What Can You Learn in Therapeutic Wilderness Programs For Youth?

There are many different wilderness programs available for youth, children, and adolescents. These programs can be found in various settings, including residential and intensive short-term programs, camps, day trips and retreats, school-based wilderness experiences, and online educational experiences.

Children must break free from society’s norms to heal or learn new skills. Many Therapeutic Wilderness Programs do this by encouraging children to engage with the natural world around them through exploration and connection with their surroundings. We at the ANASAZI Foundation want to share their wisdom with you because the principles taught in therapeutic wilderness programs for youth carry over into the rest of life.

Things That Therapeutic Wilderness Program Can Change In a Youth

  1. Emotional Development

A lot of research suggests that healing and growth in a child’s life can be fostered through spending time in nature. Many children identify themselves as being different from their peers due to the influence of television and other media sources. Therapeutic Wilderness Program allows youth to interact with nature and move naturally through it while learning new skills. They offer an alternative experience. Spending time in wilderness nature can enable children to connect with themselves and others, feel competent, make meaning of past experiences, learn new skills, and enjoy the process.

  1. Physical Health

Many studies have linked the physical environment in which a person lives to their overall physical health. A lack of sunlight has been linked to an increased risk for depression and anxiety, decreased immune response, and a greater likelihood of individuals dying earlier than their peers. Therapeutic wilderness programs provide nature immersion opportunities for youth through camping or hiking trips. Hiking through nature allows the child to burn off excess energy, build the muscles in their legs, and feel a sense of accomplishment after overcoming an obstacle.

  1. Connection to Nature

Spending time in wilderness environments has been linked to greater happiness, positive moods, and improved well-being. These benefits are especially true for adolescents who are tasked with the responsibility of setting up camp or cooking meals for themselves. The research found that youth who participated in wilderness programs were less likely to engage in risky behaviors and had a decreased chance of abusing alcohol. Outdoor therapy programs Therapy is one example of an outdoor therapeutic program that encourages youth to interact with nature by hiking, fishing, biking, and building shelters. 

  1. Sense of Competence as a Protector

Forcing a child to spend time alone is often difficult or uncomfortable for them. Children who have been neglected or abused often have the phobia of being left alone. Spending time away from the home environment is a way for an adolescent to feel more competent, safe, and in control.

  1. Increased Risk-Taking Behaviors

While it is essential to be cautious, some children cannot make decisions when faced with risky situations due to past experiences. Therapeutic wilderness programs allow youth to overcome challenges while feeling safe and guided by staff members.

  1. Improved Parent-Child Relationships

Many parents of children participating in outdoor therapy programs report that they become close friends with their child’s wilderness staff members. They also say improved communication with the whole family and beneficial relationship changes between them and their child.

  1. Better Transfer of Skills to the Real World

Outdoor therapy programs offer a place for youth to learn new skills outside their household without the pressure of parental rules or expectations for how they should live. In this new space, children can experience life as they please. In these accessible environments, youth can learn new skills that carry over into the real world.

  1. Improved Mental Health

According to a National Institute of Health study, juvenile detention facilities reported significant improvement in the psychiatric symptoms of their inmates who participated in outdoor wilderness programming. Other studies have linked spending time in nature to reduced anxiety, depression, and mood swings. 


ANASAZI Foundation believes that getting youth into the natural world is a great way to learn and grow. We hope you will consider taking a child on an outdoor adventure in your area if they struggle with their mental health or need a new experience. Our outdoor therapy programs can help them do just that. For a free consultation, call us at (480) 892-7403.


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