Wilderness Programs for a Struggling Child

Psychiatry doesn’t work well for behavioral problems. In the old days, psychotherapy was the primary treatment, but it didn’t help much. You mostly hoped the kid’s behavior would improve with age before he got into too much trouble (as happened two thirds of the time).

Now, antipsychotics have become the most commonly used psychiatric treatment (especially for poor kids), even though the indications are unclear and the risks considerable. Antipsychotics cause obesity and raise the risk of diabetes, heart disease and a shortened life expectancy.

When the behavioral transgressions are severe, the kid may even wind up in juvenile detention-which usually makes the delinquency much worse.

The Army used to help straighten out misbehaving teenagers, but is less available now that the military services have become more selective.

Wilderness programs are a useful last resort that may save the day when all else has failed. Cynthia Cohen, M.S.P.H., can describe the format from two perspectives: mother and consultant (Director of Pathway Partners, New York and Massachusetts). Ms Cohen writes:

“A wilderness therapy program gave my son his life back. Although I had worked in mental health and education. I felt helpless and overwhelmed when Adam, at 15, was anxious and depressed, quitting things, unmotivated, and making bad choices. Nothing worked- therapy, contracts, consequences, tutoring. Finally, after agonizing for a year, his father and I sent him to a therapeutic wilderness program.

It worked wonders. After a couple of weeks, he began to be accountable and found new ways of thinking about himself. Our whole family experienced life changing effects.

Adam is now a thriving college student — interesting, caring, hard working, social and fun loving, close to his friends and our family. We even work as educational consultants together, assessing programs and guiding families.

What makes wilderness work? Nature is the consummate teacher. It —> Read More