How Safe are Wilderness Programs Right Now?

     Some children who were already feeling high levels of anxiety before this pandemic took over, find themselves struggling even more. The constant news about the COVID virus can be overwhelming and frightening for everyone, but especially difficult for an anxious person.
     Maybe you were considering sending your child to a therapeutic wilderness program a few months ago, but now you are concerned about safety of such a program. It is a natural instinct to want to keep you child/loved one close to you during this unprecedented time; however, because of the high level of precautions programs are able to take, therapeutic programs may actually be a safer environment from the COVID virus, especially if you aren’t sure how well your teenager is following social distancing rules.
     Most programs have made modifications to ensure a safe environment:
  • Daily temperature checks of staff and current community
  • New attendees are separated from current attendees for a quarantine period
  • Enrollments are spread out and scheduled on specific days to minimize exposure to one another
  • Before admission, a questionnaire regarding prior possible exposure to the virus is filled out.
  • Frequent disinfections of base camp
  • Local physicians monitor the community’s health
  • Parent workshops are online
     Over the many years I have referred pre-adolescent, adolescents and young adults to wilderness programs. I have seen the experience be a healthy and positive outlet for reducing anxiety and oppositional behaviors. There is a natural consequence while in the “wilderness” that allows those in the program to gain insight into dysfunctional patterns, maladaptive coping skills and begin to develop communication, leadership and organizational skills.  In this crisis situation, valuable time can be gained to more thoroughly and thoughtfully consider how to continue moving forward towards a healthy tomorrow. The softening effect of the wilderness experience combined with the healthy environment allows that teenager to have the “freedom” to calm the brain and find a sense of peace, something that hasn’t been available especially in this time of the COVID Virus.
During this difficult time, we are here for you, as we always have been, to help consider safe, educational and therapeutic opportunities for your adolescent/young adult.