Wilderness Therapy at BlueFire:

“The lack of power to take joy in outdoor nature is as real a misfortune as the lack of power to take joy in books." –Theodore Roosevelt

BlueFire Wilderness Therapy combines adventure experiences with time at base camp to help teens confront fears and overcome obstacles, in order to build confidence and be better equipped to handle problems. Activities that are offered at BlueFire include: rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, canoeing, yoga, kayaking, equine therapy, camping, backpacking, orienteering, paddle boarding, cross country skiing and snow shoeing. The qualified, experienced staff at BlueFire continually provides a structured, safe environment for students to reflect and grow. A family systems model ensures the parents, along with the teenager, are being equipped to manage the child’s behavior, through weekly communication with the child, family therapy video conferences and an in-person parent program. wilderness therapy

At BlueFire, teens go on multi-day wilderness trek experiences where they evaluate emotional and behavioral reactions to those around them. Skills learned during this experience are transferable to everyday life long after teens leave BlueFire.

Benefits of BlueFire Wilderness Therapy

Wilderness therapy can provide a life changing experience for many teens struggling with emotional and behavioral difficulties. The benefits wilderness therapy can provide are numerous. They include:

  1. Learning useful skills: When teens are out on a wilderness expedition, teens learn practical skills such as  cooking, cleaning, building living structures, building and maintaining a fire. These skills can be utilized in many areas of their lives after they leave BlueFire wilderness.
  2. Building self confidence: While children learn valuable skills and become responsible for a variety of tasks, often they feel a boost in self confidence. Once kids know they are capable of something they never believed they could previously do, they feel more confident to take on other responsibilities. This can drastically change the way they see the world and those around them for the positive.
  3. Individualized therapy plan: Wilderness therapy offers struggling teens individualized therapy plans tailor-made to their therapeutic needs. At BlueFire Wilderness, the individual needs of clients are met by experienced treatment professionals.
  4. Free of temptations: Out in the wilderness, your child will be far away from their familiar world. Removed from temptations that once drove their negative behavior, clients are able to look inwards and develop coping skills.

Wilderness Therapy Defined

“I had some terrific experiences in the wilderness … I require it to sustain life.” –John Krakauer, Into the Wild

Wilderness therapy uses guided expeditions, coupled with therapeutic processes, as a means of intervention in teens with emotional or behavioral problems. Wilderness therapy provides a unique environment that eliminates distractions, promotes new behaviors and encourages personal development. The natural aspects of a wilderness therapy program, allow teens the opportunity to develop hard skills, such as fire building and communication with peers, while working on emotional, psychological and behavioral growth. 

In a wilderness environment, teens experience natural consequences for their actions. For example, if a teen does not have the foresight to put on a winter jacket when it's going to be cold outside, they will have to face the consequences of their actions and be cold during the day. Through these experiences, teens learn that there are unwritten rules for how they should behave in order to be comfortable in a wilderness environment. These rules help foster a sense of responsibility, compassion, and accountability that can't be replicated in a therapeutic environment other than a wilderness therapy program.  

Research

According to a study titled “Perspectives on the wilderness therapy process and its relation to outcome” in Child and Youth Care Forum, physical exercise and hiking, as well as primitive wilderness living, peer feedback facilitated by group counseling sessions and the therapeutic relationship established with wilderness guides and therapists are key change agents for adolescents.

Results of another study titled “Two Years Later: A Qualitative Assessment of Youth Well-Being and the Role of Aftercare in Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Treatment” in Child and Youth Care Forum, found that 95 percent of youth, who participated in a 50-day outdoor behavioral healthcare treatment program that utilized wilderness therapy, perceived their treatment as effective. The majority of those youth were also doing well in school with improved family communication. This treatment was also perceived as being a necessary and effective step in helping youths address, and eventually overcome, emotional and psychological issues that were driving destructive behavior prior to treatment.

One study in the Journal of Experiential Education found that wilderness therapy helps reduce the effects of depression, impulsivity, and a teen's  proneness to use substances.

Contemporary Articles

In January 2015, climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, completed an unfathomable quest after 19 days – climbing Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan’s Dawn Wall, which is considered, by many, the most challenging climb in the world.

It was the first ascent of the 3,000-foot Dawn Wall in a single expedition with the use of only hands and feet to pull the climbers up. Ropes were utilized solely for safety devices.

When asked what inspired the climbers, Caldwell responded, “I think the larger audience’s conception is that we’re thrill seekers out there for an adrenaline rush. We really aren’t at all. It’s about spending our lives in these beautiful places and forming these incredible bonds … For me, I love to dream big, and I love to find ways to be a bit of an explorer.”  

In "What I Learned on A Six Month Hike Through The Appalachian Trail", Allie Ghaman describes the incredible journey she experienced as she hiked across the Appalachian Trail. On her hike, she was able to free herself of feelings of self consciousness. Through the hike, she forged strong friendships, braved terrible weather patterns, and even made it through a bee attach in one piece. The experience in the wilderness for her was life-changing, just like wilderness therapy is for struggling teens.

Sources

http://www.crchealth.com/find-a-treatment-center/struggling-youth-programs/help/wilderness/

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/wilderness

http://www.nps.gov/thro/learn/historyculture/theodore-roosevelt-quotes.html

The Effects of Wilderness Therapy on the Clinical Concerns (on Axes I, II, and IV) of Troubled Adolescents

“Two Years Later: A Qualitative Assessment of Youth Well-Being and the Role of Aftercare in Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Treatment”

“Perspectives on the wilderness therapy process and its relation to outcome”

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BlueFire Wilderness Therapy helps teens from:

Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, HawaiiIowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts,Michigan, Minnesota, MississippiMissouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina,North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont,Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

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