Healing Starts With Second Nature Wilderness Therapy

Adolescents struggling with a variety of mental health diagnoses, behavioral problems, developmental issues, learning disabilities, substance abuse/dependence, school problems, and relational difficulties find effective healing at Second Nature. The highly experienced admissions team at Second Nature is able to match your child’s unique circumstance to one of our many niche teen wilderness therapy groups and therapists specializing in a specific population.

Second Nature's student population includes, but is not limited to, the following profiles, diagnoses, and conditions:


Depression, Anxiety, and Bipolar Disorder 

Second Nature addresses underlying symptoms and chronic behaviors associated with mood disorders such as withdrawal from others, avoidance of positive activities and expectations, difficulty going to school, social and general anxiety, sleeping too much or too little, mood swings, suicidal ideation, and other troubled youth issues that do not resolve within a few weeks or months in the home environment. Our teen wilderness therapy programs provide effective treatment for depression and anxiety, with normal sleep hours, daily exercise, and healthy food. The clinical treatment provides individual work on underlying issues, assertive communication, and frequent expression of feelings. Most students with depression and anxiety respond within two or three weeks; depressive symptoms lift and students begin to smile and laugh and regain the light in their eyes they had when they were young. When necessary, if a student does not respond to this programming within 2 or 3 weeks, Second Nature facilitates assessment and medical supervision of psychotropic medication. 

Substance Abuse/Dependence

Second Nature is able to assess the level of involvement students have with substances and the appropriate level of treatment needed. Clinicians are also able to determine whether substance use is a primary treatment issue or more a symptom of other problems. There are specialized groups and therapists at Second Nature that have a primary focus on substance abuse, and for those students who have significant problems with drugs or alcohol abuse, the added services can make a real difference in their ability to obtain and maintain sobriety. The groups all have an addiction component and are oriented around the 12 step model, the clinical assignments are based on addiction, and when students leave the program they are prepared to participate in AA groups wherever they go and to continue to work an effective program.


Computer, Internet, and Gaming Addictions

Second Nature staff is skilled at addressing an emerging set of issues (such as social, school and family problems) relating to Internet and gaming.

Academic Failure

Second Nature is able to assess emotional and/or learning based issues relating to poor performance in school, school refusal, and motivational problems. On site Psychoeducational testing is available, top psychologists visit groups regularly to administer testing to assess these kinds of issues. They make treatment recommendations which are then integrated into overall treatment planning. The assessment and recommendations are also passed onto the next academic setting with the student to ensure that continued progress is possible.

The academic environment at Second Nature is experiential as well as didactic and self-paced. The experiential components make it possible for students who have previously experienced failure with school to have success. Many of the academic assignments integrate wilderness treatment programs that include expectations of self-care, self-exploration, communication with parents, and interaction with the group into areas where students can earn academic credit. For example, journal writing and letters home lead to credit in English, “I feel statements” used in group therapy contribute to credit in social studies, bow-drill fires and hiking obtain PE credit, etc. It is encouraging for these students to see A’s and B’s on their progress reports from the credentialed teachers at Second Nature when they may have previously been receiving D’s and F’s.

Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem is often a root of many adolescent difficulties, and wilderness therapy is extraordinarily effective at addressing issues of poor self-worth, confidence, and self-esteem. Second Nature therapy provides numerous opportunities to confront self-imposed limitations and achieve small successes, thus building self-confidence. The constant elements of challenge, support, competence building, and achievement and leadership lead to improved self-esteem and confidence. Students leave with a newly found self-image that reflects these experiences and prepares them for further success in their next setting. Students maintain these gains best when they complete another therapeutic program after Second Nature. Structure, therapy, and continued challenge and success cement the gains made in wilderness therapy so that when students complete the treatment process they are well prepared to re-enter life at home and have success in the setting that was previously difficult for them.

Low Frustration Tolerance and Difficulty Delaying Gratification

Second Nature instructors are skilled at addressing adolescent difficulties relating to finishing tasks, coping with everyday life challenges and facing disappointment. Students learn appropriate coping techniques and practice these techniques experientially. Students with low frustration tolerance experience the repeated practice it takes to build success with wilderness therapy. A good example is the bow-drill fire. Students gather the needed pieces from their environment, seeking different kinds of wood that staff recommend, carving them as necessary, and assembling the pieces into a full bow-drill set. They then practice with the bow and spindle, with the bow turning the spindle on the fire board until smoke appears and eventually an ember is born out of the “punk” created by the friction of the wood. This challenging task usually takes time to master, and students practice over and over again under staff and senior student supervision until they experience success. Blowing that first ember into flame produces elation and pride, and students are guided to realize that their practice and hard work led to this success, and that the same effort over time can produce success in their lives at home.

Difficulty delaying gratification frequently arises for children when the people in their environment “help” them gain the things they want easily and quickly. They don’t learn the life skills of working hard over time for the reward they are seeking and as a result experience frustration when something they want is out of their reach. The Second Nature programming is designed to counter this mind set, with experiences and challenges and practice and just having to do the hard things that lead to comfort, warmth, shelter, and hot food in the wilderness environment. 

