carolina, we help students struggling with mental health and behavioral issues learn how to overcome their challenges. Our wilderness therapy program helps students gain the skills needed to lead successful, happy lives. Here are a few answers to common questions from parents about our therapy program. Contact us directly for more information.


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Why does Trails work so well?

Families often ask, “Why does Trails work?” This is what we tell them.

  • Therapeutic Environment – a supportive, research-based therapeutic approach focused on building confidence and skills that will lead to continued success after their time at our wilderness therapy program ends.
  • Focus on the Family – from our Family Therapist to weekly phone calls, sibling involvement, parent workshop,  Common Ground Family Reunification program, everything we do at Trails is designed to help families rebuild relationships and help their child achieve all they can.
  • Blend of Wilderness and Base Camps – changing environments allow students to practice transitioning their skills to new situations. Staff work hard to use this as an opportunity to improve student confidence, so they’re ready to tackle everything life will throw at them with a positive outlook and healthy habits.
  • Accredited Academics  – students take part in an academic environment within traditional classroom settings at base camp and in outdoor classrooms while on expedition.
  • Decades of Experience – our talented team is passionate, experienced, accredited, and invested in building relationships and trust.
  • Trails Values – we have an underlying set of core values to help create the highest quality standards for a supportive experience.
  • Team Approach – we bring together experts across a variety of disciplines to create a more holistic view of your child, their abilities and challenges in order to provide better care.
  • Proven Results – over the past few years, Trails Carolina has taken part in an outcomes study that has shown remarkable and transformative results in students and families.

Who does Trails Carolina help?

Trails Carolina wilderness program works with adolescents ages 10 – 17 and young adults 18 – 25. We specifically separate our youth (girls and boys 10 – 13 years old) and adolescents (ages 13-17) by age and gender. Trails Momentum, our sister program, is a co-ed program specifically designed for young adults. Our clinically proven methods work exceptionally well with:

Are your student groups separated by gender or age?

We recognize that youth may have different needs depending on their age and gender. With this in mind, we divide our students into five distinct groups: girls 10-13, boys 10-13, girls 14-17, boys 14-17, and young adults, each led by therapists and field staff with specific expertise and interest in working with these specific groups.

How are families engaged while their child is at Trails?

While students are participating in therapy, so is the rest of the family. After all, not only does the family have their own healing to do, you also play a critical role in the long-term success of your child. You can expect to stay involved through:

    • Working through the Parent Handbook
    • Getting support on weekly calls with other families – you are not alone!
    • Weekly calls with our Family Therapist on changing the family dynamic
    • Weekly progress calls talking to a Primary Therapist on how your child is doing
    • Sibling support calls as needed
    • Participating in a Parent Workshop, Common Ground and Graduation.

Can a student maintain their schoolwork while enrolled at Trails?

Trails Carolina is the only academically accredited wilderness program in the continental United States. We’re proud to be accredited by Cognia (formerly AdvancEd) and employ a full-time certified teacher working with every student. The aim of the academic program at Trails is to create opportunities for students to build confidence in the classroom and make active contributions to their future academic successes. This may include earning credits for environmental studies and writing, continuing work brought from a previous school, or completing important exams.

Why is Trails wilderness program therapy effective?

There are many answers to this question, and it’s important to note that not all programs are alike. Here’s what we know at Trails:

  • Wilderness is an incredible tool for assessment.
  • Wilderness therapy “stops the clock” and dramatically changes the setting a struggling child is living in
  • Trails students are entering into a protected environment in which they must learn to care for themselves differently, and given plenty of time to learn how.

We have been doing this a long time and continue to do so because of the positive changes we observe in the lives of our students and their families. You can learn more about those stories here.

How experienced is your wilderness program staff?

Our Executive Director and Founder, Graham Shannonhouse, has more than 20 years of experience in Wilderness Therapy. Our leadership team of executive, clinical, program and field personnel each has an average of 15+ years experience working with students and their families. Each of us is a part of the Trails team because we believe in our mission. We are honored by the trust families have placed in us time and time again.

What is a student's first day like?

Every student is different. Just as a student’s transition is carefully planned for graduation, we also carefully plan how they will enter the program. In general, when students arrive at the Trails wilderness program they transition quickly from their parents or transport to a process of being outfitted with top-of-the-line gear and then moved to their group to meet the peers they will be working alongside in the weeks to come.

For additional answers to your specific questions or concerns please contact our Admissions Team directly at (800) 975-7303. We look forward to telling you more about our wilderness program and therapy approach.

Learn how we can help your child succeed

“Trails was a life changing experience for our son and for me. The program instills the core values that we should all strive to live by.”
Tasha M
“I feel a lot more at peace with myself, less guilty about the mistakes I’ve made, and more accepting of the road ahead of me.”
Audrey T
“Your dedication to helping so many young kids and the profound life-changing experience Trails can give is intense but amazing work. The personnel at Trails were responsible, caring, and demonstrated a high level of integrity in a very difficult and stressful time.”
Diane R
“Our family communications have improved by leaps and bounds!”
Francis M
“Trails is an amazing program filled with kind, caring people. You will know your kids are safe.”
Bonnie K

Contact us today to learn how we can help your family