4 Ways Wilderness Therapy Benefits Troubled Youths

Written by: Woodcreek Academy

There are many ways to approach the challenge of dealing with troubled youths. Some of the more traditional methods, like religious and military schools, don’t work for every individual. These approaches are time tested, that’s true, but they fail to take into account other elements that motivate bad behavior.

Outdoor troubled youth programs build on the foundations these schools have already laid, but provide something extra. A sense of teamwork, a commitment to something greater in service of others, and a sense of self-confidence you can’t earn through rigid discipline.


Outdoor boarding schools for troubled boys tend to emphasize team work. Boys sleep in the same halls, with others, and are made to rise together each day. They eat together, learn together, and focus on getting to know each other. Outings group boys together, so that each individual must bring his skill set to the group and rely on others to fill in the blanks. The team work built during these exercises teaches young boys how to deal with people that hold viewpoints they don’t always agree with, an important skill to prep for life.

Survival Skills

Part of the source of troubled youths is a feeling of inadequacy that stems from being unable to stand up for oneself. At outdoor therapy programs, boys learn to start fires and set traps to hunt. They learn how to use tools instead of weapons, and focus on building things rather than destroying them. They also learn basic skills, like scouting for camp and setting up shelters. These skills build a sense of self-worth as boys begin to learn they can rely on themselves.


Boys are also trained on how to act around each other. Each individual in camp comes from his own circumstances, so working together teaches youths how to remain honest and treat each other with respect. In juvenile hall, these interactions are forced under threat of lock down. In the woods, boys speak openly with one another and learn about each other through shared experiences.


All of this amounts to self-confidence for troubled boys, which is one of the largest sources of trouble-making behavior. Self-confidence comes from the knowledge that you are capable of taking care of yourself, and that you are comfortable in your own skin. It’s not a skill that can be taught, it’s part of life that must be learned. Unlike the standard boot camp for teenagers, self confidence isn’t a question of pain and discipline. It’s a matter of soul searching and learning something about yourself and the world around you.

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