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Wilderness Therapy: The Facts and Misconceptions About It

Wilderness therapy is a new field of psychotherapy and a type of cognitive behavior renewal program that uses the outdoors to inspire personal growth and positive change, and the building of a person’s self-esteem. While there are many individual wilderness therapy programs as there as many practitioners, they all have this common thread about nature as some powerful force of balance and change in helping people who are struggling to overcome life’s challenges.

The traditional approach of counseling is revised to be more applicable in an outdoor ambiance, whether it is doing horticultural tasks or exploring the wilderness either on foot or through horseback riding.

The individual is given the chance to interconnect with the world beyond and other individuals, and this interconnectedness is reinforced in such settings while simultaneously encouraging self-reflection in the absence of disturbances of present day living like cell phones, television, etc. As such, wilderness therapy has become an invaluable approach of therapy together with the usual therapies for addiction, anxiety, depression, and other behavioral obsessions.
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Most wilderness therapy centers, however, tend to cater more to adolescents or young adults experiencing problems in overcoming the challenges of becoming an adult. The need to stand out in school, peer pressure, drugs, family problems, along with numerous other demands are particularly mind-boggling to young adults who by now are stressed out by the innate transformation caused by puberty itself.
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Wilderness treatment centers are nothing like boot camps used by families as intervention for susceptible teens or adolescents who manifest undisciplined behavior in trying to regain authority over him/or her.

Boot camps are more similar to military training camps that impose strict discipline and use a far more aggressive approach of behavior modification. Some are actually run by state as a rehabilitation center for criminal offenders so they get themselves in trouble ever again. A private boot camp that focuses on helping young adults observe a model similar to that of a boot camp and in an environment of strictly imposed discipline as well, which is very different from the more receptive approach of wilderness therapy centers.

The similarities of wilderness therapy and boot camps are superficial, contrary to what some people believe. A boot camp may also be located in a rocky environment, but it its approach in encouraging self esteem as well as self-discipline seems to be one and the same.

Wilderness therapy, however, usually takes a more personal and customized approach and teaches people on how to alter their manner of thinking about demanding situations to effect more positive decision choices.