One type of program designed to assist troubled teens is commonly referred to as a wilderness program. It is aptly named because it takes place in the wilderness.
The premise of a wilderness camp is getting back to basics, way back. The teens in some wilderness programs are required to forage for food, build fires with no
matches, and sleep under the stars. There are some very good wilderness programs that have been around for many years. They have references and success stories
to prove they know what they are doing. A wilderness program is no place for a novice staff member. A situation can turn from bad to dangerous very quickly when
there is no help in the immediate vicinity. There have been incidents where students have overpowered staff and ran away. Another consideration is the elements
themselves. In the winter there is the constant fear of frost bites and other weather related problems. In the summer there is dehydration and heat exhaustion.
If the guide or staff member does not know what he or she is doing, somebody is going to get hurt.
The outdoor program is basically synonymous with the wilderness program. Some outdoor programs take place partially in doors and partially out of doors.
Some outdoor programs are located on many acres of open territory. The open territory surrounding the actual facility is where the outdoor portion of the program
takes place. In some cases the outdoor program circles the physical facility unbeknownst to the teens hiking. While the students are not sure where they are, the
guide or staff member always knows exactly where they are. This type of program may be less risky in that the staff is always within radio contact of the base
facility. This safety feature is very attractive to parents for obvious reasons. Most outdoor programs and wilderness programs have safety evacuation plans ready
to initiate at a moments notice.
Outdoor and Wilderness Programs and Academics
Outdoor Programs can range in length from 30 -90 days. Many parents wonder how an extra 30 -90 days out of school will affect a teen’s grade. Some Wilderness Programs provide academic course while the teens are out in the wild. Other Outdoor or Wilderness Programs are looking beyond the academic component of the troubled teen’s life. The philosophy is that if the teen can begin to appreciate the more basic things in life, (toilet paper, home cooked meals etc.) they will be more cooperative. There are success stories from wilderness programs. What every parent ultimately has to decide is if the risks inherent with life in the wild, outweigh the wild life the teen is living.