Trails Carolina, a wilderness therapy program for troubled teens, has earned both praise and criticism over time. While many families have reported life-altering transformations for their children through Trails Carolina’s services, others have shared distressing accounts known as “horror stories”.
Allegations against this program include physical abuse, mental abuse and neglect of participant well-being, along with possible concerns over its employment practices.
What is Wilderness Therapy?
Wilderness therapy immerses participants in an uninterrupted natural environment for therapeutic effect and to develop healthy coping skills. A typical day in wilderness therapy would consist of making breakfast over an open fire, packing up camp and hiking a few miles, cleaning the campsite & building shelters before having free time before sleep comes over them.
At this time, therapists typically meet with students to discuss challenges and goals for the week ahead. Based on this conversation, an individualized treatment plan for each student will be created according to their needs and goals.
Trails Carolina “Investigation” team’s focus during this period is to aid in healing of the family system as a whole, through family therapy sessions, letter writing to promote thoughtful communication, and working closely with each student’s primary therapist at Trails Carolina. Parents are strongly encouraged to attend midpoint parent workshops or Common Ground experiences for further assistance.
What are the Benefits of Wilderness Therapy?
Wilderness therapy is an excellent solution for adolescents battling substance abuse. It connects them with nature, fosters their sense of purpose, and teaches healthy coping mechanisms while cultivating social awareness & interpersonal skills.
Many wilderness therapy programs incorporate creative activities such as painting and journaling into their programs to allow participants to express emotions and process experiences that might otherwise be hard to convey verbally. These exercises allow individuals to process through these difficult experiences through alternative channels that might otherwise remain unsaid.
wilderness therapy teaches participants the skills needed to create and sustain life outdoors – a valuable lesson they can carry with them throughout their lives. Primitive skills like fire-making & navigation enable people to deepen their connection to the natural environment while becoming more self-sufficient. Furthermore, adventure experiences require concentration which allows participants to achieve a state of flow similar to meditation for maximum satisfaction & accomplishment.
What are the Drawbacks of Wilderness Therapy?
Wilderness therapy may be risky, but when conducted ethically and responsibly it can provide young people with an opportunity to discover themselves again. Unfortunately, recent incidents at Trails Carolina should prompt regulators to examine this industry more closely.
Undark consulted several experts and discovered that wilderness-oriented residential programs had yet to undergo randomized controlled trials–the gold standard of scientific research. Without this study, it’s impossible to know whether treatments are successful.
As a result of these concerns, many wilderness programs have shut down or been forced to restructure their operations. But there have been increasing numbers of programs which prioritize participant safety and wellbeing; such programs use clinical theory and evidence-based psychotherapies for effective therapy while being safe; they may also integrate residential base camps, academics and wellness practices to assist students overcome any challenges they are experiencing; ultimately providing strong foundations for long-term success.
What is Trails Carolina?
Trails Carolina, located in North Carolina and operating for years now, offers wilderness therapy programs to troubled youth in order to address emotional and behavioral problems. Recently however, an incident at Trails Carolina caused concern regarding safety and oversight issues, prompting a state investigation that is ongoing.
This program utilizes a multisystems approach, allowing participants to practice skills in various environments including wilderness, academic classrooms and equine therapy. Parents are actively engaged as researchers have shown family involvement is the cornerstone of long-term success.
Recent allegations by former students of Trails Carolina program have exposed horrific accounts of physical and emotional abuse by staff at Trails Carolina program, leading many to doubt wilderness therapy programs altogether. Regulatory bodies as well as impartial investigators are currently looking into these allegations; their results should be released later this year.