For the many people that know me, they know I don’t believe in Wilderness programs, nor do I advocate for short term programs. This doesn’t mean there aren’t reputable Wilderness programs in our country. There are, however chances are very good, after your teen attends one – within the first 30 days, the program will tell you it is likely you will need to go on to a residential therapy program. Which means….
- More money
- Another trip
- Another therapist
- Another schedule
Back to the first one – the costs are exuberant for Wilderness, and to combine it with another at least $50K for a boarding school is simply out of the equation for many families.
I am writing this information today for two reasons. One, I have received several calls this week alone by parents that fell for the Wilderness road. Now they are out of money and need a program, but the funding is no where to be found. What do you do? Their teen is back to the streets – smoking the dope and failing in school. (Let’s also remember most Wilderness programs don’t offer academics).
One thing these at-risk teens need is consistency. Usually for the past several months, even years they have been spiraling out of control, driving down a negative path with a negative peer group.
Going to Wilderness is a great experience – they get to vent to their counselor, talk about their feelings and dig deep inside. They even get a new appreciation of sleeping in their bed or a bed. They are also knowing that once they just get through these next 6-8-10 weeks – they are home free.
Now, you tell them they are not home free – they are going to the “next step” – a longer term program. Now they have to get over the disappointment, anger, resentment and most of all, they have to start all over again with a new therapist – a new staff and a new setting. Sigh…..
Of course this is the case for the families that can afford that next step. If they can’t – some will be facing a probation officer or public defender within a few months. Solid changes and “lasting” changes cannot be made within 6-8-10 weeks.
This is way an average successful program is 6-9-12 months (not weeks). On the same note, you don’t want programs that are taking your teen completely out of the family for more than 18-24 months – that is not emotionally healthy. It can contribute to abandonment issues -which can backfire.
Are Wilderness program worth it? It is my opinion of after a decade of talking with thousands of family – no, they simply are not worth it. That doesn’t mean families they aren’t useful to some people, but from the many I have spoken with – they do have good experiences however know that it is step they didn’t really need. Of course, we all are different.