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Wilderness therapy becomes a catalyst for family cohesion and intimacy, and communication facilitated by the program is a big part of it. Parents and children report feeling closer to each other during and after the wilderness experience. Although the journey that led to an out-of-home placement was not anticipated, families express gratitude and joy after the experience, stating the belief that all families and children would benefit from a wilderness therapy experience.
Each week our therapists have hour-long phone calls with parents to discuss the student’s week, clinical treatment advances, and to review the family’s work on their assignments. Email and cell phone access to the child’s therapist ensures that questions and struggles are handled in a timely and professional manner. The therapists communicate with the families Educational Consultant or referral source so they can stay current with the child’s response to treatment and progress in the field, and so the therapist can be a part of planning the next step for the child. Therapists also communicate with home therapists and future therapists to ensure an effective continuum of care.
As appropriate, enrolling families will receive a call from a former Second Nature family who will serve as a mentor, seeking to “give back” by providing parent-to-parent support and leadership. These mentors volunteer to help new families adjust to challenges throughout the journey. Their input to the new family can be a soothing and helpful aid as they embark on their journey
Letter writing between students and their families can facilitate healing. Weekly letters between students and families begin a process of expressing feelings and thoughts and seeking to understand each other. The student writes a letter of accountability a few weeks into the process, which opens the door for awareness and understanding and honesty, which sets the stage for the rest of their stay. Students learn to look at and own their part in how things were, rather than blaming others for their situation, and once someone takes responsibility for their actions they realize they alone can change them and create different outcomes for themselves. This moves the relationship between parents and child into a healthier realm where real connection and progress can be made.