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Wilderness Programs for Girls
Wilderness programs for girls are a residential treatment center option for troubled teens, where a military prep school focuses on preparing for a military career. For out of control teenagers, a wilderness program is an alternative to military school.
A wilderness program is one type of residential treatment center. In this therapeutic setting, young people are aided through some type of challenging outdoor experience. Wilderness programs for girls are available in different parts of the country and the programs have different philosophies and approaches. Wilderness programs may be for girls only or may be coeducational. Activities include backpacking, bouldering, canyoneering, caving, kayaking, mountain biking, and other wilderness living experiences.
We recommend looking to the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) as a first step in locating a wilderness program for girls. Because NATSAP recommends that a therapeutic setting for children be licensed for clinical practice as well as accredited for any academic program it may have, you are likely to find those qualifications among its member organizations.
On NATSAP’s list of wilderness programs are those who accept girls as young as 10 and up to age 28. Of the 20 wilderness programs listed, eight are in Utah, but there are also three in the Northwest, three in the Northeast, one in the Midwest, one in the Southeast, and two in Colorado.
Wildnerness programs for girls differ in a variety of ways. Some have special accommodations for including families in the treatment program. The way that the entire family is engaged, as well as the girl’s transition to and from the wilderness experience can be extremely important. Other differences appear in various other facets of the programs. Open Sky, for example, has an organic, whole foods diet and includes homeopathic and naturopathic medicinal choices.
Group size is usually limited in these wilderness programs. The programs that list the size of the small working groups generally give 8, with the maximum being 9, and some having groups with as few as 5 participants. The duration of a girl’s stay in the wilderness program is another difference. Some programs state a minimum, some an average, some a range, and some a precise length. Examples are:
It seems that some wildnerness programs for girls must have a course that has a specific number of days to complete, whereas others have a course that is designed to be responsive to a particular girl’s needs, and so may vary with the situation.
Wilderness programs for girls are designed to help with a variety of issues, and it’s important to be sure that there is a good match between what the girl needs and what the program has to offer. Issues that may be addressed include academic issues such as underachievement, addiction, ADD/ADHD, adoption issues, anger management, defiance, delinquency, eating disorders, entitlement, family conflict, learning disabilities, low self-esteem, manipulation, mood disorders including depression, ODD/OCD, peer conflicts, peer pressure, running away, substance abuse, and trauma.
Here is a summary of the NATSAP wilderness programs for girls:
Related Article: Choosing a Girls' Military School >>