Why Is Therapy In The Wilderness Effective?

Nature has the power to be therapeutic, and healthcare professionals are beginning to realize this. According to a recent study, it’s estimated that 94% of people with mental health difficulties feel that nature puts them in a more positive mood. Many struggling teens don’t have much contact with nature in their day to day life. This can worsen teenagers’ behavioral problems.

How Can Nature Be Incorporated Into Therapy?

Teenagers with behavioral problems can go on supervised camping or hiking trips into the wilderness with a therapist as the guide. While this therapeutic approach has been around for years, it has become more commonplace in recent times. Currently, there are a number of organizations that organize wilderness excursions for teenagers with behavioral problems.

How Long Do They Stay In The Wilderness?

There are two primary models for this type of therapy. In most cases, the stay in the wilderness is either 25-35 days or an 8-12 week excursion. In other cases, a series of day trips is utilized. However, this is less common.

How Successful Is This Type Of Therapy?

Most teenagers who go on these excursions report that they were very beneficial. In fact, it’s estimated that 90% of teenagers who go on these programs report them to be effective. Most parents also notice improvements in their behavior.

Objective evidence shows that these programs tend to be effective. According to a study that used the Youth Outcome Questionnaire, teenagers who go through these programs have experienced marked improvements in functioning. Prior to the completion of the program, they received an average score of 98.1 on this scale. This indicated a high level of behavioral problems. Six months after finishing the program, the average score was around 46.9. This is considered a normal score, and it is even lower than the average for the general population.

Also, the gains don’t seem to fade with time. Two years after finishing the program, the vast majority of participants continued to see it as beneficial. Most parents also still felt that the therapy was effective. More than 80% of both parents and teens felt that the therapy was effective two years after it was completed. Only 17% of teens who finished the program were still struggling two years later.

What Are Some Unique Advantages Of This Type Of Therapy?

There are unique advantages over other types of therapy. Therapy in the wilderness can be a great way to promote teens’ self reliance, which is neglected by many other therapy programs. Wilderness therapy programs also provide teens with a unique environment to develop self respect and self esteem.

It is also an effective way to remove teens from negative influences. This is something that many other forms of therapy aren’t able to do effectively. With most other types of therapy, therapists have no control over what teens do outside of a brief therapy session. The wilderness session takes place in an unfamiliar environment without negative influences.

When teens go through wilderness programs, they are able to have much more interaction with a therapist than in most other programs. This provides more opportunities for growth.


Nature is therapeutic in and of itself, and combining nature with a long term therapy session is a great way to resolve behavioral problems during the teenage years. Struggling teenagers who have gone through these programs tend to have much better life outcomes than those who go through many other programs. Struggling teens who go through these programs are more likely to complete high school and college. They also are more likely to succeed in finding employment.


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