Wilderness therapy programs for young adults
Wilderness therapy programs for young adults are behavioral treatment programs that can be used to address a variety of emotional and social issues. Combining evidence-based therapeutic approaches with the reflection and motivation that emerge naturally from time spent outdoors, wilderness therapy encourages teenagers and young adults to clearly examine their life choices and build a strong, resilient identity for themselves.
Research has uncovered a wide range of mental, social, and emotional benefits that young adults wilderness therapy can offer, including:
- Perspective: When you’re in the middle of a challenging time, removing yourself from the situation and thoughtfully considering your options can feel overwhelming. Through wilderness therapy, young adults are invited to step out of their day-to-day routine and imagine how their lives could change.
- Engagement: By mobilizing the body through physical challenges and the mind through problem-solving, wilderness therapy programs help young adults get back in touch with their immense potential.
- Community: For many young adults, even the thought of individual therapy sessions is troublesome. Wilderness therapies provide a welcome refuge from pressures and stress.
What better way to learn about the world—and your place in it—than exploring it firsthand? Through outdoor activities like hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, climbing, and kayaking, participants learn valuable hard and soft skills while building confidence in their own abilities.
There’s a social component as well, since most wilderness therapy programs for young adults place participants into teams or groups. Participants must work together to tackle problems, resolve conflicts, and reach consensus. Along the way, they learn to trust each other with their successes and struggles. The openness and vulnerability fostered during these interactions are immensely helpful to young adults who struggle with peer-to-peer interaction.
Who does wilderness therapy for young adults help?
Students come to Trails Momentum from a wide variety of backgrounds. Many don’t know how to cope with stressful circumstances or build healthy, resilient relationships with their family members and peers. Most have already been through clinical treatments for their mental, social, and emotional issues, often with limited success. Many wake up in the morning grappling with their purpose in life, lacking the motivation to pursue their passions, and doubting that they will ever succeed.
This failure to transition successfully into adult life is often accompanied by emotional and social “growing pains,” including:
- Substance Abuse: Many young adults dabble with drugs and alcohol, but these initial “experiments” can quickly spiral out of control. Dependence on addictive substances can rapidly and totally destabilize a young adult’s academic or professional life.
- Mood Disorders: Anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders don’t just make you feel sad or upset. They make even exciting activities like attending classes, pursuing job opportunities, or enjoying time with friends and family feel like an insurmountable task.
- Destructive Relationships: The stress from toxic friend groups or unhealthy family patterns makes many young adults feel lonely, unsupported, and rootless.
- Difficulty Transitioning: For some young adults, the “normal” milestones—like moving out of the house, furthering your education, or finding adult friend groups—don’t come easily. Sometimes it takes a radical perspective shift to understand their new place in the world.
These are just a few of the situations and struggles that young adults frequently bring to the Trails Momentum wilderness therapy program for young adults. Transitioning from the teen years into adulthood is never easy—but it’s a lot less intimidating with mentors and peers who are invested in your success.
How does Trails Momentum help young adults struggling to succeed?
As soon as they enter our beautiful, 500-acre Sky Valley base camp near Asheville, North Carolina, students begin a wild and adventurous journey outside their comfort zone. The Trails Momentum team prioritizes whole-person growth. Our evidence-based therapies focus on nurturing our students’ strengths while targeting the areas where they want to grow.
A Variety of Approaches
Every person is different, and our wilderness therapy program for young adults recognizes and values those differences rather than setting them aside. That’s why our therapists and counsellors create an individualized treatment plan for each student. Here are just a few of the innovative treatment approaches we utilize to help teens become their best selves:
- One-on-one therapy sessions
- Family therapy sessions
- Communication and life skills seminars
- Peer support sessions
- Educational, emotional, and psychological support groups
While many of the young adults we help have participated in one or more of these therapeutic programs before, the fusion of multiple approaches creates a uniquely nurturing, challenging environment. Before beginning treatment, our team sits down with each student to discuss their personal goals, explore the challenges they have faced, and celebrate the success they have already achieved. These discussions remind students of their goals while building a strong, resilient foundation for future success.
Some residential treatment programs neglect the connection between parents and children during their stay, but our therapeutic team believes that the family is our strongest and most enduring support system.
Although we encourage students to take a break from the pressures and stresses of day-to-day life, we don’t allow them to disconnect from their relationships back home. In fact, Trails Momentum makes family involvement the cornerstone of our therapeutic approach. Here are just a few of the steps that families take during our program:
- Set practical, achievable goals
- Foster mutual trust, openness, and respect
- Learn new strategies for communicating with each other
- Develop a more honest, compassionate relationship
Through these activities, our team helps families recognize the values they have in common, the goals they’re working toward together, and the love they feel toward each other.
Academic Options at Trails Momentum
Some residential treatment programs let academics fall by the wayside, which can jeopardize a young adult’s long-term flourishing. At the Trails Momentum wilderness therapy program for young adults, nature is our classroom! Students explore science in backcountry rivers and trails, mathematics in the tutelage of experienced instructors, and other subjects
Since every student’s academic path looks a little different, Trails Momentum participants can choose between three distinct, personalized priority tracks:
- Working toward high school graduation
- Preparing to take the GED or the HiSET
- Earning transferrable college credits
No matter the path they choose, each student will learn valuable, real-life skills that will stay with them long after they leave the wilderness therapy program:
- Time Management: By planning adventure itineraries and writing detailed packing lists, students learn to allocate their time efficiently and effectively—a skill that comes in handy at school, work, and home.
- Problem Solving: Nature has a way of frustrating even the best-laid plans, so our students learn to plan attentively and respond to challenges as they emerge.
- Interpersonal Communication: Students work collaboratively to address problems and find solutions. Resolving these issues often requires compromise, active listening, and the exercise of empathy and compassion.
- Mindful Practices: Awareness of yourself and your surroundings is the key to staying focused and achieving success.
With the support of their peers, the inspiration of their surroundings, and the encouragement of our expert tutors, young adults in our wilderness therapy program become the best—and smartest—versions of themselves.
Adventure Programming For Struggling Young Adults
Basic survival and wilderness skills form the core of our adventure programming. Learning how to navigate through the backcountry, paddle down a rushing river, or scale a steep rock face doesn’t just make young adults smarter and stronger. It also builds their confidence in their own abilities and
Getting out of the house, away from screens, and into the great outdoors bring about a radical change in a young adult’s attitude toward themselves and their relationships.
Students at Trails Momentum explore the streams, trails, and fields of the stunningly beautiful North Carolina backcountry. They hone their outdoor skills, build trust in their teammates, and learn from our experienced adventure mentors through:
- River rafting
- Hiking and backpacking
- Fly fishing
- Mountain biking
- Ropes course
- Primitive skills (such as fire- and shelter-building, camp cooking, and wilderness navigation)
Every student in our wilderness therapy for young adults program will discover their own strength and skill, no matter their physical fitness level or previous outdoor experience. Our participants also use valuable, accessible mindfulness activities to discover the resilience and flexibility hidden within themselves. Some of these exercises include:
Additional classes in domestic skills—such as gardening, first aid, cooking, nutrition, and health sciences—round out our wilderness therapy program for young adults. These skills not only give students a practical pathway back into the “real world,” but also offer a welcome moment of peacefulness and contemplation during busy days.