The Better Alternative to Summer Boot Camps for Teens

Any parent with a troubled teen has been where you are. At their wit’s end, not knowing how they got here in the first place and unsure of what steps to take next. You know your teen needs help beyond what you can offer, but you don’t know what that help should look like.

What are boot camps for teens?

Summer boot camps for teens are modeled after military training programs and typically include a drill sergeant, strict routine and physical punishments. The first part of the program is designed to break teens down, using discipline and harsh treatment. Through the process, teens are supposed to learn obedience to authority and self-control.

Deceptive changes

Summer boot camps for teens highlight their ability to radically transform teens from disrespectful and defiant to peaceful and compliant. Their claims are often true. Troubled teens make extraordinary changes in the program. However, the results are deceiving. Though your teen might take great strides in the right direction, the nature of boot camps for teens does not promote long lasting change.

Fear vs. Respect

Summer discipline camps teach adolescents to obey authority, which is ideal for any parent struggling with a troubled teen. The reason they obey, though, is out of fear, not respect. As soon as they return home from boot camp, away from the domineering authorities and highly structured environment, teens will soon revert back to old behaviors.

Wilderness therapy: a better alternative to a summer boot camps for teens

Teens will not get the same results from running in the mud carry a 30-pound sack while performing sets of pushups every quarter mile as they would learning to set up a camp with shelter and fire by cooperating with peers. Unlike summer boot camps for youth, wilderness therapy programs provide long-term results by treating the entire person mentally, physically and emotionally.
Summer boot camps for teens do not address the emotional issues of teens. They often make underlying issues worse, by causing the teens to hide their emotions and fears.
Wilderness therapy programs provide the therapeutic element that many summer boot camps are missing. Instead of focusing on a change in behavior, wilderness therapy focuses on a deeper change in the person as a whole. By recognizing there is often a cause for the behavior coupled with a lack of proper communication skills, root issues can be addressed and not simply covered up through obedient behavior.
If you are struggling with a troubled teen and don’t know where else to turn, reconsider a summer boot camp for teens. Though they claim to achieve drastic results, the change is likely to be temporary and could result in further emotional harm to your son or daughter.
To learn more about a better alternative to summer boot camps for teens, call Trails Carolina today at 800-975-7303.

Avatar of Jeremy Whitworth

Jeremy Whitworth

As Executive Director at Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program for youth and teens, I oversee operations and collaborate with our leadership team. Since 2022, I've also hosted the Common Ground Podcast for parents: With a background in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, I've managed adventure-based therapeutic programs across the US and Canada. My experiences in competitive athletics and adventure sports have honed my leadership, risk assessment, and decision-making skills, which I apply to running a successful business like Trails Carolina.

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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


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Trails Carolina’s wilderness camps for troubled teens are dedicated to helping teens work through behavioral or emotional difficulties, build trusting relationships with their family and peers, and achieve academic success.