Wilderness Therapy: Is It Right For Your Teen?

Date: 07/03/2023

Title: Should you send your teenager to a wildnerness therapy program?

00:00:00 Speaker 1
You? Should you send your teenager to a wilderness therapy program? Well, let's talk about
that today on Tips on Teens. My name is Kent Toussanit. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist,
and I specialize in helping kids, teens, and families live happier lives. I lead two organizations
teen Therapy Center and the nonprofit 501 c three organization, child and Teen Counseling,
both here in Woodland Hills, California. And every Wednesday at noon, I jump onto Facebook
Live to answer your parenting questions. Let's answer today's. I'm considering sending my
15 year old son to adolescent wilderness therapy. He has a lot of trouble controlling his anger
and is lashing out a lot. It's been getting worse over the last couple of years. We found out recently
that he's been experimenting with drugs too. The idea of wilderness therapy really appeals
to me. I don't want to do it, though, if it's not going to help, or if it's just or if he'll just resent
me for it. How do I decide if it's a good fit

00:01:02 Speaker 1
for my son? Thank you for your question. First of all, I acknowledge the discomfort and the fear
and the anxiety any parent would be going through beginning to this point of considering adolescent
wilderness therapy. For some of you don't know, what is adolescent wilderness therapy? Well,
I'm going to explain it in a nutshell. It's basically your kid goes to out of town, out of state
somewhere into kind of a long term camping program. It's about 30 days to 120 days, roughly where
you're out in the wilderness with other youth at risk, with a group of counselors who are guiding
you through learning survival skills, going on adventures and just finding ways to build camaraderie
and connection in hopes that there's more self reflection and more honesty in who they are and
understanding how they got to this point. And for some kids, it's really helpful and really
effective. Some kids it's not. And there's a few different reasons why this might be. First
of all, if you're considering this, you

00:02:07 Speaker 1
want to make sure that you do your homework. There are companies that do the research all this
for you, and they have all the statistics, whether the safety statistics, how their approaches
to working with kids and all that stuff. And they can say, due to our research, we recommend one
of these ones you can do. Also do the research on your own. There's a lot of information on Google
that you can research to figure out what is best for you to find out how to find the best fit. It's
not cheap. Going to one of these referral sources is not cheap either. But you're already putting
a bunch of money into this. It's a lot of money. It's not inexpensive. I don't think insurance
usually covers these kinds of things. But do your homework, do your research. The thing is,
if you send your son or your daughter for that matter, to one of these places and they're out.
And will they resent you? At first, probably. I've heard many kids say this I hate that you sent
me there. I hate you for sending me there,

00:03:03 Speaker 1
but I'm glad you did. And so there's some ambivalence because they do oftentimes grow. And many
of the kids in my practice who've been in these situations have gone and they start out hating
it. I'm going to be the rebel. You can't make me do anything. And as they get further in the program,
they become more senior in the program. They start recognizing the benefits. They start opening
up to other people. They see the new kids coming in go, oh yeah, that was me. I'm not like that anymore.
I'm more mature, I'm more wise, I have more insight now. So that's a positive. Here's the thing.
When your kid is out in the wilderness and isolated from the drugs, the negative friends, the
toxic relationships at home, whatever it may be, they're doing great, but eventually they
have to transition back. Now, there's a lot of different ways that can transition. Do they transition
to a therapeutic boarding school? They transition back home. And they're now in a partial hospitalization
program, which means

00:03:55 Speaker 1
they go to group and treatment center for like nine to six every day. Is it an IOP intensive outpatient
program where they go like three days a week for 3 hours at a time? Or are they coming back and just
going into therapy? Whatever it is, you have to have a plan because if there's no plan, once they
come back, they're going to fall into all those old habits and all that money and time and effort
and anguish will be for not and your kids will resenting them. But if you have a real thoughtful,
therapeutic structure for them to come back to, they've got therapy, they've got activities
that they're busy with, things that are positive in their life, healthy for their life, they're
more likely to stay on that track. Instead of falling back into drugs or shoplifting or whatever
it is they are into, you should be working with the Adolescent Wilderness Program to figure
out what is that next step or your family therapist or your psychiatrist or whatever. You should
be working with some professional

00:04:53 Speaker 1
to help guide you on what is the structure your teenager needs so they can transition back. And
all that money and effort and anguish you had of sending them off to wilderness was worth it.
And as if I see this unfortunately, often where kids will go to wilderness or they'll go to treatment
center and they have this amazing experience and they have this new focus on life and they come
back and there's no new structure and they go right back to where they were. So again, it's really
important to have a plan, a real, thoughtful, careful plan of what's going to happen when your
kid comes back. Anyways, if it's right for your son or daughter, it's going to be up to you and
your health professionals to decide that. But it is not an easy choice to make. And please, make
an informed choice. Anyways, that's our question for today. Again, my name is Kent Tucson with
tips on teens at teen therapy center and child and teen counseling. If you'd like your question
answered here on tips on teens, email

00:05:47 Speaker 1
us at tips on teens@teentherapycenter.com or direct messages right here on facebook. We love
your questions. Thank you so much. I'll see you next week. And I'm Kent Toussaint. Bye.

Is Wilderness Therapy Right for Your Kid?

Wilderness therapy is where at-risk teens spend a few months in a program with other at-risk youth and counselors learning in a “nature” environment. Usually it involves developing survival skills and having adventures outdoors. The idea is that hopefully teens will gain some self reflection and maturity. Lots of kids start out hating it, but come to recognize the benefits and grow.

Have A Good Plan For When They Come Back

This kind of approach can be very effective, but it’s not for everyone. The key to success if you’re considering a wilderness therapy program is to have a plan to transition your kid back into daily life. For kids who thrive in wilderness therapy, everything can be great while they’re in the program. But once they come back, it’s easy for your kid to fall back into the same habits.

If you have activities and a positive structure for them to come back to, you’re more likely to reap the rewards of wilderness therapy. We recommend you work with a professional to help set you on the right path. There’s more to say, and we talk about it on this Tips on Teens:

“I’m considering sending my 15 year old son to Adolescent Wilderness Therapy. He has a lot of trouble controlling his anger and is lashing out  a lot. It’s been getting worse over the last couple years. We found out recently that he’s been experimenting with drugs too The idea of Wilderness Therapy really appeals to me. I don’t want to do it though  if it’s not going to help, or if he’ll just resent me for it. How do I decide if it’s a good fit for my son?“

Clinical Director Kent Toussaint answers your parenting questions every Wednesday at 12:00pm in our weekly segment Tips On Teens on Facebook Live. Have questions about parenting kids and teens? Send them to: TipsOnTeens@TeenTherapyCenter.com. We love to hear from you!

Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE!  Check out our page here – https://www.facebook.com/TeenTherapyCenter/

If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.