Taking Things Outdoors: The benefits of wilderness therapy for teens struggling with trauma

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a full body experience. Trauma affects people’s memory, emotions, and body. Sometimes traditional therapy isn’t enough. While traditional talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy can be helpful, sometimes your teen needs a little more.
Wilderness therapy offers a revolutionary approach to treatment. Teens can be defiant and uncooperative. The thought of engaging in talk-therapy or attending therapy in general probably makes most teens cringe. This is not an age where it feels cool to sit around and talk about your feelings. This is the beauty of wilderness therapy. It doesn’t feel like therapy, but the results and benefits mirror that of traditional therapy.

Teens need to get out of their element

Wilderness in itself has therapeutic characteristics being that it is an isolated and peaceful environment. This sets the stage for a healthy environment for teens to cleanse and heal. By taking therapy to the wilderness, teens are pulled from their familiar culture. All the things that taunt them on a daily basis, peer pressure, drama at school, appearance, social media likes, suddenly don’t matter. The wilderness minimizes distractions. This becomes important as teens learn to rebuild their self-confidence after trauma has stripped it from them.

Four things from the fresh air

There are several beneficial takeaways from wilderness therapy. It can have a significant impact on a teen’s recovery and self-renewal process. Here are four outcomes that can be achieved outdoors through wilderness therapy:

  1. Development of self-concept: The wilderness journey lends itself to be a time of growth and accomplishment for teens. They can feel proud afterward and draw strength from this achievement when faced with future challenges. Teens must learn how to navigate their way in the wilderness and how communication can be very important. By completing milestones in the wilderness, the students gain a new sense of self-concept and empowerment.
  2. Skills and knowledge: This is a huge part of wilderness therapy. There is always something new to learn about the mystical place we live in. Wilderness therapy teaches students the personal and interpersonal skills they need to not only have a good wilderness experience but also transfer to everyday life.
  3. Realizing what’s real: Wilderness therapy helps teens realize that all actions have consequences. Their actions in the wilderness are followed by consequences. For example, if they don’t learn how to build a fire, they have to eat cold food. This is very effective in teaching teens about consequential behaviors. They become more appreciative of things they often overlook and the people who help and care about them. And they identify changes they want and need to make in their own behavior.
  4. Stronger relationships: Wilderness therapy often requires a high level of family involvement. This program creates an opportunity for families to work together with the therapist to identify problems and work together to mend whatever brokenness may be apparent.

Trails Carolina can help

Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy programs for adolescents ages 10-17. The program has specialty groups that address major issue-sets among struggling young people. Teaching adolescents how to apply their newly acquired wilderness skills to everyday life is the main objective at Trails Carolina, as well as is child trauma and abuse prevention. This program invests in the individual and guides them through the natural experience of recreating their self-awareness, self-confidence, and ability to maintain healthy relationships and habits. We can help your family today!
Contact us at 800-975-7303

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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: https://trailscarolina.com/common-ground-podcast/ 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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