Therapeutic Wilderness Programs & Placements

The initial short-term intervention in a plan that leads to a longer-term placement in a therapeutic boarding school or residential treatment center

Today, it’s estimated that almost half of all teenagers struggle with a mental disorder. We help the families of these young adults find short-term and long-term plans for treatment. In some cases, this may include placement in reputable, trusted therapeutic wilderness programs.


What Are Wilderness Therapy Programs?

Therapeutic wilderness programs, sometimes called wilderness therapy or outward-bound-style programs, tend to be the initial short-term intervention in a long-term mental health plan. They blend therapeutic modalities in the context of wild outdoor environments or backcountry travel.

In other words, mental health professionals prescribe adventure experiences and outside living in an effort to affect change in adolescents’ minds and behaviors.

The wilderness therapy approach typically includes:

  • Sophisticated client assessments
  • Individualized treatment plans
  • Psychotherapeutic practices
  • Coordination with educational consultants
  • Access to aftercare plans

Ultimately, the goal of therapeutic wilderness programs is to provide teens with crucial support, engagement, and professional therapy in a natural environment. This often occurs in a group setting, although individual interventions also occur.

If your teenager is in crisis, reach out to our team. We’ll connect you with wilderness therapy programs in and outside of the area, as well as therapists that can help you make informed decisions in as little as 24 hours.



Why Choose a Therapeutic Wilderness Program?

It is not uncommon for parents/guardians to wonder, “Can the wilderness really help my teen?” The answer isn’t entirely straightforward, but we can provide you with some impressive reasons to consider a wilderness treatment program for your adolescent.

Wilderness therapy allows young adults to…

  • Harness the restorative powers of nature
  • Benefit from traditional clinical therapy in a new setting
  • Experience education in a new, “real-life” way
  • Learn how to take responsibility and become independent

Wilderness therapy is not a “boot camp” that’s all about teaching tough love or discipline. Instead, these programs focus on challenging and encouraging students to better themselves and their relationships, as well as their relationship with nature.

When students have the opportunity to self-assess and learn in a safe, calm outdoor environment, they can discover a great deal. Negative external influences are removed so that teens can experience essential growth and development.

Wilderness programs help teach young participants how to…

  • Care for themselves
  • Be patient and calm
  • Trust others
  • Rely on their instincts
  • Face challenges with confidence
  • Forge solid relationships
  • Empower themselves and others

To learn more about the benefits of therapeutic wilderness or back-country-style programs, reach out to the JRA team today.

Who Should Enroll in Wilderness Therapy Program?

Nature-based therapy can be extremely powerful, especially for adolescents in certain stages or situations. Typically, we recommend wilderness treatment programs to families of teens who may have already:

  • Attended years of outpatient therapy
  • Seen a psychiatrist
  • Undergone psychological testing
  • Enrolled in an outpatient program
  • Been hospitalized for suicidal ideations or attempts

These programs are not necessarily last-resort options, but they are most effective for families who have already tried other avenues of treatment. We recommend working with mental health professionals to understand the best options for your family, then contacting our consultants for further guidance.

Most therapeutic wildness programs are for teenagers/young adults, usually between the ages of 11 and 21. However, there are some programs created for children as young as 9 that are shorter and less intense.

FAQs About Wilderness Therapy Program

Is it safe to enroll in wilderness programs?

Yes – credentialed, trusted wilderness programs have been deemed safe by mental health professionals and parents alike.

Although there is some controversy surrounding the concept of “boot camps” in the outdoors, modern wilderness therapy programs are highly structured, regulated, and professional. Most states require specific licensing for outdoor young programs, which helps keep everyone involved safe.

If you have questions or concerns about the safety of wilderness therapy programs for young adults, reach out to our team. We’re happy to share more about other families’ positive experiences, as well as to answer your queries.

Where are JRA's wilderness therapy services located?

Our JRA Educational Consultants are based in Florida, but we have connected families with therapeutic wilderness programs throughout the United States. Whether you’re in the state or somewhere else, reach out – we want to help you find the right program for your needs.

If you are interested in a Florida-based program, let us know. We have strong connections with many of our local programs and can connect you with wilderness therapy professionals quickly, especially in crisis situations.

Do wilderness programs really work?

The short (but true) answer is yes, wilderness programs can really work. Not only do they remove teenagers from everyday life, but they also help decrease the ever-present stimulation that makes self-evaluation and healing difficult for many.

As research in the past has shown us, extended experiences in nature can help teenagers:

  • Break down defensive barriers
  • Internalize healthier thinking
  • Develop intrinsic motivation
  • Create better behavior patterns
  • Exercise and eat well
  • Form improved sleeping habits

The wilderness is a place where teens can feel emotionally safe, as well as physically cared for by their therapists and nature itself. To learn more about the effects of wilderness therapy programs, contact the JRA team.

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