Teens and pre adolescents are mostly concerned about establishing their identity for they are becoming more aware of themselves as individuals. This social development of teenagers poses difficulties and struggles to both the teens and their families. Parents who are struggling with a pre adolescent or teen often find that change is difficult as long as their child remains in the home environment. For this reason, removing the teens from their schools and neighborhood and putting them in a healthy and controlled environment where they can focus on behavioral change became a popular solution. Outdoor education, also known as wilderness programs have been helping troubled teens deal with depression, defiance, attention deficit, substance abuse, and other behavioral issues since the 1940s. These programs have proven to be highly effective in dealing with the current issues of our troubled teens.
Wilderness Programs, also known as Outdoor Therapy Programs, emphasize therapy and positive behavioral change. Through the development of wilderness skills, teens develop healthy self-esteem and learn to respond in positive ways to their peers and to authority. Through the use of positive peer pressure, introspective group discussions, and the building of primitive skills, adolescents begin to understand through metaphor the skills and behaviors that are necessary to live productive lives in society.
Wilderness Programs have the ability to assist students and families with a wide variety of issues. The goal of the program is to accurately evaluate each student’s strengths and limitations and then individualize the program to better suit and optimize the treatment. The common issues addressed in wilderness programs are mood disorders, self-esteem issues, oppositional defiance, substance abuse, learning differences, academic performance issues, family relational problems, and peer relationship problems.
Parents also are becoming more involved in the process while their child is away at camp. A wilderness program can have a profound effect on a struggling teen, but unless the child’s parents are learning new skills as well, progress at home can be limited or even hindered. Through family therapy sessions, counseling recommendations, online parenting courses, and family camps and workshops, today’s wilderness programs teach parents the same skills their child is learning in the field.
Today’s wilderness programs are keeping up with the changing needs of today’s teens. They are trying to offer more family support, greater flexibility, and increased specialization. Wilderness programs promise to be a powerful, efficient, and worthwhile experience for teens for decades to come.