Technology addiction is a widespread issue affecting teens all over the world. It is impossible to remove ourselves completely from technology in today’s society. The overuse of technology by adolescents can lead to all sorts of challenges including low self esteem, a lack of social skills, and irritable behavior.
Wilderness Therapy Addresses Underlying Challenges
At Trails Carolina Wilderness Therapy, therapeutic programming can benefit teens who struggle with an addiction to video games, social media, and other forms of technology.
Primary Therapists Shalene Pierce MSW, LCSW, Leigh Uhlenkott MS, LPCS, NCC, LMHC, and Todd Green MSW, LCSW work closely with students struggling with technology overuse in order to address the underlying causes of these behaviors.
“Many of the young men I help are addicted to role playing video games like World of Warcraft,” says Uhlenkott. “It allows them to become someone else and immerse themselves in a world where they have friends. They can play these video games for many hours at a time and their health suffers from it. They don’t get up to eat, use the restroom, or sleep. As a result, they are constantly tired, irritable and sluggish. They also suffer socially as a result.”
Technology addiction can be a symptom of mental health challenges such as depression and social anxiety. By immersing themselves into virtual reality, teens may use video games or social media as a way to escape the real world. Many teens even develop an identity online that is separate from who they actually are.
Wilderness therapy completely removes teens from this world they have created for themselves. It brings them back into reality and helps reshape social behaviors through face to face communication and the removal of the source of their addiction or obsession.
“In a wilderness setting, teens are able to disconnect from the distraction of technology,” comments Green. “There’s nowhere to hide from the challenges they have struggled with in the past. It’s an uncomfortable but necessary position to be in. They don’t have the option to give up and say ‘this is too much, I’m going back to my video games.’ They know they have to push through and work on whatever is causing their technology overuse.”
An Unplugged Wilderness Environment
A wilderness therapy environment can be the ideal treatment option for an individual obsessed or addicted to technology.
“Wilderness therapy is an effective intervention for teens who struggle with technology addiction,” comments Shalene Pierce MSW, LCSW, Primary Therapist at Trails Carolina. “In the woods, teens are completely unplugged. They have no access to social media or video games. Instead, they are given the opportunity to socialize with their peers face to face.”
“In the past, I’ve had students who formed friendships with strangers online that they consider close friends or even family members,” says Pierce. “They talk about how close and connected they feel with these people. When they tell this to their group during wilderness, the girls often say ‘you have no idea who they are. It could be a 50 year old man on the other side or something.’ Of course their parents have told them that exact same thing in the past, but in the context of hearing this from their peers it can be really powerful and eye opening for them.”
Conversations with peers during wilderness therapy can be the wake up call that many of these teens need to take the steps necessary for positive changes to occur. Guided by highly experienced therapeutic staff, teens begin addressing the underlying challenges causing the technology overuse. However, the work doesn’t end after teens leave Trails.
The Transition Home
As teens transition home, it’s important to help them maintain structure in their lives. Todd Green explains how this transition process may work:
“In order to prevent your teen from going right back to playing video games or going on social media all day, there needs to be a gradual process of re integrating technology into their lives in a safe, manageable way,” says Green. “There’s no way we can take away technology permanently. It’s not possible in today’s world. Therefore, it’s about striking that balance. It can also be empowering for teens to try and get a handle on their technology use. They need to develop that balance for themselves because parents are not always going to be around to monitor their behaviors.”
Trails Carolina can help
If your teen is struggling with technology overuse, wilderness therapy may be a great option for them. Trails Carolina helps young people ages 10-17 struggling with emotional and behavioral challenges such as depression, anxiety, defiance, and trauma.
For more information about Trails Carolina, please call 800-975-7303.