When your child’s life is spiraling out of control, it isn’t always clear how to best help. Whether it is anxiety, poor self-image or substance abuse, watching your son or daughter hit a rough patch can be overwhelming and ensue feelings of helplessness.
You may be wondering if wilderness therapy might be best for your teen or young adult.
For many people, the term “wilderness therapy” triggers images of extreme, boot-camp style expeditions through remote mountains or deserts where adolescents are forced to endure difficult conditions and learn survival skills. And, while there certainly are wilderness therapy programs out there that take young people on extended wilderness trips, this popular association with military-style discipline does not, in fact, reflect the essence of wilderness therapy.
To put it plainly, wilderness therapy is not boot camp. Instead of wielding intimidation and coercion, wilderness therapy employs a philosophy that is based on compassion, empathy and respect.
So what, exactly, is wilderness therapy? There is no universally accepted standard definition, but any legitimate wilderness therapy program should have the following qualities:
- Nature-Based: Students leave the trappings of home to encounter the outdoors in ways that help direct new discovery and growth.
- Group Process Focused: A group setting is utilized to encourage learning and growth, giving space for adolescents to learn from each other.
- Licensed: Programs have received state approval and oversight through licensure.
- Clinical: Students have regular access to a licensed mental health professional.
- Individualized: Participants have treatment plans that are unique to their needs.
- Specialized: Professionals have training in particular areas relevant to treatment plans of clients (ie, addictions, traumatology, etc).
- Family Focused: Therapists engage the family in order to better understand their clients and craft relevant treatment goals.
- Aftercare Oriented: Program provides services that ease transitions home and help ensure that gains made are not lost upon reentry.
- Evaluated: Formal evaluations of program effectiveness are incorporated and utilized.
Pacific Quest, a cutting edge wilderness therapy program, goes above and beyond these basic characteristics in four key areas:
- Encouraging practical life skills (not outdoor survival skills)
Pacific Quest (PQ) helps participants develop and master tools that will transfer back to life at home. From meal planning to time management, the caring staff at PQ equips young people to be successful in life beyond the nature-based environment.
- Providing unparallelled holistic care
PQ understands that treating the whole person is key to lasting change. Unlike other wilderness therapy programs, PQ blends clinical care with mind-body wellness and employs a team of professionals (including two full-time naturopath doctors, a registered nurse, and an on-site psychiatrist) who, in partnership with your child’s primary therapist, provide unparalleled holistic care that incorporate nutrition and exercise plans.
- Making safety a top priority
The well-being of your son or daughter is a priority that PQ takes very seriously. PQ is the only outdoor-based therapy program with 24/7 awake staff. Unlike expeditionary wilderness therapy programs that take students on extended, back-country trips, PQ participants sleep in simple, single-sex bunk houses that are located just 15 minutes away from a full service hospital.
- Engaging horticultural therapy
Participants in PQ’s programs are challenged to not only experience the outdoors but to learn how to engage with it through cultivating an organic garden. This unique blend of wilderness therapy with horticultural therapy provides young adults with the opportunity to serve the local community through farmer’s market stands, whose proceeds benefit local charities.
When deciding on a program to help your child, you can rest assured that Pacific Quest goes beyond traditional wilderness therapy to provide the best possible treatment that has proven outcomes. As the program evaluations demonstrate, enrolling your son or daughter will likely help them develop:
- better communication skills
- greater self-control
- improved self-confidence
- better family relationships
We all want the best for our children. For those times when your child is spiraling downward and needs help to find a new way forward, contact Pacific Quest for an innovative wilderness therapy program that provides hope for the future.