Considering Wilderness Treatment: Finding the Right Wilderness Treatment Program for Your Teen
Selecting a treatment program for your struggling adolescent can feel like a daunting task, especially when you're confronted with an array of different philosophies, facilities and admissions dates and on top of that you're naturally concerned about choosing the program that will help your teen the most. Fortunately, knowing a few key things about the programs you're considering can alleviate a lot of extra anxiety.
Gil Hallows, director of Aspen Achievement Academy, suggests first making sure the programs you're considering are fully accredited, fully licensed, professionally supervised therapeutic programs.
If, like Aspen Achievement Academy, the programs you're considering are therapeutic wilderness programs, it's a good idea to make sure those programs are JCAHO-accredited. "Because it's the premiere accreditor of hospitals and healthcare systems in the US, JCAHO accreditation assures the very highest standards of quality, safety, care and support," Hallows adds. Aspen Achievement Academy was one of the first wilderness treatment programs to earn JCAHO accreditation.
Additional accreditations, like membership in the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Industry Council and the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) are also important, said Hallows. "The appropriate state licenses - Aspen Achievement Academy, for example, is also licensed as an Outdoor Treatment Program by the State of Utah Department of Human Services are also essential indications of a safe, well-run and effective therapeutic treatment program."
Beyond the paperwork, it's also important to look at the nuts and bolts of each program. Find out how many adolescents are in a single therapy or treatment group, for instance, and ask how much time your child will spend working with a licensed therapist or counselor one-on-one, Hallows suggests.
"At Aspen Achievement Academy we find that groups of six to eight students tend to be most effective," Hallows explains. "Teens have the structure, security and emotional support of a true community and enough one-on-one time with counselors and support staff as they work towards becoming responsible young adults."
And because getting treatment for your teen can't always wait until the end of the school year, try to find programs with rolling admission and integrated academic support critical advantages when it comes to helping your teen make a positive transition home again. "Our open enrollment policy means we can accommodate struggling teens as soon as they need support regardless of time of year," says Hallows. "And because Aspen Achievement Academy is a fully licensed educational facility, parents don't have to worry about their teen losing valuable academic ground during his/her treatment."
Last, but certainly not least, parents need to make sure they're absolutely comfortable with the program's facilities, staff and overall environment, Hallows points out. "Licenses, accreditations and high standards of therapeutic practice are essential, but so is your comfort-level with the treatment program overall. If you're at ease with the program's philosophy, counselors, staff and facility, chances are it's the right place for your teen."