Get Your Questions Answered

How is Trails Carolina's wilderness program different from other programs?

– Our wilderness program model creates a greater opportunity for comprehensive assessment and individualized treatment because of the multiple settings and multiple professional perspectives from the Trails wilderness Team.
– Our family piece is different.  Trails provides an unparalleled amount of fully integrated services and resources– including a mid-point parent workshop and an optional Common Ground experience—that improves the changes within the family system.  Plus, we work with siblings!
– We do the transition from program to home better than anyone. We’ve practiced it, prepared for it, and tested the work using a multiple systems approach to help predict how the work will transition post-graduation, too.
– New students are not isolated. They are welcomed into their groups on the day they arrive and not isolated from peers and staff because they are “new.”

How are families engaged while their child is at Trails?

While the student is getting help at Trails, the family back home is, too.  Families play a critical role in the long-term success of our students.  Therefore, while your child is seeing the benefits of our program, we are working with families as well:
– Working through the Parent Handbook,
– Getting support on weekly calls with other families – you are not alone!
– Weekly calls with our Family Therapist on changing the family dynamic,
– Weekly progress calls talking to a Primary Therapist on how your child is doing,
– And participating in Middle Ground and Common Ground.

Can a student maintain their schoolwork while enrolled at Trails?

One of the unique features of the Trails Carolina wilderness program is a full-time certified teacher working with every student.

The aim of academics at Trails is to create opportunities for students to make active contributions to their future academic successes. This may include: learning how to be more successful in the classroom, earning credits for environmental science and writing, continuing work brought from home, and proctoring exams.
Parents find the experiential learning and positive school experience at Trails helps their child with their academic experience back at home.

Our admissions office and academic team will work together with each family to set reasonable expectations for academic growth while a student is enrolled at Trails.

Why is Trails wilderness program therapy effective?

There are many great answers to this question and certainly not all programs are the same.

Here’s what we know at Trails:
– Wilderness is an incredible tool for assessment.
– Wilderness “stops the clock” and dramatically changes the setting a struggling child is living in.

Trails students have a very simplified circumstance in which they must learn to care for themselves differently and have plenty of time to learn how. Through work with skilled therapists and veteran field staff, students learn to use these new circumstances to see the negative patterns they have been using and how they can change them in ways that are sustainable.
We have been doing this for a long time and the changes we see in our students—and their families—are why we keep doing this.  See some of our parent and student reviews.

How experienced is your wilderness program staff?

Our Executive Director & Founder, Graham Shannonhouse, has 20 years of experience in Wilderness Therapy.
Collectively, our leadership team of executive, clinical, program, and field personnel has an average of 15+ years of experience working with students and their families with similar programs to Trails wilderness.
We love what we do and are honored by the trust families have placed in us time and time again.

What is a student’s first day like?

Every student is different.  Just as a student’s transition is carefully planned for graduation, it is also planned when they enter.

In general, when students arrive at the Trails wilderness program they transition quickly from their parents or transport to a process of being outfitted with top-of-the-line gear and then moved to their group to meet the peers they will be working with for the next several weeks.

What is a student’s first month like?

The majority of any month is spent on expeditions, and backpacking through various courses in the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains.

Approximately one week of every month is spent at base camp with Academics in the morning and Equine Counseling in the afternoon. And, of course, each student’s therapist is in the field with them at least two days a week for individual and group therapy sessions.

Are your student groups separated by gender or age?

Yes, our wilderness therapy programs are structured into four segmented peer groups: girls 10-13, girls 14-17, boys 10-13, and 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.

What do you mean by “multiple systems approach” and why is it important?

The multiple systems approach refers to the way each student is assessed and practices skills in different settings. Even in the wilderness, kids can get comfortable and settle into patterns – just like they often do at home.

Students shift their settings and Trails team staff interactions by moving from wilderness to an academic classroom to working with horses, which helps students practice and reinforce their newfound skills and confidence.  In short, “multiple systems” equals more opportunity for growth, more preparation and practice for successful transitions, and more comprehensive assessment.

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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


Family Education & Growth

A Comprehensive Wilderness Therapy Program Combined With Residential Programming, Base Camp And Accredited Academics