wilderness therapy program
wilderness therapy program


Wilderness therapy is a subset of adventure-based therapy. It implements the use of wilderness expeditions for the purpose of therapeutic intervention. There are a range of different types of wilderness therapy programs, with a range of models and approaches. Some lean toward a survival approach and some an Outward Bound approach. Their aim is guiding participants toward self-reliance and self-respect. The pioneers in the field of therapeutic wilderness programs were Larry D. Olsen and Ezekiel C. Sanchez at Brigham Young University; Nelson Chase, Steven Bacon, and others at the Colorado Outward Bound School; Rocky Kimball at Santa Fe Mountain Center and many others.

Many teens who attend this type of wilderness boarding school for troubled boys report the experience as being positive, beneficial, and enjoyable. They learn independence, patience, assertiveness, self-reliance, and maturity. Outcome studies have been completed that show continued improvement in behavior one year after attending wilderness therapy and new outcome studies are currently underway.

After a wilderness therapy program, students may return home or may be recommended for a therapeutic boarding school, Young Adult Program or an intensive residential treatment center.

Wood Creek Academy is an example of a therapeutic boarding school that would be an extension of an outdoor wilderness school. Although attending an outdoor wilderness therapy program like Outward Bound is beneficial, the positive outcomes of an extended program like ours will provide more lasting benefits without the disruption of having to transfer from one program to another.

We engage with Camp Bighorn in completing several survival type campouts, river kayak trips, and mountain bicycle trips for the outward bound experience. We have also completed ropes courses on our property.

We are licensed through the State of Montana Private Alternative Adolescent Residential or Outdoor Programs.

wilderness therapy program

Wilderness Therapy

Wilderness therapy programs trace their origins to outdoor survival programs that placed young teens in a challenging environment where determination, communication and team efforts were outcomes. Troubled teenagers with low self-esteem, oppositional defiant and conduct problems discovered their potential as well as the individual and group skills necessary to become successful in life. The top wilderness therapy programs are viable alternative to traditional therapy, residential treatment programs and psychiatric hospitals.

For the most part, holistic outdoor wilderness therapy programs are based on behavioral models and experiential education. Young men are referred to as students or patients. These approaches to working with teenage boys are widely accepted forms of treatment and intervention for both adults and teens. Universities provide earned degree in experiential education - a discipline that is becoming a cornerstone in wilderness therapy programs.

The assurances and integrity of services offered by programs can vary a great deal. Some programs are licensed and regulated as wilderness and outdoor treatment programs. Others are state regulated as mental health and chemical dependency treatment programs. Several programs are also accredited by the same institutions that over see hospitals.

Wilderness therapy, in the purest form, is a positive growth experience where troubled teens face natural challenges and adversities that are designed to be therapeutic in nature. Teenage boys are not merely thrown into the wilderness and made to suffer hardships. They are removed from their environment, encouraged, challenged and give every opportunity to succeed. Wilderness therapy programming is overseen by support staff that have experience and training in group and interpersonal work. The wilderness is seen as a place of safety and natural consequences and a place they can look at their life and consider what they were doing, what they were thinking, how that made them feel, what they want and what they are willing to do to make that happen. The wilderness is a place to take action where initiative is naturally rewarding.

Young men begin to change naturally when they are removed from environments filled with negative influences and triggering events that produce self-defeating, reckless or self-destructive behavior. They enter the wilderness on a journey of self-discovery. When troubled teen boys become involved in routines that are logical and necessary in nature, the natural result is to develop relationships, communicate, reveal their problems, help each other, face the consequences of their behavior and discover their hidden potential. They discover their true feelings as well as more realistic hopes and dreams. It is a time of reflection, discovery and building new skills. Rather than become angry, troubled teenage boys become assertive. Instead of hiding their feelings, they ask for help and talk to people they trust. Instead of rushing around, they learn to listen to others and be patient. In those moments when they are alone watching a sunset (and not a television), troubled teens discover their true self. Once they are aware of their feelings, they become courageous instead of being victims.

Please explore our website or call an admissions counselor at 866.694.8882 for additional information about how Wood Creek Academy can help your family.