Key Elements of Our Program

Mapping Clinical Treatment

clinical treatment wildernessBecause we want our students to have the best chance for success, we create a map for the clinical treatment. This includes a mental health assessment for each student as he or she enters the wilderness (the cost for this is included in the program).

A full psychological assessment is available at an additional charge. This includes IQ testing, an academic screener to identify any potential learning disabilities, and a personality test battery to examine possible mental health issues. It also includes a substance abuse assessment and a current mental status exam.

If the evaluation indicates further difficulties, additional testing can be completed at the request of the parent. The mental health assessment (and psychological evaluation if ordered) is used to create an individualized treatment plan for the student, which will form the basis of positive development for the rest of the wilderness program. It can also be used to make recommendations for the student after the program is completed.


The Journey is marked by four Passages of Change (a title of programming created by our founder), and each Passage has a different personal value theme and name that describes the Passage goal. Using a wilderness expedition as a metaphor for change, the names describe both the components of an expedition and the internal journey one must take to make meaningful changes in life.

Passage Names, Value Themes, and Corresponding Stage of Change:


SurveyTheme: Honesty
Pre-contemplation Stage of the Stages of Change

This passage begins with self-evaluation, where students have to ask, “How did I get here?” They must have the humility to take a hard look at the patterns of behavior that may have become destructive. They also need to be willing to be honest with themselves and their family. It is a time of coming to grips with why the student needs to change.

Finding the motivation to change and getting ready to change are essential components of this passage. On a daily basis, the emphasis is on personal accountability and responsibility. Part of the process is to discover who they really are, to look for truth, and to develop personal integrity. Students then begin to explore possibilities within themselves.


Theme: Respect
Contemplation Stage of the Stages of Change

During this passage, students have the opportunity to explore and discover both strengths and weaknesses. The student is essentially learning the internal way of operating.

Here students begin to develop a sense of community along with an appreciation of parents and family. They are encouraged and invited to use a positive attitude to make every day a personal best. They are also taught that it is OK to ask for help, and that setting goals and planning ahead is the best way to get what they want in the future. Students begin to achieve a vision of what they are capable of being.


Journey Wilderness Therapy Theme: Trust
Preparation Stage of the Stages of Change Theory

This is the passage where the rubber really meets the road. Students will be identifying specific behaviors and ways of thinking that keep them from developing their true potential. Here they will be learning new skills that they will use to change the things that get in their way of progress.

In this passage, students begin to glimpse their own potential as they become more self-sufficient, and here is where the true change of heart begins. By embracing the process of change, they are able to move forward and see they are changing.


Theme: Courage
Action Stage of the Stages of Change

In this passage, students take action. They implement the things they are learning, and practice skills. By now they have identified the things they want to change and have learned new ways to deal with problems to move forward in their lives.

embarkhikeAlso in this passage, students focus on their relationship with others, particularly their families. Students work on developing communication skills, re-establishing trust, experiencing empathy and increasing tolerance. Starting with their families, they learn how to express love and appreciation, they increase their understanding of their family, and, when necessary, they begin to repair and restore their core relationships.

This requires a heightened self-awareness and understanding of how they are perceived by others. They will also work on anger management and strengthen their appreciation of diversity. Listening skills are emphasized on this passage, as well as the impact that maintaining a positive attitude can have on all tasks, especially difficult ones. For students who have developed a negative group of friends at home, the reasons for this and a way out of it will be explored during this passage.


Obviously in a short-term program such as wilderness therapy, it is difficult to get a chance to work on maintaining changes. This is the aftercare component of the program which includes recommendations from our therapists and any mental health assessment or psychological evaluation as to what the next step after the wilderness program will be for each client. In this Stage of Change the client is able to maintain the changes made during the wilderness program in their next setting; home, transitional living, or residential treatment program.


Despite having the best intentions, it is nearly impossible to embark on a journey of self-discovery and change without making a few missed steps. A relapse can describe any time we lapse back into an old habit of behavior. The road to change is rarely a smooth or a perfect one. Relapse is a part of change and must be handled in that way.

More important than thinking we can always avoid relapse is having a way to make a relapse a learning experience. If we fail and try again, we will be stronger and better able to face future challenges.

We anticipate relapse during the program and after. So we help students by teaching them to develop a personalized Relapse Prevention Plan (for whatever behavior or thinking errors they are working on). We teach them how to use a relapse to continue on and strengthen their journey toward change and self-becoming.

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