Friday, March 11, 2011

Wilderness Programs: Are they worth it?

What is the real purpose of Wilderness?
For the many people that know me, they know I don't believe in Wilderness programs, nor do I advocate for short term programs.  This doesn't mean there aren't reputable Wilderness programs in our country.  There are, however chances are very good, after your teen attends one - within the first 30 days, the program will tell you it is likely you will need to go on to a residential therapy program.  Which means....
  • More money
  • Another trip
  • Another therapist
  • Another schedule
  • Etc....
Back to the first one - the costs are exuberant for Wilderness, and to combine it with another at least $50K for a boarding school is simply out of the equation for many families.

I am writing this information today for two reasons.  One, I have received several calls this week alone by parents that fell for the Wilderness road.  Now they are out of money and need  a program, but the funding is no where to be found.  What do you do?  Their teen is back to the streets - smoking the dope and failing in school. (Let's also remember most Wilderness programs don't offer academics).

One thing these at-risk teens need is consistency.  Usually for the past several months, even years they have been spiraling out of control, driving down a negative path with a negative peer group.


Going to Wilderness is a great experience - they get to vent to their counselor, talk about their feelings and dig deep inside.  They even get a new appreciation of sleeping in their bed or a bed.  They are also knowing that once they just get through these next 6-8-10 weeks - they are home free.


Now, you tell them they are not home free - they are going to the "next step" - a longer term program.  Now they have to get over the disappointment, anger, resentment and most of all, they have to start all over again with a new therapist - a new staff and a new setting.  Sigh.....


Of course this is the case for the families that can afford that next step.  If they can't - some will be facing a probation officer or public defender within a few months.  Solid changes and "lasting" changes cannot be made within 6-8-10 weeks.


This is way an average successful program is 6-9-12 months (not weeks).  On the same note, you don't want programs that are taking your teen completely out of the family for more than 18-24 months - that is not emotionally healthy.  It can contribute to abandonment issues -which can backfire.

Do you want to learn more?  Visit www.HelpYourTeens.com and find out about resources and options for troubled teens

Are Wilderness program worth it?  It is my opinion of after a decade of talking with thousands of family - no, they simply are not worth it.  That doesn't mean families they aren't useful to some people, but from the many I have spoken with - they do have good experiences however know that it is step they didn't really need.  Of course, we all are different.