Programs for troubled youth that utilize wilderness therapy have been clinically proven to be highly effective. The significant improvement persisted long after the program ended, which is not a surprise for the trained professionals involved in this strategy. They know from experience that authentic wilderness therapy is effective because it instills spiritual discipline in the participants. It has the ability to diminish the over-inflated ego and lift the crushed spirit.

In this regard wilderness therapy is unique among the plethora of troubled youth programs. It promotes spiritual discipline by encouraging an appropriate sense of self. It literally takes the youth out of their comfort zone and insistently confronts them with a larger reality. Human scale is dwarfed by wilderness. At the same time, Woodcreek Academy notes that an authentic wilderness experience connects the participant with their surroundings, validating their existence as part of the larger whole.

This is the essence of spiritual discipline. It is “right-sizing” perception of self, either by diminution or enhancement. This cuts through defensive barriers and true apathy by awakening a fundamental sense of what it means to be human. Once experienced it is not easily forgotten, which accounts for the lasting impact of wilderness therapy.

Wilderness therapy can be structured as a boot camp for teenagers, but true boot camps operate on a very different paradigm. While both install discipline in participants, wildness therapy does so from a sense of awe, not fear. Wilderness therapy draws gently, creates a new person and leaves the old behind.