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February 17, 2012

By Pacific Quest

With all the wonderful world of iPads, cell phones, video games, Facebook, peers and a myriad of different everyday distractions, a wilderness therapy program is just the kind of environment a troubled, hurting teen needs—though they likely don’t even know it.

Wilderness programs offer teens respite and repose in order for them to fully receive the guidance needed to move beyond the trappings of their daily lives. The space such programs create mean youth can understand themselves from a new perspective.

What often occurs for new participants is a period of growing pains where past behaviors or reactions stake claim. But what a wilderness program has that weekly therapy sessions don’t have is constant, focused, particular care. A treatment center for troubled teens can attend to teens at the moment of a downward spiral or an anxious reaction or a frustrated situation. That kind of acute attention is what a commitment to a wilderness program provides more than day services can.

Fully equipped with dedicated, professional staff, Pacific Quest is unique among wilderness therapy programs for its focus on healing and transformation in its participants.  Tim Hansel, an early proponent of outdoor therapy for young adults, said in his 1987 book Holy Sweat, “The wilderness is still the finest place to train servant leaders because it is a non-neutral learning environment which demands change, and fosters community, trust, and interdependence. The wilderness encourages wholeness, reminds us of what is true and real and affords us an opportunity like no other.”

A fundamental difference Pacific Quest offers young people is an environment that encourages wholeness. Participants are not merely “working through” one particular element of their lives or a single negative behavior—these young people are learning skills for use during their whole lives to realize a whole life. It is manifest through working the land, growing their own food, tending to the environment, understanding the significant ways they affect those around them and so many other deeply necessary truths.

And Pacific Quest sees results. Wilderness therapy programs are not a passing trend. In fact, they’d be useful for many adults to attend when the basic skills of communication and self-awareness are lost among the busyness of everyday distractions. Youth, however, are at a precious point in their lives when they are more available and open to how being in concert with the wild can transform the way they live their lives.

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