Life Adjustment Problems

Second Nature works effectively with adolescents who may be experiencing unresolved grief relating to divorce, a move, or other life changing events. Therapists work closely with each student and family to carefully tailor assignments and effective experiential interventions to address life adjustment issues. Examples of clinical intervention for these kind of issues could include written assignments specific to the present problem, journaling, and therapeutic interventions like family sculpture, in which the student places group members in positions that resemble and reflect family dynamics in order to work through feelings and thoughts that are part of the problem for her/him. Other therapeutic interventions that are effective for students include groups designed to help individual or multiple students deal with presenting issues. They may share letters from home, writing they have done, and experiences they have had, and talk about the feelings that accompanied these events as well as current feelings about them. The therapist and staff and other students ask questions and offer input that helps the student process the emotion that arises through these experiences. 


ADHD/Learning Difficulties

Second Nature therapists address behaviors associated with ADHD or other learning differences such as impulsiveness, distractedness, poor decision-making, or classroom disruption. If learning differences are identified or discovered through psychological testing at Second Nature or identified prior to enrollment, Second Nature can help foster skills and tools leading to future success. Second Nature continues the assessment process in the 24/7 wilderness therapy environment and uses program components and specific therapeutic interventions to guide new behavior and habits. Progress is noted weekly in the treatment plan updates and staff work to build on and extend gains made. Therapists pass on information gained and progress made to the next program or setting both verbally and in the discharge summary.

Identity Issues

Therapists and instructors at Second Nature are highly skilled at working with identity-related challenges such as “who am I” and/or difficulties associated with gender identity and/or gender orientation. Answering the question of “who am I” is a lifelong process and Second Nature works to ease that process. Second Nature gives students the emotional skills to help them continually look at themselves, their behavior in different settings, and to ask for and incorporate feedback from others as they do so. This enables them to continually grow rather than getting stuck in developmental stages of identity formation.

Gender identity and gender orientation questions add additional layers to this process for some children. Students with these presenting concerns are placed with therapists with sensitivity to these needs, and the staff is specifically trained to create an emotionally supportive environment so the questions can be asked and processed to aid the student in moving through their built up feelings and concerns. This enables them to get on with the usual developmental tasks appropriate for their emotional and intellectual age, incorporating the things they are learning about themselves.

Attachment and Adoption Issues

Second Nature employs highly skilled and experienced therapists who are experts in exploring and unraveling the specific dynamics of adopted adolescent as well as other life circumstances that may lead to difficulties in attachment.

Social Problems

Through the therapeutic milieu at Second Nature, students who suffer from poor peer relationships, who experience difficulty reading social cues, and who lack age-appropriate social skills, gain awareness and the tools necessary to find happiness with peers and others through nature therapy.

Family Conflict

Therapists challenge each student to explore and identify their family’s unique strengths, values, and spiritual foundations. Families learn to work through anger and hurt, using new communication skills to process old wounds and establish a healthy footing for changed relationships. Tools for working on family issues include family sculpture, family systems work, reading assignments, webinars on the family, family therapy over the phone and in the field during family visits, and coordination of the therapist with the home family therapist to ensure good continuum of care.

Students tend to recreate their family dynamics within their Second Nature teen wilderness therapy group, playing out the part they play and using other students and staff to represent their family members as they process the dynamic so they can see and understand it and use this information to make changes and to have empathy for family members

Grief and Loss

Therapists expert in addressing grief and loss are matched with students who have suffered the loss of a parent, family member or friend. Caring staff create access to the pain and challenge the maladaptive coping process so that students may work towards healing and integration.

Sexual Acting Out

Age-inappropriate relationships, sexual promiscuity, and other instances of sexually acting out behaviors can be explored and treated effectively with expert therapists in small wilderness group therapy settings.

NLD and Aspergers

Often misunderstood and misdiagnosed, our expert therapists will assess and provide specialized treatment. Self-esteem, social problems, and school struggles common to students with these diagnostics are also addressed.

Victims of Abuse

In safe, small group settings with highly skilled therapists, students are encouraged to explore the pain and shame that often leads to dangerous and destructive behaviors.

Exclusionary Criteria

While wilderness therapy is often recognized as one of the most effective treatment modalities for treating adolescent problems, there are characteristics and diagnoses that present challenges to safety and efficacy. Our exclusionary criteria are designed to assure that your child receives effective treatment without compromise to health and safety, and include:

  • Active suicide attempts
  • Psychotic symptoms
  • Acute/Chronic violence outside the home
  • Medical conditions that may require emergency services during routine wilderness living, including:
  • Diabetes (Insulin-Dependent)
  • Allergies that may lead to anaphylactic shock
  • Significant obesity
  • Cardiac conditions or other organ dysfunctions that may lead to emergency care

Each case will be evaluated individually with consideration to the client's experience and willingness, doctor recommendations, and the history and context of the above conditions. 

Find out how we can help. Give us a call at: (877) 701-7600