In the wilderness, there are unwritten rules that cannot be broken and offer natural consequences when not followed. For example, if a student refuses to put on a rain jacket when it starts to rain, they will end up drenched and uncomfortable. These rules leave no room to blame authority figures, and foster improved accountability and self-reflection. This is the power of wilderness therapy programs.
Removing a troubled child from the temptations of our fast-paced, plugged-in culture and placing them in a wilderness setting disrupts the cycle of negative behavior. Wilderness therapy programs provide an excellent therapeutic environment and educational setting that encourages growth and change.
Though much of our day-to-day lives are removed from nature, humans crave a connection with nature. For many in this generation, quality time outdoors has been replaced by technology time indoors, but there are numerous therapeutic and healing qualities afforded by a natural setting, which is why wilderness therapy programs are so effective.
“An expanding body of primarily correlative scientific evidence points in a single, common-sense direction: Getting children outside can be good for their health. And getting them outside in nature may well offer special benefits.”
– Richard Louv, The Nature Principle
Being in nature presents a sense of connectedness, purpose, and belonging. In wilderness therapy programs, students spend time reflecting on past choices, exploring future possibilities and discovering the lessons only nature can teach.
While the wilderness provides many unexpected opportunities for learning and growth, the natural consequences of negative and positive behavior are very predictable. Rather than trying to reward or punish individuals for their behaviors, nature teaches powerful and life-changing lessons absent any judgment.
Over time students in our wilderness therapy programs begin to understand these consequences and take ownership of their actions, leading to greater autonomy and long-term success.
Learning is far more effective in the wilderness. As struggles are encountered, Trails’ trained staff are there to help direct the process and offer insights to students that may not think of on their own. Furthermore, learning alongside peers creates a shared challenge, offering additional learning benefits, support and the opportunity to practice positive social skills. These same skills seamlessly translate into other group settings, such as the classroom or family unit.
Benefits of Exercise
Physical exercise is not only good for the body, it’s also great for the brain! The psychological benefits of physical exercise are well documented. Regular exercise can help to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression, dramatically improve self-esteem, and encourage an overall positive outlook. For this reason, outdoor exercise is a daily part of Trails Carolina wilderness therapy programs. While at Trails, students enjoy hikes, equine activities, yoga, and a variety of experiential activities. Trails students push their physical limits while they learn about themselves and gain increased confidence.