He's agreed to try wilderness....

Discussion in 'Substance Abuse' started by recovering doormat, Dec 9, 2008.

  1. recovering doormat

    recovering doormat Lapsed CDer

    Had a nice talk with-difficult child 2 today re: what is going to happen within the next two weeks if he doesn't cooperate. He said he is willing to attend a wilderness program an ed consulted recommended to me. It's in the Adirondacks. Camping outdoors.

    Well, at least the black bears are hibernating...
  2. Rotsne

    Rotsne Banned

    You have to be careful about wilderness therapy. In this region you mention it is very easy to get hurt. A quick search revealed:

    Search for the headline: Rangers rescue clients from troubled teen programs. I believe that this article is about a this wilderness program I found in a database.

    Second of all a huge part of teens dying in various program do die in wilderness programs. A program in Oregon lost 3 and they are still in business. Here is two pages about deaths in programs.

    If I was in this situation, I would choose one where I could join them on the hike whenever I felt that something should be checked out. I know a few where they operate with an open door policy.

    Now where he had chosen it, I would recommend you to drive him to it rather than use escorts firms regardless of what the program states. They are going to strip search him and some places they are even trying to probe if he hides something in a very private place. During such a stressful moment your support would be very good for him.
  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    in my opinion it can be a good experience for any child, but it won't change anything. I never understood the theory behind it changing people. I could be wrong, but I don't know anyone who was any better because they went. But I hope it works for your child. Good luck!
  4. Rotsne

    Rotsne Banned

    I have studied it because we have shorter versions here in Europe with good results, however after Cartisano modernized the industry in 1980's the European and American version of wilderness therapy became very different.

    First of all European wilderness therapy are voluntary and targeted against youth with low self-esteem.

    But here is the general phase-system in US programs:

    1) Phase one is adjustment. Because a lot of programs allow transport by firms to the program and secrecy regarding the admission time, a lot of teenagers are taken from their bed during the night by private transport firms. Very often we are taking about clients, who have not been through the court system as most of you here, so those youth have no idea why their parent took such an extreme messure. So the first 2-3 days are going with adjustment. We are talking toilet, hygiene etc and overcoming the shock. Add to the shock strip search including probe inside.

    2) Phase two is entering the group. There are various rituals for that. The group dynamic is very important. Most modern programs mix groups with old and new students, so the newcomers can learn from the more experience.

    3) Phase three is working with group and survive. Because wilderness is very real, failure to dry clothes means wet clothes the next day and possible illness. Back home when they dont clean their clothes or dont give it to you to wash, you get their clothes and wash it. There is no consequence at home. In the wilderness the response comes at once. Take food also. If they are picky at home, you give in and serve something else. In the wilderness they starve. The staff remove something from the food like salt etc., so the clients become more tired and their health out of balance so they are not to tempted to run away. Unfortunately some kids are so stubborn so they ignore their health. That's why some dies. Another problem is that the kids would complain about sore feet etc. But sometime they have infections and because they complain all the time the staff could see it as manipulation. In Colorado a boy died after his foot did rot away. It took him a week.

    4) The best programs include a solo phase where the youth are alone for 24-48 hours, so they can find peace and think about the future.

    5) Half of the program then turn to the European approach with a lot of exercises to improve the self-etsteem by the kids. We are talking about activities like rock-climbing, gorge jumping and high rope courses. It is about pushing your self pass those limits you thought you had.

    6) The last leg is you as a parent camping out in the wilderness with your child and have some family therapy sessions. Here your child is the parent because you have to rely to his or her skill in order to avoid starving. Listen to your child and enjoy that you can learn something new. Of course while it is not very comfy it is not by any means what he or her went through. You know when you are leaving. You know why you came. They didn't know either.

    Wilderness works because the nature punish lazyness, but it is not without risk. Does it last?

    Yes, if the youth knows up front why he or her is going and what the purpose is. Otherwise espect a honeymoon (3 months and then all is back as it was before).

