Wilderness for Healing & Self-Reflection

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 For many in this generation, quality time outdoors has been replaced by technology time indoors, but there are numerous therapeutic and healing qualities afforded by a natural setting, which is why wilderness therapy programs are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.

“An expanding body of primarily correlative scientific evidence points in a single, common-sense direction: Getting children outside can be good for their health. And getting them outside in nature may well offer special benefits.”

– Richard Louv, The Nature Principle

The Healing Powers of a Natural Setting

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.

Benefits of Exercise

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.

Science Steve is the BEST!
Science Steve is awesome! I wish all schools were like that
The therapists and programming are top-notch and staff (from expedition and field staff to personal therapist Amanda and family therapist Kaitlyn to Med Lindsey to Teacher Liz and Science Steve and Horse Ann) took care of our daughter like she was their own, and I think that takes a dedication that goes well beyond a paycheck.
Antoinette , Parent
Our son LOVED Science Steve! Him and the teachers really helped restore his comfort in the classroom.
Our daughter loved Science Steve!
Karol , Parent
“Trails was a life changing experience for our son and for me. The program instills the core values that we should all strive to live by.”
Tasha M
“I would highly recommend Trails to anyone with a struggling teen.”
Pamela G
“Trails was the hardest and the best thing we could have done for our son.”
Edward J
“I feel a lot more at peace with myself, less guilty about the mistakes I’ve made, and more accepting of the road ahead of me.”
Audrey T
“Your dedication to helping so many young kids and the profound life-changing experience Trails can give is intense but amazing work. The personnel at Trails were responsible, caring, and demonstrated a high level of integrity in a very difficult and stressful time.”
Diane R
“Our family communications have improved by leaps and bounds!”
Francis M
“Trails is an amazing program filled with kind, caring people. You will know your kids are safe.”
Bonnie K
“Your staff is incredibly caring and sensitive. The way that they connect with each student, and their ability to see the good inside is amazing to witness. They clearly love what they do.”
Shari L
“Amazing organization with employees that are highly skilled and devoted to the kids.”
Hunter K
“Nature can heal the body as well as the mind.  I feel that when I was not around nature that I had a super negative attitude towards everything and everybody.  When I got to Trails, because of nature I started accepting things as they are as well as being honest and accountable.”
Spears M
“A tremendous growth experience for our son, very professionally and compassionately done.”
Ralph W
“Trails is a wilderness program of excellence, with individuals throughout the organization who will bend over backwards to help your teen understand the importance of trust, responsibility and accountability."
Elaine B
“I am in awe of the staff here at Trails Carolina. All the staff we met were congenial, cordial, knowledgeable, thoughtful and kind.
Carolyn H
“It impressed me how totally committed each and every therapist is to helping the families. Their compassion and understanding are remarkable.”
Randy W
“Thank you for all your efforts to make a difference in my daughter’s life going forward.”
Eugene G
“The overall change in my daughter was so impressive.”
Kim B
“The therapists and guides were very well trained. I was pleasantly surprised at how compassionate the program and the field guides were. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
The Welsh Family
“Equine therapy was a powerful experience. My daughter said that it calmed her. The lovely base camp grounds with horses roaming around set a peaceful tone.”
Roxanne G
“I can honestly say that we are a closer family because of what we learned at Trails. I loved it all!”
Darla W
“We can’t thank everyone enough for the kindness, compassion and great skills each and every one of you gifted us with on this journey.”
Judity W
“If your child is in need and you feel you don’t have the skills alone to help them, Trails can! And they will!!”
Deserae A
“Thank you, thank you, thank you. You took a boy who was a bundle of rage and guided him to see there were other ways to handle the world.”
Susanna M
“Jake got so much from the program that he wants to move to North Carolina, study wilderness leadership and work on the staff at Trails.”
Staci S
“The process is about leaving as a new person who has found ways to stay away from problems.  And by leaving here we will become a better and more mature human being.”
Greer G
“Trails was the best thing I could have done, full of invaluable experiences. Thank you all! We will treasure our experience.”
Rejena B
“Thank you! We are true believers in the power of the wilderness experience and can’t say enough about Trails!”
Luanne G
“I believe that Trails is a rite of passage.  It’s stopping one stage in your life, and helps you to grow and prosper into a beautiful new grown up person.”
former student
“I would highly recommend Trails to anyone who needs their services. It was an excellent program in every way.”
Jennifer O
“I am full of admiration and gratitude for Trails and its staff.”
Stuart R
“I’ve learned I care about my family.  I also learned I should respect others and respect myself. I learned that that can change with a little bit of help.”
Casey K
“I would say that Trails saved our daughter’s life. I saw changes in her at graduation that thrilled my heart.”
Peggy W
Trails Carolina