About Trails Carolina Wilderness Therapy Programs
Trails Carolina offers nationally-recognized, trauma-informed, youth wilderness therapy programs based in Western North Carolina. At Trails, our mission is to help children and teens who struggle with a variety of mental health issues and behavioral concerns increase their self-confidence, practice healthy coping mechanisms, develop healthy relationships, and learn effective interpersonal communication skills.
Our wilderness therapy program integrates a family systems approach to treatment with wilderness adventure therapy that combines strategic shifts of interventions with well-timed elements of wilderness expedition, a natural horsemanship curriculum, group work, and academics. With these features, Trails Carolina creates a holistic approach to individual and family treatment resulting in a unique opportunity to gain multiple professional perspectives of the same student.
Our Strengths-Based Approach
Unlike some residential treatment centers or military style boot camps, Trails Carolina does not support using a shock approach. Instead, we support each student through a trauma-informed process of slowly and safely expanding their emotional tolerance.
We empower students to make better decisions and develop safe and healthy peer and family relationships. Our wilderness therapy programs teach students to recognize and be aware of their strengths, as well as how to use them to make lasting, positive changes.
Who We Treat
We offer specialized wilderness therapy programs designed for pre-teen boys ages 10-13, preteen girls ages 10-13, adolescent boys ages 14-17, and adolescent girls 14-17.
Our clinically proven methods work exceptionally well with students who are struggling with:
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).
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.
Our Clinical Foundation
Self - Awareness
Providing the ideal environment and prompting for students and families to better understand themselves and the way in which they interact with others.
Teaching skills for managing emotions, maintaining energy, and soothing stress without lashing out.
Developing relational intelligence, social skills, and a concrete understanding that we are all members of interdependent communities.
Guiding students through transitions while they are enrolled, so they can maintain positive behavior and sustain success when they return home.
Our multidisciplinary team of caring, expert staff and trauma-informed mental health professionals will be there to guide your child along their unique path to psychological and emotional wellness.
Our admissions team understands that the decision to send your child to a wilderness therapy program is a difficult one. We’re here to help you to understand the value of our program and if it is the right fit for your child. You will be met with professionalism and compassion as our team works to meet your family’s individual needs.
Our highly skilled clinical team creates individualized treatment plans for each child and family. As a parent, you can expect to be working with therapists who will help your child gain personal insight, provide treatment, and produce a thorough assessment of your child. Combined, our clinical team has many decades of experience working with teens and their families.
The therapeutic relationship that your child will form with the clinical team at Trails will help improve their well being and live a healthy life. This journey can lead to a renewed sense of self and a happier, healthier future brimming with opportunity.
Expert wilderness and adventure camp staff for student success and safety Above all else, our wilderness team is there to ensure your child’s safety. Dedicated field instructors provide direct, individual care to students as they explore the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, as Field Staff work alongside our Clinical Team and Medical Coordinator to ensure the physical and mental wellbeing of your child are tended to.
The Residential Team provides quality programming in the classroom and beyond. Our dedicated teachers work hard to design an engaging curriculum, and accreditations ensure that credits earned by your child will transfer to most other schools. Beyond the classroom, our equine specialist facilitates students’ connection with our herd of horses, helping them connect with their emotions and better understand non-verbal communication.
Our Treatment Practices
Our therapists devise individualized treatment plans with a trauma-informed, holistic approach. The therapeutic wilderness programs at Trails Carolina involve an initial assessment for better understanding of your child’s mindset upon arrival, weekly individual therapy with your child’s primary therapist to provide a personalized treatment plan, and the development and review of your child’s personal therapeutic plan with input from the entire Trails team of experts.
All of our wilderness therapy participants also engage in weekly group therapy sessions to help instill healthy behaviors and develop healthy relationships with the help and support of peers.
Your child’s long-term success is predicated on the support, participation, and growth of the most important people in their life – family. A child that returns home to an unchanged family who hasn’t developed the skills to support their progress is far more likely to slip into well-worn, negative patterns of behavior.
At Trails, we strive to restore and rebuild the relationship between your child and your entire family. To achieve this, we use a whole-family approach that includes: family therapy, weekly calls with a family coach, parent skills workshops, weekly calls with your child’s therapist, and more.
Trails has a Cognia (formerly known as AdvancEd (SACS)) accredited academic program, enabling students to transfer credits back home. Plus, there are proven benefits to bringing students into a more traditional classroom setting while in a therapeutic environment. Adding a personalized classroom environment helps our students achieve success and practice their new skills in a school setting.
