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Trails Carolina is a Leader in Outcomes for Teens Troubled by Nature

Trails Carolina, like many troubled teen programs, has attracted its share of criticism. Former participants and their families have reported allegations of physical mistreatment and psychological manipulation from Trails’ staff; others have voiced discontent over its high costs making participation unaffordable for some families.

Trails Carolina “Investigation” has responded to these concerns by asserting that they take the safety and well-being of their students seriously, taking steps to enhance their program based on feedback from current and past participants.

1. The Healing Power of Nature

Nature provides us with much-needed relief, be it through a stroll in the park or a day hike through its depths. Nature helps calm minds, improve mood and broaden perspectives – something which all can experience as part of daily life.

Youth today live in an ever-evolving digital environment that bombards them with news, influencers and social media that can occupy their thoughts and cause anxiety and stress. Trails Carolina helps its students develop real-life coping skills and confidence exercises like mindfulness meditation and listening to body cues in order to address depression or anxiety and manage daily responsibilities more easily.

Henry David Thoreau had it right when he said in Walden: “The most essential skill one must learn is how to be alone.” Studies have demonstrated the benefits of spending time outdoors for our mental and physical wellbeing and increased self-esteem; indeed the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku or Forest Bathing is known to reduce blood pressure, lower stress levels and increase overall wellbeing.

Trails Carolina provides youth with a safe space to heal through expeditionary adventures and clinical expertise. Their program teaches life-changing skills that promote resilience and adaptability, helping young people overcome mental and behavioral challenges such as substance abuse, PTSD, anxiety, depression academic difficulties or family difficulties. When they graduate from Trails Carolina their students demonstrate improved self-regulation as well as more positive attitudes in their daily lives.

2. The Benefits of Wilderness Therapy

Trails Carolina provides students with an integrated wilderness treatment experience combining nature’s healing power with clinical theory and psychotherapies for an outstanding results-focused treatment experience that ranks at the forefront of treatment options for troubled teen children.

Trails is unique among wilderness therapy programs for youth, therapeutic summer camps and residential treatment centers. Our therapists believe that therapeutic learning in nature enhances learning outcomes for teens and leads to lasting change. Students attending our residential and wilderness treatment programs learn to build interpersonal relationships, practice healthy communication techniques and gain independence as they face life’s challenges head-on.

Trails’ therapists understand that students come to us with diverse emotional and mental health needs, which is why Trails groups students into single-gender, age-appropriate peer groups that meet these requirements and support one another’s emotional and developmental needs. Our students participate in expeditions, backpacking adventures, outdoor academic coursework and Equine Therapy alongside one another in these peer groups for added socialization opportunities and practice coping and social skills in different situations.

Students receive weekly individual and group therapy from their therapists, as well as family therapy with our Family Therapist, to address strained or broken relationships. Sessions take place both at Trails base camp, within the community, and over the phone; helping strengthen family bonds while your child attends Trails.

3. The Benefits of Wilderness Therapy for Teens

High-risk adolescents can find it challenging to open up to therapists, yet wilderness programs provide them with a safer space where they can get to know professionals – including field staff and mental health specialists – on a more personal basis and share their struggles in an environment which is safe, nonjudgmental and supportive.

Teens participating in these programs also benefit from practicing relapse prevention skills and engaging in positive self-talk; this can help them cope with stress, anxiety, and depression when they return home. Many parents report seeing their teens return with renewed sense of self-worth and confidence after successfully completing one of these programs.

Trails Carolina takes an integrative approach to treatment, and their therapists are dedicated to supporting each student on his or her journey. Trails Carolina recognizes nature’s healing powers for teens and wants them to connect with it in a healthy manner. Furthermore, flexible lengths of stay are available so as to meet all student needs.

While wilderness therapy may be beneficial for some teens, it should be understood as just another tool in their toolbox. Wilderness therapy works best with adolescents undergoing mild-to-moderate issues like substance abuse, eating disorders and depression; it should not be considered for adolescents struggling with serious suicidal thoughts or criminal conduct.

4. The Benefits of Wilderness Therapy for Families

Trails Carolina students learn the skills they need to communicate and build healthy relationships between each other and practice coping mechanisms to better manage emotions, helping them become emotionally and spiritually resilient in face of life’s obstacles.

Parents often feel powerless to help their troubled teen when he or she exhibits defiance and oppositional behaviors, like Seth’s mother did when his junior year classes started failing, he started isolating himself from family, friends, and the community, and had frequent verbal and physical outbursts. With Trails’ assistance Seth learned how to identify his emotions & motivations while simultaneously developing communication skills within his family unit.

As a result, he became less self-absorbed and better equipped to connect with his peers and establish healthy relationships. Furthermore, he learned how to cope with his stressors, which resulted in improved grades and no home expulsion.

At Trails, a team of multidisciplinary professionals work collaboratively to facilitate long-lasting change. A student’s primary therapist, family counselor, field instructors, certified teachers and equine specialists will present your child with new opportunities to practice positive behaviors. Furthermore, our Parent Workshops, Common Ground sessions, Family Reunification programs and weekly calls encourage dialogue that fosters healing between family members.


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