Wilderness therapy is an interactive and engaging approach to mental healthcare designed to help teens become successful adults. Its focus on outdoor engagement helps teens learn healthy coping mechanisms while participating in group activities, learning survival skills, and experiencing self-growth outside the confines of modern life. There are currently three main styles of wilderness therapy, each with their own approaches and benefits.
Although all three styles of wilderness therapy get teens out of their usual environments and into the great outdoors, they’re unique in their scope. Second Nature Wilderness discusses nomadic, basecamp, and adventuring programs and explains what makes them effective therapeutic techniques.
Nomadic Wilderness Therapy
Nomadic wilderness therapy is designed to make group members work together to become as self-sufficient as possible. Teens are expected to pack their own backpacks and prepare for the entire duration of the expedition. Yet, they must work together to cook food, prepare shelters, and provide for the group’s benefits.
As best as can be, the teens and their supervisors remain as cut off from society as they can until the program ends. Therapists drive out to conduct formal group sessions before leaving again until the next week. Therefore, it’s up to the instructors and staff to provide much of the ongoing therapeutic treatment.
Basecamp Wilderness Therapy
With basecamp wilderness therapy, participants have a home base that they return to once a week. Here, they can take part in more traditional therapy sessions, get a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed, and enjoy some of the modern luxuries they’re accustomed to—showers, hot meals, and the wonders of the Internet.
During the rest of the week, though, they’re out in the wilderness completing group activities, learning survival skills, and working on their interpersonal relationships. Because they return to basecamp every week, there’s no need for them to be as self-sufficient as with a nomadic program. Yet, they’re still expected to develop healthy social skills needed to work together.
Adventuring Wilderness Therapy
Adventuring wilderness therapy is a style that focuses on challenge and adventure. Participants are typically engaged in more strenuous activities, such as rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and skiing. The goal is to help participants push their limits and learn to cope with difficult situations.
Adventuring programs are typically shorter in duration than the other two styles of wilderness therapy. This is because the activities are more intense and require more supervision. As such, there’s less time for traditional therapy sessions.
Picking the Right Wilderness Therapy Program
The right wilderness therapy program for your teen will depend on their needs and preferences. If they’re struggling with substance abuse, anxiety, or depression for example, a nomadic program may be best. For others, a basecamp program that includes traditional therapy sessions may be more beneficial.
No matter what style of wilderness therapy you choose, the goal is to help your teen grow and thrive. With the right program, they can learn the skills they need to become successful adults and manage heavy emotions, interpersonal conflict, suicidal ideation, and addiction.
Final Thoughts on Wilderness Therapy
Wilderness therapy is a beneficial approach to mental healthcare that can help your teen become a successful adult. Although there are three main styles of wilderness therapy, each offers its own benefits, and the right program could help your teen overcome ongoing mental illness.