Frequently Asked Questions

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Trails Carolina FAQs

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.

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.

Trails Carolina wilderness program works with adolescents ages 10-17. We specifically separate our youth (girls and boys 10-13 years old) and adolescents (ages 14-17) by age and gender. Our clinically proven methods work exceptionally well with:

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.

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.

Trails Carolina is one of the only academically accredited wilderness programs 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.

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.

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 of 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.

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.

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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

Kristin Brace June 2022


Family Education & Growth

Comprehensive wilderness therapy program combined with a residential treatment base camp and accredited academics