Wilderness Programs

Welcome to blueFire! We are a premier wilderness therapy program for teens and young adults struggling with emotional, social and behavioral challenges. Our youth program works with clients aged 11-17 from all over the country, and are located not far from Boise, Idaho. Our comprehensive outdoor therapy adventure experience is aimed at helping the entire family, and combines clinical expertise, adventure experiences, academic assessments and a family systems approach in a private-pay model.

We're passionate about fostering positive change in the lives of our clients, and we're committed to supporting them every step of the way. Thank you for considering blueFire as a partner on the journey towards a brighter future.

Start your journey today

Located outside Boise, Idaho, BlueFire is one of the leading wilderness programs for teens. Not only does BlueFire have staff with years of experience and cutting-edge facilities that meet your child’s needs, but it utilizes a family-based approach that differentiates the program from any other. Keeping in touch with the family while the client is undergoing therapy is vital to the healing process: after all, a person cannot be expected to return from the wilderness journey into the same environment as before. BlueFire works closely with a client’s family in order to facilitate change. 

Working with the parents isn’t the only aspect of the relationship between BlueFire and a client’s family. BlueFire lets parents follow their child’s healing journey with frequent updates, video journals, and conference calls. The parents are never out of the loop with frequent updates about the child’s progress.

There are many types of mental troubles. Sometimes, they take the shape of a mental illness, such as depression or bipolar disorder. Other times, they’re a response to trauma. Yet other times, they’re a result of simply needing a break. The types of mental struggles are endless – as are the causes. Consequently, utilizing a single approach to therapy is akin to trying to push a square peg in a round hole. This is where wilderness programs come in.

At BlueFire wilderness program, every child – or “client”, as they are referred to at BlueFire – is different. A variety of approaches (including wilderness therapy, adventure-based therapy, and equine therapy) is utilized to both help repair the family and to create an individualized treatment that best suits a struggling teen.

The activities offered at BlueFire are more than therapy: they are fun and educational. For instance, adventure-based therapy might include rock climbing, camping or mountain biking. Aside from being enjoyable, these experiences simultaneously teach self-reliance and teamwork. By applying the skills learned in a wilderness program, a troubled teen improves their well-being in the outside world.

Benefits of Choosing BlueFire over other wilderness programs

There are numerous reasons to choose wilderness programs to assist struggling teens. For one, BlueFire truly can help. Highly-trained professionals guide the various activities; individual, group, and family therapies are part of the healing process. At a wilderness treatment center, a child is genuinely cared for – everyone at a wilderness program is part of a community. 

Another key factor is respect. Only too many types of therapy are based in treating a client as a victim that needs to be fixed. At BlueFire, a child is shown the respect they deserve. Instead of focusing on the failings of the past, the program is centered on making your child better for the future. Believing in a child’s strengths and promoting positive behavior is at the heart of the wilderness approach. A child’s uniqueness is precious. Clients at BlueFire are in need of a helping hand to guide them onto a healthy path rather than a system that tries to dehumanize them.

BlueFire addresses a variety of struggles that teens encounter. There is no problem too small for the wilderness approach! The troubles commonly treated by wilderness programs like BlueFire include depression, anxiety, substance use and addiction, eating issues, personality disorders, defiant behavior, mood or anger problems, low self-esteem, school refusal, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among many others.

In fact, the wilderness approach can be useful even if a child doesn’t have an official diagnosis. Mental illness, in many cases, is undiagnosed – for example, statistics show that almost half of all depression cases go untreated. In other situations, a child may exhibit warning signs without them qualifying as one mental disorder or another. Habitual lying and reckless actions, for example, may be the beginning of a dangerous slope. In cases like this, acting early is crucial, since the earlier the behavior is caught, the easier it is to correct.

Wilderness Programs in the Media

Wilderness therapy of today is very different from the wilderness therapy of even twenty years ago. As a matter of fact, the only similarity they share is the name.

Previously, wilderness therapy was equivalent to a teen boot camp – although “therapy” was mentioned, it was never the goal. These programs bordered on (or, in many cases, crossed into) abuse. Today, the wilderness approach is a recognized form of therapy; the bad reputation of the past is slowly but surely disappearing. The New York Times, for instance, wrote, “[o]f the dozen parents interviewed for this article, almost all said that without the [wilderness programs], their teenagers might have ended up in prison -- or, worse, dead.” The article continues on to discuss a troubled teen who, after a stay at a residential treatment program, was accepted in the University of Chicago.

As of today, the media is tentatively beginning to accept the new nature of wilderness therapy. The fact that the therapy has reinvented itself plays a crucial role in many reports. Before, it was marginally better than prison; today, it’s closer to camping.


What is Wilderness Therapy? http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/wrc/Pdf/jeev24-2.pdf Russell, Keith C

A work from the University of Idaho explores the various definitions and uses of the term “wilderness therapy”. Much like the media, the paper discusses the misuse of the term by older and boot camp-like programs. However, it praises the many virtues that the approach can offer when used correctly (as in the treatment centers of today, such as BlueFire). In the paper’s own words, “[t]he ultimate goal in the field of wilderness therapy will continue to be improved standards of care, increased treatment availability, enhanced treatment effectiveness, and expanded understanding of what wilderness therapy is, and for whom the intervention may be most appropriate”.

Therapy Gone Wild http://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/09/therapy-wild.aspx DeAngelis, Tori

An article from the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology also discusses the benefits of true wilderness therapy programs – “there is no doubt that the combination of being in a beautiful natural setting and working on your issues with highly trained professionals is a winning one that more psychologists should consider exploring.”








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