    I would do it anytime with my child if drugs came into the picture, BUT...

    I will take three weeks off and go with him or her along the hikes. As a parent who has lived all my life with my children, I know when I am played and when I just have to clean those wounds before they become infected.

    Would it be hurt, be cold or even damn hard all the way? Yes, of course it would, but I can see from every single statement made on this message board that I would suffer as bad if I stayed home. Parenting and worrying don't stop just because your child is with other people at a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) or a wilderness program.

    Good luck with the wilderness. It could benefit him so much. But use the time until enrollment sitting down and talk about goals and go with him as far as possible until he is ready to walk the first steps down to his group.
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Roste. That is very interesting. However, I am wondering...what is this supposed to accomplish long-term? in my opinion, and I'm a layman, we pay an awful lot of money for these programs and the children are the same kids when they come back. What is the theory behind this? I personally think it would be better to sink money into an Residential Treatment Center (RTC). Why chose this? You know more about it than me and now you got my curiosity up. It would not have cured my daughter of using drugs for sure. She would have probably gotten even more hostile and down it more when she got home. Is the discomfort supposed to make the kid see that he had it good? Ugh, that wouldn't have worked for my kid either...lol. Also, in the US if you take two weeks off of work, you don't get paid. So most who work could not take off any time to go with their kids. The government is not that involved in our lives and they don't pay us if we don't go to work...
  6. dadside

    dadside New Member

    My son attended a wilderness program - voluntarily. He hit a point in his life when he asked for help, and wilderness was a key part of what we offered. It unquestionably helped him change his life for the better. His experience was not like the sort of "picture" others may present. He was with the assigned group in the "field" (at this program, it was a desert) the same day he arrived.

    A lot of things happen at good wilderness programs. There is a fairly low staff-student ratio, perhaps around 1:3 and at commonly at least two staff per group. Food is balanced and nutritious. While hiking, they may stop to discuss any issues that arise during the day. My son had journals to keep, and a number of therapeutic assignments to work on each week. Also, an experienced psychologist met with each participant in the field weekly. (At least one program has (had?) a trained therapist always with each group.)

    The experience does a lot of things. It removes participants from "old familiar" environments and associated distractions, letting them focus on themselves. The time away from drugs lets the body clean itself - helped by the food provided. Self esteem grows simply from the physical accomplishments -- such as when my son "three peaked", climbing three mountain peaks in a day (or was it two days? - I wasn't there), and better self-esteem helps them resist less-desirable activities to "escape". Also, cause-and-effect is clearly seen as he had to prepare his own sleeping area, cook his own meals, or be uncomfortable and have cold (even uncooked) food, including granola, etc.

    As a side note - his "gear" from wilderness later served him on weekends when he was away at college, where got friends into hiking, camping etc.

    Most of the wilderness programs are expensive, and they may not be for everybody. The program didn't change my son. Rather, he changed himself. What he learned and realized from the guided experience in the wilderness program he chose to attend (I gave him a short list) gave him greater knowledge and understanding of life and himself, and reason to change. Neither he nor I will say his life has been exemplary since then, but he is doing "OK" and keeps moving in the right direction.
  7. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Thanks, dadfree. That's what I figured. If somebody is ready to change, and wants to change, an experience like that could help (although I think cheaper ones also can). If the person isn't ready to change in my opinion they won't change, despite if the program is good or not. My daughter also changed her life, but she did it without any program at all. She was sent away from our state and her dysfunctional friends and immediately tried to do what she'd tried so many times at our home--to stop using drugs and get on the right track. But it came from within her...she had high motivation. I think that's the key. If my daughter had gone to a wilderness camp she would have been good for a while, but, if she'd come back to the same old town, with the same old friends pushing her, I don't think it would have had a long term effect. She really needed to get away. Druggie friends can be very persistent and...very evil. She needed to start over where nobody knew her.
  8. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    What interesting posts! I have no experience with the wilderness programs; however, we had a CD member for years who was whisked away as a teen and strongly advocates for increased exposure of the program faults. Based solely on my reading I would assume that most programs "far from home" are potentially a danger.

