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    The Best Wilderness Therapy Programs Take a Holistic Approach

    The best wilderness therapy programs involve much more than building bonfires and camping. Wilderness therapy programs, like Trails Carolina, take a holistic approach to traditional therapy by offering a variety of wraparound services to help teens grow in multiple areas of their lives. Removed from distractions and negative influences at home, teens have the opportunity to focus on themselves and experience a complete shift in perspective. 

    Ways We Remove the Troubled Teen Label 

    While most families considering wilderness therapy have tried other therapeutic options to help their teen, traditional therapy often focuses on problem behaviors rather than underlying issues. It is difficult for teens to find the motivation and support to change their unhealthy behaviors without a perspective change. Traditional therapy primarily focuses on a patient’s mental health and ways to challenge the way a person thinks. Many teens internalize this approach as a message that their feelings or wrong or that they are troubled.

    For many families, this can feel like an uphill battle where their teen easily slips back into old patterns of thinking and acting. By putting teens in a new environment where they learn to care for their overall health and learn new skills outside of a structured therapy session, you increase the chances for lasting success. 

    Wilderness therapy programs acknowledge that mental health is just one piece of the puzzle for teens. A holistic approach incorporates strategies to help teens improve their:


    • Emotional health


    Traditional weekly therapy sessions help the teen process the events of their week and better prepare for similar situations. After an hour-long session, teens are left to face their struggles alone with limited therapeutic support and accountability. While teens gain self-awareness from having a space to process their struggles, emotional health goes beyond clinical symptoms of depression or anxiety. It refers to the ability to manage negative emotions and conflict in the moment, not in the aftermath. Wilderness therapy programs offer 24/7 support as new challenges arise and help teens continue to make progress.


    • Physical health


    Many teens struggling with mental health issues struggle with body image, low energy, and self-care practices. Physical and emotional health go hand-in-hand. Physical activity and a healthy diet helps teens feel better about themselves as they increase the body’s levels of natural mood enhancers, endorphins and serotonin.

    According to research presented in Psychosomatic Medicine, exercise can be just as effective as medication in treating depression in some people and is an effective way of addressing emotional distress without having to talk about it. This approach is highly attractive to teens who learn better from actively engaging in experiences.

    Adopting a healthier lifestyle replaces negative coping skills with positive ones. Even just being outdoors can significantly reduce teens’ stress.


    • Relational health


    In a group setting, teens learn to reach out to their peers for emotional support and work together to complete tasks. Teens develop meaningful relationships with others going through similar struggles and expand their support system. The social skills they practice in a therapeutic environment can be applied to other relationships once they leave.

    The best wilderness therapy programs don’t just focus on the individual. Healing is for the entire family unit. A family-centered therapeutic approach helps teens repair relationships with their family and sets them up for success when they transition home. Families stay involved in their child’s therapeutic process through video therapy sessions, weekly phone calls, journaling, and family workshops.

    Trails Carolina Can Help

    Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program that helps teens ages 10-17 who are struggling with behavioral and emotional issues. This program uses adventure-based therapy to help students gain a new sense of self-awareness, confidence, and independence. The skills they learn throughout the wilderness program offer long-term benefits towards their ability to successfully self-navigate in the real world. By removing teens from their fast-paced environment into a safe, nurturing, and peaceful environment, they are able to focus on improving and reflecting upon their behavior. Trails Carolina gives students the tools they need to lead happy and healthy lives. We can help your family today!

    Contact us at 800-975-7303 for more information about our holistic approach to wilderness therapy.



    Graham Shannonhouse

    A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Graham Shannonhouse has been actively involved in the wilderness therapy field for nearly three decades. After receiving her degree in 1991, Shannonhouse spent 10 years working with a premiere wilderness-based therapeutic program in south-central Idaho. During her tenure, she served three years as a hands-on Field Instructor, three years as Field Supervisor, and the remaining time as Wilderness Program Director. During this period she developed, managed, and served as counselor for the country’s first wilderness program specifically focused on pre- teens ages 10 to 13 Graham returned to the east in 2002 to serve as Executive Director for a therapeutic wilderness program based in North Carolina, successfully growing it to one of the most respected companies in the industry. In 2008, she resigned her position to open Trails Carolina. Having an intimate working knowledge of the roots of wilderness therapy, Graham has brought her experience and wisdom to her position as Partner and Executive Director with the goal of integrating the true family work that must be done to insure lasting success.

    All stories by: Graham Shannonhouse