What to Do When Wilderness Therapy Comes to an End

One of the biggest struggles for a family with a troubled teen, beyond deciding to send their teen to wilderness therapy, is the transition they have to make once the program comes to an end. Although teens make tremendous progress during the program, returning home can result in a step backward if not handled correctly.

Family involvement is key to continued success

Though your son or daughter has only been away for a month or two, a lot has changed. Families are included throughout the entire wilderness therapy program. At first, family therapy will address personal issues and breakdowns in relationships due to the child’s behaviors, working toward healthier family relations. As the wilderness therapy program comes to an end, family involvement includes learning to build a healthy environment suitable for maintaining the healthy changes that have been reached. When your teen returns home, you will be able to:

  • Provide clear expectations and rules
  • Identify triggers for negative behaviors
  • Effectively communicate with your child
  • Follow through with consequences

Optional family camp brings completion to wilderness therapy

Unlike most therapy programs, Trails Carolina offers a 5-day intensive camp for the entire family upon the child completing their program. After including the family in learning new behaviors and solutions while the child is away, family camp offers the opportunity to put into practice what you’ve learned before brining your son or daughter home. To learn more about our family camp

Provide continued support

One of the key characteristics of a residential therapy program, such as wilderness therapy, is the ability for the patient to be removed from their current environment, negative influences and daily struggles. Although the child is learning new behaviors and developing new skills, they might see struggles when putting what they’ve learned into practice in their home environment. Continued therapy, even weekly or biweekly, will help your son or daughter talk through new struggles they are facing. Look into community resources, such as support groups and mentor programs, to provide additional support as well.

Other options for extended treatment

Though many teens see incredible improvement after completing a wilderness therapy program, some teens need more time to address severe issues. Your child’s therapists and camp staff will be able to help you make the decision for what is best for your child: returning home or going to a residential center. Although you will see the change in your son or daughter and be excited to be reunited with them, a return home might not be the best solution if there is a high risk of regressing. The goal of treatment is to always help the child’s return home to be productive as possible.

To learn more about Trails Carolina’s wilderness therapy program, call us 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: 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.