Wilderness therapy programs offer a therapeutic, experiential education in an outdoor setting. Wilderness therapy is not boot camp. Students hike, learning primitive living skills such as building a fire with a bow drill and survival techniques. They experience daily physical challenges while hiking in the wilderness. The concept behind wilderness therapy is that Mother Nature is the ultimate teacher who cannot be manipulated by defiant teens. When it is cold, you must collect wood for the fire. When night is coming, you must set up your camp site for sleeping. By removing the distractions of the modern world, teens begin to look inward and examine how they have lived their lives. Qualified counselors guide students through this introspective process. Wilderness therapy often uses metaphors or rites of passage to help young people recognize their development and progress. A student may start as a Mouse and graduate from the program as an Eagle. By working together as a team in the wilderness, teens begin to recognize how selfish behavior does not work in a community. Positive peer pressure moves teens away from isolation and hostility toward cooperation and healthy self-expression.

SUWS wilderness therapy programs have effectively worked with troubled teens for 25 years. SUWS believes that successful treatment is best accomplished through small groups and individual attention. The typical group size is seven students, led by a treatment team that includes a Field Supervisor/Therapist and two field instructors. SUWS uses a phase system that is designed to be challenging and rewarding. Each phase builds on the students learning more about themselves and becoming more independent.

Learn more about SUWS’ wilderness therapy program