September 25, 2019

Should I Pull My Child Out of School For Wilderness Therapy?

Seeing your child struggle with behavioral issues, substance abuse, and addiction can be a heartbreaking and stressful experience. There are so many different treatment alternatives, that it can be overwhelming to decide what the best and most effective way to help your child can be. 

If you choose wilderness therapy as your treatment approach you may be grappling with the decision of whether to send your child during the school year or wait until summer vacation. Of course, there’s not a right or wrong answer, and ultimately the choice is up to you. 

Let’s look into the common questions and concerns that parents have when making this decision.



Will my child fall behind on their studies?

The most common concern that parents have when deciding on whether to pull their child out of school for wilderness therapy is that they will fall behind on their schooling and potentially be held back. While this is a valid concern, often times the child is already behind on their coursework or just barely scraping by. In such cases, it’s important to drive home the idea that the state of their mental health is more important, and that it’s okay to take some time to recalibrate. 

In some cases, wilderness therapy programs, such as Second Nature, deliver an academic curriculum. This is used to not only continue their education but as a tool to further address a child’s challenges. Often times academic challenges are intertwined with a student’s clinical issues. Whether it be study skills, anxious reactions, resistance to work and follow-through, or rebellion to academic authority, by continuing their education they will be able to develop the skills necessary for academic and classroom success.


Am I overreacting?

The idea of sending your child away for 9 weeks can sometimes seem like an extreme alternative, and maybe even a “last resort”. You may think that this is just a phase or a spout of teen angst. While this could very well be the case, it’s important to evaluate the situation by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How long has this behavior been going on?

  • Is their behavior starting to deeply interfere with their life?

  • Is their behavior becoming dangerous?

  • Are they open to therapy?

  • What do you think they would benefit from the most?

One of the most beneficial aspects of wilderness therapy is that it allows the child to address their issues without any of the day to day distractions or unhealthy coping mechanisms that they have developed. Unlike traditional therapy where they meet with counselors once or twice a week your child will have qualified clinicians guiding them throughout the entire trip, submerging them into a state of constant therapy and allowing them to progress at their own rate. 


What will my peers think?

women hugging eachother

It’s common for parents to worry about what their peers, or the peers of their child. Often times parents will worry about what will be whispered through the grapevine when others learn about the reality of their child’s situation. Instead of doing this, you should see this as an opportunity to provide others with proper education on what wilderness therapy is and clear up any of the common misconceptions associated with it. You may even find that other parents have endured the same thing with their children as well. If not, most programs have support groups for parents of children who are participating in wilderness therapy, offering a therapeutic outlet to talk with other parents who are going through the same complex emotions as you.


What it Really Comes Down to

At the end of the day the reality of the situation is that you need to decide what is best for your child’s unique situation. If there needs to be immediate action, then there is no time like the present. If you think it will be more beneficial for your child to complete the school year first, then wait for end of term. No matter what you decide, it’s important that your child gets the help that they need.