Why Therapeutic Wilderness Programs Work For Struggling Teens

redwood national park 1587301 1280It’s  widely known that being out in nature has a variety of healing effects. Have you ever been upset or angry and decided to go on a walk outside to calm down? If so, you have experienced firsthand the powerful medicine that is being out in the outdoors. Therapeutic wilderness programs use the powerful healing effects of nature to help individuals struggling with emotional and behavioral issues work through their difficulties.

How do Therapeutic Wilderness Programs help struggling teens?

Therapeutic wilderness programs use a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to therapy. Here are a few reasons why therapeutic wilderness programs can foster success and personal growth in struggling teens:

    1. Removal from everyday life: When your struggling teen is removed from the distractions and hustle and bustle of their everyday environment, they are able to focus closely on their internal struggles. Often, teens are strongly influenced by their surroundings. Peer pressure and stressful situations can trigger negative emotions and behaviors. By removing all of these factors, teens can focus on identifying and processing the underlying causes of their behavioral and emotional struggles.
    2. Natural consequences of the wilderness: Often, teens blame others for their own failures. For example, if your teen fails a test or gets suspended from school, they may blame those behaviors on their belief that the school administration is “dumb” or “hates them”. They may blame others all the time without an ounce of recognition that they are the cause of their own behaviors. When teens are out in nature, they are completely accountable for their own actions. If it rains and they refuse to build their shelter, they will get wet. If they don’t put on sunscreen, they will get burnt.  Being out in nature helps teens understand that they are responsible for their actions, and those actions bring about both negative and positive consequences.
    3. Improving self esteem: While out in the great outdoors, teens are challenged by a variety of adventure-geared activities designed to help them succeed. Before entering a therapeutic wilderness program, a teen may have thought they could never learn to rock climb, canoe, or whitewater raft successfully. During the wilderness experience, these doubts are proven wrong.
    4. Rebuilding family relationships: Most therapeutic wilderness programs incorporate some element of family therapy or family focused therapeutic programming. Without family involvement throughout the healing process, the progress made during the program will not last once teens transition back home. By involving the whole family, therapeutic wilderness programs ensure that everyone is on board throughout the process.


Trails Carolina can help

Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program for struggling teens, ages 10-17. Our students commonly deal with issues such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, trauma, and other behavioral challenges.
For more information  about Trails Carolina, please call 800-975-7303 today.

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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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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.