    Some of the problems of making program choices I am familiar with via personal experience. I selected a s.a. program for easy child/difficult child based on very strong recommendations from people in our area who had first hand knowledge of the program as supervising Managers of various youth
    programs. Turned out it was a mistake. My teen learned alot in that program...from peers with vastly different life experiences AND from the staff who were supervising between 5 PM and 8 AM once the qualified
    counselors left for the day. The program which once was considered top quality had in a matter of less than two years started sliding down the tube. Had my teen not been close enough to home for me to visit in person weekly...I would likely not have known the truth.

    Choosing what is best when you are emotionally spent and fearful for your childs survival is mindboggling. Personally I think alot of luck is involved and any program "out of view" would have to extraordinary. Of course, the teen who wants to change has a far greater chance of success. My
    teen fell "in the middle". He knew he had addiction problems and he was willing to give the programs a shot because we thought it was best.
    Sadly, as many of you know, he will likely never achieve his personal best because he has an addictive personality.

    Every day I hope that each of the CD families find the right help. DDD
  9. recovering doormat

    recovering doormat Lapsed CDer

    I have to tell you, I have been very slow to come around to the idea that I could send my baby to a wilderness program. I did a lot of internet research and there are plenty of horror stories, particularly from the 1990's when these teen boot camps and "emotional growth" academies sprang up like toadstools after a rain. The worst are located outside the US and operate like Guantanamo's.

    However, the place I am thinking of came highly recommended from an educational consultant I trust. While I was doing my due diligence online, I visited all the forums for kids who believe these schools and outdoor programs ruined their lives, and even exchanged emails with a few kids on a Facebook group (where they related their experiences and compared notes). One young man went to the same wilderness program followed by an emotional growth school (glorified 12 step program run by former addicts). He said if I chose to do the same route, that he got a lot out of this wilderness program but that the behavior modification techniques of the school just made him angry.

    Its so hard: you don't really know what is a good program until you're in it, and even the good programs can't promise results, it's up to the kid. My son is only going to stay 30 days, if he goes at all. What it will do is tell us what is the next best step for him to help him recover.

    This is one of the better run programs and safety seems to come first. They don't go out hiking if it's blizzarding, but he will be uncomfortable. But you know what, he needs a good shock to his system. He will not be able to manipulate Mother Nature.
  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Have you considered RTCs? in my opinion more kids get results there, and they are longer term...there is more time to work on the problem and have the kid be out of circulation of his friends. Of course, some RTCs have drugs and aren't good. In the end, it really is up to the kid. But I hate for people to bankrupt themselves for gimmick programs that have no guarantee of changing anything....(((hugs))) and luck.
  11. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    It sounds like you have carefully looked into this. If it is something he is willing to do, well, almost anything can help if someone is willing.

    I will pray that he changes during this experience and comes back a healthier young man determined to stay off drugs. I think NA or AA meetings 3-7 times a week should be a condition of his coming home though. From experience with my bro - no one recovers and STAYS recovered with-o support. Just a suggestion.

    IF he is on any medications other than pot, what medical facilities are available to detox him? coming off drugs can be VERY dangerous and there should be medical personnel available and medical facilities close by to handle any problems. Even coming off alcohol can require medical attention for some people.

    Hugs, I know this is hard.
  12. janebrain

    janebrain New Member

    my dtr was at an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) in Utah and many of the kids there had first been to a wilderness program. I think it often is used that way--a way to get help fast and then on to an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) for longer term help. My dtr did very well in her Residential Treatment Center (RTC)--I think the structure and immersion in a healthy environment was very beneficial. But she couldn't sustain it once she left the safety of the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) and came home. I think the relapse rate is quite high with these programs but at least they are given the tools they need and the hope is they will use them at some point in their lives.

