On Visiting Wilderness Programs

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Over a year ago I started taking a new approach to visiting wilderness therapy programs. Rather than simply visiting the administrative office or taking a quick trip out into the field to observe a group of kids, I wanted to experience first hand what it was like to go through the program itself.
Now when I visit wilderness therapy programs I usually spend the night in the field with the staff and students in a group. The lack of distractions and the chance to “unplug” from the world is, in my opinion, an absolute luxury. During one of my more recent visits to a wilderness therapy program out west I took the opportunity to visit two young men whose parents I had recently advised.

When the students found out that I was there to spend the night in the field they were rather shocked that I would be crazy enough to subject myself to high desert terrain during the winter season. Despite what was viewed initially as temporary insanity, my stay in those conditions earned me a kernel of credibility.

The highlight of the trip for me was sitting down with the students for whom I had actually recommended placement earlier in their process. Normally I participate in regular communications with their therapists by phone, but it was amazing to be present to witness their sessions live. I had a whole new appreciation for how productive and meaningful the meetings were and felt validated that my students were experiencing the power of the wilderness I had described prior to their enrollment.

The funniest part of the experience was calling the parents after my visit to the field to inform them of where I had been for the preceding 24 hours. It took quite a bit of convincing that I went to see their child in the high desert by choice. Of course, after answering the deluge of questions, I spent the rest of the time assuring them that their child was warm, well cared for, smiling, eating well, and on the way to emotionally healthier living.

Talk about the perfect get-away…


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