Why Wilderness Therapy for Young Adults?

Transitioning from adolescence to young adulthood is a difficult proposition. For the first time, these young adults are experiencing an immense amount of freedom, with little constraint or supervision.

Oftentimes young adults find the weight of consequence to be much heavier than previously anticipated. Many find themselves in difficult situations, struggling to stay afloat in unfamiliar tides. In those moments they sometimes turn to artificial pacifiers such as: self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, acting out sexually, academic or professional failure, or any one of the many other maladaptive coping mechanisms. The truth is, everyone needs help at times. At Expanse Wilderness, we are here to provide the help and support that young adults need in order to succeed.

With so many treatment options out there for young adults, what makes wilderness therapy different? The wilderness provides a therapeutic setting in which outside stimuli is removed. There are no cell phones, screens, or other technological distractions. In the wilderness a young adult has the opportunity to face their challenges and struggles head-on.

Young adult wilderness student learning to make fire

Expanse Wilderness believes that combining established therapeutic practices and modalities, with the immediate cause-and-effect realities of outdoor living, provides young adults a dynamic therapeutic journey that cannot be duplicated indoors. At Expanse, our young adults use this opportunity to gain essential life skills as they are both challenged and clinically supported each day in the wilderness.

Expanse Wilderness offers an effective alternative to traditional treatment programs centered primarily around talk therapy. We offer a very unique therapeutic model that has been proven to help young adults struggling to find their way in a difficult and demanding world. Wilderness therapy is a powerful therapeutic experience for those battling with ADD/ADHD, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, personal motivation issues, poor executive skills, identity issues, and sexual orientation among many other challenging situations and diagnoses. Call us today, and let us tell you how we can help.

Wilderness Therapy Works

Wilderness therapy is more than talk therapy, or confined indoor treatment. In the wilderness, young adults have the opportunity to feel and experience change in the moment. The therapeutic process happens continually, literally during every hour of the day, not just one hour a week in an office or over the computer. Young adults have the opportunity to immediately apply their new skills and approaches in the wilderness. At Expanse Wilderness, young adults are in therapy, instead of simply going to therapy.

Wilderness therapy works because:

  • There are fewer distractions and more opportunities to focus and work on therapeutic issues,
  • Stronger therapeutic relationships are formed as a result of the small-group numbers, and shared wilderness experiences;
  • Young adults get therapy and therapeutic support 24/7;
  • They get the opportunity and ability to practice new living skills “in the moment;”
  • Decreased stress levels reduce anxiety and substance cravings;
  • The remote setting decreases treatment dropout; and
  • Consistent life coaching, and therapeutic support.

It is impossible to capture, on paper, the experience of being out in the desert, lying in a warm sleeping bag while staring at the starry sky after a long and satisfying hike; or listening to the wind whistle through the juniper trees. It stimulates all the senses, and awakens you to feeling healthy and alive!

Of course, wilderness therapy is more than just the wilderness experience. True wilderness therapy programs utilize the most widely accepted therapy practices. Credentialed therapists meet with the young adult to make a treatment plan and follow up weekly with therapeutic sessions. They with the field instructors structure a series of interventions based on empirically supported techniques to intentionally create opportunities for positive change..
– Shayne Gallagher Founder/Executive Director, Expanse

There will always be a portion of wilderness that has to be experienced to be understood. We can't bottle or capture the different thoughts and feelings of every young adult in the group while they watch the fading gold and pink glow of a sunset on sandstone cliffs and canyons as they successfully finish making a bow-drill fire (watch video). Through natural experiences in the wilderness and with the support from therapists, staff, and peers, each young adult receives exactly what they need as they progress in their therapeutic journey.

Young adults at Expanse Wilderness reconnect to what is “real,” and rediscover their core-self.