Why Wilderness Programs for Addiction Treatment Produce Results

wilderness for addiction therapy

Drug and alcohol addiction treatment has come a long way over the past few decades. As our understanding of the disease of addiction has grown and research has led to innovative and effective wilderness therapy. If you are unfamiliar with what wilderness therapy is and how it can benefit those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, this article will help give you a basic understanding of this drug treatment option.

What Are Wilderness Programs for Addiction Treatment?

Wilderness programs for addiction treatment had its roots in the 1970’s, but was not widely popular or accepted among the treatment community at that time. Many wilderness-based programs at that time were thrown together, lacked qualified counselors and generally were not covered under insurance. The concept of wilderness therapy for substance abuse and mental illness started to gain momentum in the mid-1990’s when effective and proven substance abuse treatment therapies became the backbone of these programs.

Wilderness programs for addiction treatment are most commonly used for adolescents and young adults who are struggling with substance abuse and may not respond to treatment in a more traditional setting. Drug and alcohol abuse among adolescents in the United States has long been a concern. According to data compiled for the Monitoring the Future Survey for the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • Over one-third of all 12th graders has tried marijuana in the past month.
  • Nearly four in ten 12th graders have drank alcohol in the last 30 days.
  • The use of prescription drugs by adolescents for recreational use has risen dramatically.

An increasing number of parents are turning to alternative treatment options like wilderness therapy to help their children and the family itself heal from the devastating effects of addiction.

How Are Wilderness Drug Treatment Programs Structured?

At the foundation of all wilderness drug addiction programs is the same counseling and therapy practices that are used at traditional treatment facilities. These programs are run, maintained and supervised by counselors and therapists who have Master’s degrees and state certification in substance abuse treatment and counseling. As with other treatment programs, therapists and counselors work to create individualized treatment plans that focus on the specific needs of each client.

Treatment professionals at the program will meet with and assess each client, determining what they believe to be the best plan of action to help this person overcome their substance abuse, mental health, and other issues. A proper assessment ensures that clients are placed with therapists and peers who can relate to their issues.

The added element of wilderness therapy is the setting for treatment is the great and wild outdoors. Patients in these programs spend the majority of their days outdoors, doing challenging and character-building activities. These activities can include learning how to build shelter, make fire, learning to forage for food and other survival skills. These skills help those going through wilderness therapy develop self-confidence, self-worth, and self-control.

How Long Do Wilderness Treatment Programs Last?

In general, there are two options that are available for those seeking wilderness treatment. The first option is what is called a contained system where patients and counselors engage in a three-week session where they stay together for an “expedition” type of trip. The second option is called the continuous flow system option and can last for up to 8 weeks. In this option, new clients are introduced to the program as it progresses and counselors and other leaders are rotated in and out as needed. No matter the duration of the program, the same skills and treatment options are offered in full.

girl sitting on top of mountain

How Wilderness Therapy is Effective in Helping Addicts Overcome Their Substance Abuse Issues

Wilderness addiction therapy is a unique type of treatment for adolescents who are struggling with substance abuse issues as well as mental health issues. It helps adolescents to grow in healthy ways both physically and mentally, to become more independent and self-aware, and to learn how to better work with others. In addition to having to provide an individualized plan of treatment and recovery that best suits each client and providing them with the best chance of long-term recovery, wilderness therapy for substance abuse works by providing the following:

  • Improve and nurture physical health, which can help mental health and help clients avoid substance abuse.
  • Make new and productive relationships and connections
  • Develop healthier thinking and behavioral patterns
  • Helps those in treatment look at their previous environment in a new light. By being removed from that environment, it fosters healing and growth.
  • The family can be involved directly in the treatment and healing process.

Will Insurance Cover Wilderness Addiction Treatment?

At this time, not maybe insurance providers cover the cost of this type of therapy. However, because this form of treatment is gaining acceptance and more families are pursuing wilderness therapy, many of these facilities are pushing for accreditation and are working with insurance companies. To see if a wilderness treatment program will be covered under your insurance, contact your insurance carrier.

Need More Information on Wilderness Therapy or Other Forms of Therapy?

If you are looking for drug treatment for yourself or a loved one, there are a myriad of options that are available to you. However, you may be unsure of what these options entail or what may be the best fit. You can turn to Recovery Hub for comprehensive information and resources regarding all treatment options. If you have any further questions, please call us toll-free 888-220-4352 and let us help you find the treatment you need.

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