Through our Natural Horsemanship program, students gain relational insight and awareness. Horses mirror students' emotions and relational strengths and weaknesses. If a student is going to be successful working with their horse, they will first need to be successful in their own self-regulation. Working with horses gives our students the opportunity to practice intelligent and authentic expression and gain increased self confidence.
At Trails Carolina, students get a comprehensive adventure experience in a distraction free environment. Our adventure program integrates experiential education with our therapeutic wilderness program. Through adventure programming, students overcome challenges and gain healthy coping skills that they can apply to their daily lives.
Adventure programming also provides the opportunity to address some of the underlying causes of behavioral problems outside of traditional talk therapy sessions.
Through activities like rock climbing and canoeing, students learn how to work through challenges with the support of our staff. Any difficult emotions that arise during these activities can be explored by the student and adventure staff in the moment, providing the opportunity to identify how the stressor is affecting them and grow from the experience.
Yoga provides both physical and mental benefits to students. Research on trauma has shown that the impact of traumatic experiences is stored throughout one’s entire body (not just the mind). Yoga invites students to release this buried tension through flowing movements and focused breathing.
Therapeutic yoga sessions serve as a vehicle for students to stand up taller, feel comfortable in their bodies, and empower them to access tools that they have had within themselves all along. This mind-body connection provides integral support to the traditional clinical modalities used at Trails.
Mindfulness and Yoga are embedded into the daily routine of all Trails Carolina students. Mornings begin with a guided breathing exercise, and the day closes with a yoga flow and meditation preparing them for a night of restful sleep. This routine encourages students to develop a true practice that they can take home after their time at Trails.
Students at Trails Carolina take part in a mindfulness curriculum designed to expand their capacity to manage stress in a healthy way.
Your child will learn grounding techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, mindful movement, and meditation techniques to help students develop a deeper sense of their body. Trails students learn to observe their emotions rather than having a strong reaction and gain a deeper sense of themselves by learning to live in the moment.
Throughout their time at Trails, students are regularly encouraged to tune into their senses, pause, and strengthen their mental capacity to be still without the need for constant distractions. These mindfulness techniques are shared with both our students and parents, who can use them as valuable parenting and coping strategies.
Why Choose Our Wilderness Therapy Program
Wilderness therapy is a form of therapeutic treatment that combines individual, family, and group therapy driven by accredited mental health professionals with experiential education in a wilderness environment.
We believe that by connecting with nature in a wilderness therapy setting, your child can learn to address their unhealthy behaviors, gain valuable personal insights, and learn important lessons. Free from the distractions and negative influences of everyday life, they can focus on their own personal growth and healing process.
In the wilderness, there are unwritten rules that cannot be broken and offer natural consequences when not followed. For example, if a student refuses to put on a rain jacket when it starts to rain, they will end up drenched and uncomfortable. These rules leave no room to blame authority figures, and foster improved accountability and self-reflection. This is the power of wilderness therapy programs.
Removing a troubled child from the temptations of our fast-paced, plugged-in culture and placing them in a wilderness setting disrupts the cycle of negative behavior. Wilderness therapy programs provide an excellent therapeutic environment and educational setting that encourages growth and change.
Though much of our day-to-day lives are removed from nature, humans crave a connection with nature. For many in this generation, quality time outdoors has been replaced by technology time indoors, but there are numerous therapeutic and healing qualities afforded by a natural setting, which is why wilderness therapy programs are so effective.
Being in nature presents a sense of connectedness, purpose, and belonging. In wilderness therapy programs, students spend time reflecting on past choices, exploring future possibilities and discovering the lessons only nature can teach.
While the wilderness provides many unexpected opportunities for learning and growth, the natural consequences of negative and positive behavior are very predictable. Rather than trying to reward or punish individuals for their behaviors, nature teaches powerful and life-changing lessons absent any judgment.
Over time students in our wilderness therapy programs begin to understand these consequences and take ownership of their actions, leading to greater autonomy and long-term success.
Learning is far more effective in the wilderness. As struggles are encountered, Trails’ trained staff are there to help direct the process and offer insights to students that may not think of on their own. Furthermore, learning alongside peers creates a shared challenge, offering additional learning benefits, support, and the opportunity to practice positive social skills. These same skills seamlessly translate into other group settings, such as the classroom or family unit.
Physical exercise is not only good for the body — it’s also great for the brain!
The psychological benefits of physical exercise are well documented. Regular exercise can help to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression, dramatically improve self-esteem, and encourage an overall positive outlook.
For this reason, outdoor exercise is a daily part of Trails Carolina wilderness therapy programs. While at Trails, students enjoy hikes, equine activities, yoga, and a variety of experiential activities. Trails students push their physical limits while they learn about themselves and gain increased confidence.
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Contact us today to learn how Trails Carolina can help your family
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