School Refusal In Teenagers

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Trails Carolina as an Option for School Refusal In Teens

School refusal is a problem associated with separation anxiety and social anxiety in which a child regularly refuses to go to school or has problems staying at school.

The first symptoms that appear during school refusal are physical, they include nausea, diarrhea, headaches, lightheadedness, and stomach aches. School refusal also takes the form of tantrums, separation anxiety, and avoidance. School refusal often occurs during times of transition, such as entering high school or middle school.

School refusal is not the same as truancy because in school refusal, a child stays home with the knowledge of their family, despite their parents trying to enforce attendance. Unlike truant individuals, people with school refusal do not display behaviors such as lying, cheating, or destroying property.

To treat school refusal, the first step is to have your child with school refusal take a comprehensive diagnostic assessment to determine further treatment. Treatment for school refusal often includes cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps individuals face their anxieties, and exposure therapy, which gradually reintroduces them to a school environment. Wilderness therapy programs have also proven to be effective in assisting the recovery of teens with school refusal.

For teens with school refusalTrails Carolina offers a multi-dimensional wilderness therapy program for individuals ages 10-17. For children and teens with school refusal issues, going through a wilderness therapy program like Trails Carolina provides a transformative experience that offers time for self reflection and change through the  experience of being in nature.

For students with school refusal, Trails Carolina has a well-trained, caring staff prepared to treat whatever is causing teens to experience school refusal.  Trails Carolina involves the family of our students at every step. We have weekly calls with parents, family therapy sessions and weekly exchanges of letters with families for our students. These therapy techniques assist in working out the issues that caused school refusal in the first place.


A 2003 Duke University study found school refusal to be strongly associated with depression, and separation anxiety disorder. After surveying a sample of 4500 9-16 year old children, researchers found that difficulties in peer relationships, sleep difficulties, somatic complaints and specific fears had different associations with school refusal.

In a 1990 study about school refusal, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, 63 children and adolescents with school refusal were referred to outpatient anxiety disorder clinics.
There, individuals were assessed on personality and diagnostic variables, as well as whether school refusal ran in their family.

Results displayed two groups of individuals with school refusal – those with separation anxiety and those with a phobia of school. Phobic school refusers began experiencing school refusal at a later age and had more severe school refusal than those with separation anxiety-related school refusal.

An article in the New York Times details the experiences of Dr. Perri Klass with school refusal. She describes school refusal as a symptom that needs to be treated as soon as parents can get help. She discusses the anxiety which creates school refusal in children.

Our Groups

At Trails Carolina, we provide a safe, healthy environment for a variety of age groups to receive treatment. We offer wilderness therapy programs for preteen boys (10-13), preteen girls (10-13), teen girls (14-17), and teen boys (14-17).

Wilderness Therapy for Boys 10-13

Wilderness Therapy for Girls 10-13

Wilderness Therapy for Girls 14-17

Wilderness Therapy for Boys 14-17

We believe that segmenting groups by age and gender allows our team of mental health professionals, wilderness and adventure camp field instructors, and accredited education consultants to provide more focused and effective personalized care to each student. Additionally, evidence shows that using segmented peer groups helps students learn to build positive relationships among their own peers. This makes the transition back to traditional school settings easier for young people. And it helps our students learn how to interact and build healthy connections for life.

Everything we do at Trails Carolina is meant to prepare students and families to transition their wilderness experience into the real world and create a bright future.

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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