Wilderness therapy, also known as outdoor behavioral health, is a short-term, life-changing, experience that uses the great outdoors as the setting for therapy, growth, and healing.
Struggling or at-risk teens that are dealing with a wide range of behavioral, emotional, and mental health issues may benefit from wilderness therapy.
A typical stay is 30 to 120 days and includes outdoor skills, camping, hiking, and adventure activities, along with an intensive, sophisticated, and customized clinical intervention.
What to Look for in a Wilderness Therapy Program
Individualized clinical treatment plans and assessments, overseen by a licensed therapist
A family systems approach and plan that keeps family members informed on the best treatment practices for their child
Weekly individual and group therapy sessions with a licensed therapist throughout the process
Trained field guides that are present 24/7 throughout the experience
A group setting to foster respect for others and establish teamwork
Individual sleeping arrangements, personal tents
High-performance gear, healthy meals, adventure activities, education, and therapy components
Continuing care and clinical recommendations with sustainable, long-term results.
High-quality wilderness therapy is a safe and effective intervention, using best-in-class equipment, highly trained staff, and 24-hour support.
Why Choose an Embark Wilderness Therapy Program?
Nationwide Full-Spectrum of Care:
Embark offers a full continuum of care, from virtual visits to residential services and everything between, across the U.S.
Premier Mental Health Treatment:
Our pioneering approach to customized care takes everything from neurobiology to family environment into account.
Support for the Entire Family:
Our experts not only work with our clients but their families as well, improving the system from the inside out.
Evidence-Based, Proven Outcomes:
We collect thousands of data points to learn from, and adjust, treatment in real-time to improve results.
Certified Care & Safety:
Along with our cutting-edge treatments, our programs maintain rigorous care and safety standards that are third-party validated.
Is Wilderness Therapy Right for Your Child?
Embark Behavioral Health is committed to finding the ideal treatment options for your child, even if it is not with us.
Call or chat with us today to find out if our programs are the right fit for your family’s needs.
Additionally, educational consultants (EC's) can help families find the right outdoor behavioral healthcare program for the right reason and at the right time. EC's will use their membership associations like the Independent Educational Consultant Association (IECA) or the Therapeutic Consulting Association (TCA) to provide a list of the best therapeutic wilderness programs for your child.
Top Questions Families Have About Wilderness Therapy Programs
Q: Is wilderness therapy similar to boot camp?
A: Wilderness therapy is not anything like a boot camp. While boot camp is an education program that often uses fear-based, aggressive, and coercive methods to change behavior, wilderness therapy takes a compassionate approach. Fear is not a healthy, nor long-term, catalyst for change. Wilderness therapy techniques use the lessons of nature to create therapeutic opportunities, but in a very safe and nurturing way that promotes healing. Unlike boot camps and military schools, wilderness therapy also employs licensed mental health professionals that have master’s degrees or above.
Q: Is wilderness therapy safe and effective?
A: Wilderness therapy can be a reliable and powerful treatment option that produces long-term, sustainable results. Research also shows that “While no treatment can guarantee the total safety of any child, adolescents participating in outdoor behavioral healthcare programs are at less risk than adolescents not participating in these programs.” In another study, social researchers concluded that adolescents who participated in wilderness programs showed a “significant and enduring increase in self-efficacy.” In this context, “self-efficacy” is defined as “the ability to execute control over our own level of functioning and the events that affect our lives.”
Q: What happens at the end of wilderness therapy treatment?
A: Continuing care is critical. For many families, wilderness therapy programs are another step in their treatment path, and they will continue on to another setting - such as a therapeutic boarding school or residential treatment center. For other clients, they will return home to an outpatient or in-home therapy program. Therefore, it is good to find a program affiliated with a local outpatient clinic. In these situations, the affiliated clinic will make the transition with an aftercare plan. The child and family should follow up and continue working with their therapist at home to make sure the child's progress during treatment is maintained.
Q: What is the average cost of a wilderness therapy program?
A: Wilderness programs range in price from $500 to $750+ per day with a length of stay ranging from 30 to 100 days. Programs have an enrollment fee to help cover the initial cost of adventure therapy equipment. Unfortunately, insurance does not typically reimburse these services.