    Good luck!

  13. dadside

    dadside New Member

    I think that 30 days in any program away from home would satisfy many or most courts threatening to send a teen - or young adult - to jail for behavior related to drug or alcohol usage. I also understand that many 30-day programs are geared to meeting a common court standard of that many days, and that reuse/relapse rates are very high at around 80%. That goes for wilderness, "re-hab", whatever. They may be better than jail, but I believe there are better uses for the money cost of only 30-days of most wilderness programs. Paying for a stay-until-done wilderness program is something else, and can be worthwhile. (There is a fine 4-week wilderness program for early/mild cases, but that doesn't seem at issue here.)

    Going just by what is in this "thread", I'd suggest: saving a good part of the expense by having him attend an in-patient rahab for the 30-days; or spending around as much as 30-days wilderness for a longer in-patient re-hab; or sending him to a longer-term therapeutic boarding school. The last approach would be more costly (especially if preceeded by wilderness), but it may be possible to get third-party funding. Frankly, I doubt that only 30 days of anything would do much real good.

    Finally -- no program will, of itself, be enough to effect "permanent" change. Returning home to the same environment, same temptations, same people, same other things, makes a high risk of return to the same behavior. His family would need counseling and support to help him, and he'd need some level of continuing support.
  14. Rotsne

    Rotsne Banned

    Because he agreed to enter the wilderness himself and the program is time-limited there is a potential for success.

    But remember that Bob Bacon went before congress because his son died as one of many.

    After this death and a couple more one state (Utah) introduced laws to protect youth in wilderness programs. But the latest death in Utah happened in 2007 where a youth who was sent out there due to depression caused by the death of his brother committed suicide.

    But even with these death, I believe that wilderness therapy works, but the purpose of the stay has to be planned ahead. If Residential Treatment Center (RTC) is the next step, then inform the teen in advance and adjust the program to that. Many of the adolescents in the program deliver a hard work during the wilderness program and then they are sent to a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) just to start over.

    Also as pointed out in previous posts even the best wilderness programs in the world cannot fix the problem. Every change has to come from inside the teen himself. In Denmark they have statistic over almost every youth because it is normal for more than 90% to attend some kind of full time care before school.

    Even the worse teens grows up. For females they generally begin to think about family once they turn 18. For boys they are some 5-7 years slower. It doesn't matter how youth try to correct them. They just grow up. In the recent years many girls are injected with a P-stick, which is a 2 cm. long stick which are sending out hormone and prevent pregnancy for 3 years. Some girls are given one aged 12.

    If I had a teen, who wanted to do a wilderness program, I would stay until they had done the search for contrabands, which is very stressful if they like mine have not undressed themselves in front of strangers. The intake process is everything. One other thing I would take of in advance would be to agree on a stop word. A fake aunt or something, which I would not would be a cry for help. Sometimes the staff would order a rewrite if the letter is too negative. How would they communicate if they are mistreated?

    Having said that I hope that this boy will make it and benefit from it. I would pray for him.
  15. galadriel

    galadriel Guest

    We looked into that one in the mountains of NY too. We could not afford it, but the staff are all well qualified and I would have sent my kid if i had the bucks. Of course, it was May when I looked into it!

    In the meantime we have hit a better combo of medications... after a medication wash, lithium and a light dose of Adderall seems to be a real lifesaver for us, and the difficult child is back to more like the boy I remember! He is staying away from the weed because their favorite on line game came out with an expansion and it's all new again. (Thank you Blizzard software co, who would ever think I'd be saying that!)

    Rotsne is right, if you can hang in and keep them out of legal trouble (did I mention we just got our bail back? :faint:) they will mature. Of course, this could be the calm before the next storm.
  16. jcam

    jcam New Member

    My Son did a 30 day Outward Bound program- I thought it was really well run, and a great experience for him but it did not "correct" all of the underlying issues like drugs (pot) and school performance.