Wilderness programs are usually short-term nature-based programs which seem to have a definite impact on the teen. There is something to be said about being out in nature. In a peaceful, natural setting, teens will have more quiet time to reflect on what is really important, and what course they are on. Quiet time around the campfire at night can be an almost spiritual experience and a great time for teaching a tired youth. Typically the teens in wilderness programs sincerely feel the need to change and may even admit that they need to change their behaviors.
Wilderness programs are usually not academically accredited because of their short duration. There are usually some credits available that would correspond to time in spent out in nature, but it is not a given that they will be accepted. For this reason timing is an important factor involved with this type of placement. If you are taking a teen out of school and sending them to a Wilderness Program, they will fall further behind in school. In most cases the teen is not applying themselves in school anyway so this is not a huge factor. But in the case where the teen is still doing well in school, this should be taken into consideration.
If academics are still important to your teen and sending them to a wilderness program will make it impossible for them to catch up, consider the issues you and your teen will have to deal with. Your teen may have lower self-esteem for being held back or failing classes. Your teen might be embarrassed about having to explain where they have been upon their return to school. While some teens will find it cool to having been taken away for a while, there are others that will be embarrassed about their absence. There are many pros and cons connected with wilderness programs: extreme weather conditions and the risk of runaways are important considerations. If you need more advice or help choosing a program for your teen, please call the Parent Help Center at 1-844-622-6705 or fill out our contact form.
Again, short-term programs are a great place to start but usually need to be followed up by something longer. Some programs include a wilderness component into their regular program. Some have more rustic type living for teens who first come into a program, and then with appropriate choices they move into nicer living conditions.