The Truth Behind Wilderness Therapy Programs


How do kids get there

 No consent is given by the children when it comes to attending the camp. Most kids do not even know places like these exist before arriving there themselves. 

Many survivors reported being kidnapped in the middle of the night by strange men and women. They were forced against their will to board a vehicle or plane traveling to an unknown place.

At the age of 16, Katheen Reilly reported that in the middle of the night in late July 2021, her dad told her he loved her. However, people were here to take care of her now. She felt confused and scared. She naturally reached for her phone to call someone. Someone removed from where she had put it last. Following this, a strange man and woman entered her room dressed in uniform demanding she come with them.

“The man said we can do this the easy way or the hard way, and he had restraints and he said the police have been notified that I’m a danger to myself and others. If I ran, he said he would tackle me. He also said my flight leaves in two hours,” Reilly told WBTV.

This was Reilly’s first introduction to the next few months of her life at Trails Carolina, a wilderness therapy program in Lake Toxaway N.C.

Where are wilderness therapy camps located?

There are 38 identified Wilderness Therapy Programs in the United States itself. Camps exist in 14 states total and one other country. The most popular programs are located in states like Colorado, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Hawaii, and more.

Why are children sent to wilderness therapy?

Wilderness therapy programs are not the only facilities existing with the same desired outcome to change a child’s behavior. Others include places boot camps, behavior modification facilities, and gay conversion camps. All of these existing programs fit under the concept of the “Troubled Teen Industry” (TTI)

The Troubled Teen Industries markets off their services to parents with children they believe have a problem. These problems tend to vary from drug abuse, disrespectful behavior, entitlement, too much screen time, and more. Whatever the parent may believe is wrong with their child, the programs claim to be able to fix them. 

Children are commonly sent to fix substance abuse. By sending a child dealing with abuse, they have no access to the drug they have been using. The expected outcome of this situation is for the child’s mind to become more clear so they can heal, and progressively learn how to cope without the substance. 

The so-called good outcome

25+ years of research prove wilderness therapy programs are in fact effective. At least at “RedCliff Ascent,” a wilderness therapy program in Utah who works heavily on the safety of their service.

Researchers followed up with a number of participants two years after their treatment; 80% of these parents, along with 90% of adolescents contacted Redcliff claiming it to be effective for them.

This does not mean guaranteed effectiveness will result in sending a child to the program – experts recommend hours of research by parents be put into the decision to send their kid there. 

The truth behind it — awareness to the situation

Although studies have shown the overall outcome of wilderness therapy effective, the media does not show what really goes on during the time kids spent their themself. 

According to an article from The Rolling Stone about “Life and Death in a Troubled Teen Boot Camp”, over the last 15 years, as many as 86 children have died in troubled teen programs.                             At least 10 children have died at a wilderness program called “Tierra Blanca”. 

Tragic accidents such as these deaths sought out to expose the dangers of a growing out-of-control billion dollar industry. How much does the public really know about these so-called therapy programs, and how much is kept a secret? 

The hashtag “#BreakingCodeSilence” has become viral on TikTok, with the sole purpose of drawing attention to the Troubled Teen Industry as a whole.

Paris Hilton, American celebrity, was sent to a wilderness therapy program herself when she was a child and opens up about her experience and how it has affected her.

Hilton was very rebellious during her teen years – sneaking out, attending clubs – all of which led to her parents to send her to multiple therapy camps; specifically Provo Canyon School in Utah, as she describes as “the worst of the worst”.

“I stayed at Provo for 11 months. During this time, I was abused mentally and physically, the staff would beat me, force me to take unknown pills, watch me shower, and send me to solitary confinement without clothes as punishment,” Hilton claims in an interview.

Hilton adds the so-called treatment was so traumatizing, she has suffered nightmares and insomnia for years. She promised herself to not speak about her trauma and experiences ever, but has recently become more open towards the subject. Once she agreed to open up on her time spent there, Hilton claims to feel more free and open. 


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