Why Wilderness Therapy Programs are Effective in Treating Anxiety and Depression

Wilderness therapy programs are effective in treating many issues, including, but not limited to: ADD/ADHD, mood regulation issues, substance abuse, trauma, Internet addiction, poor self-image and family conflict. But did you know they are also a sought-after alternative to traditional depression and anxiety treatment options? While depression and anxiety vary in severity, nearly all teens and young adults can find some relief through Wilderness Therapy. Read on to find out more about how Wilderness Therapy programs can help your son or daughter live the happy life you’ve always hoped.

The Atmosphere

Anecdotal evidence suggesting connections to nature with a more positive and peaceful mindset have been proven time and time again. Scientific research is beginning to prove how Ecotherapy helps treat anxiety and depression—two studies by the University of Essex reveal that patients diagnosed with depression experience a distinct improvement after spending time walking in a green-belt or through a park. This is largely due to the fact that nature provides a sense of connection with something larger than ourselves and helps quiet the mind. Mental/energetic quieting is fundamental in being able to look within to clearly see “the big picture,” and figure out who we truly are at the most basic level. Feeling a connection with the surrounding community also helps reinforce positive behaviors. Pacific Quest students spend 8-10 weeks on the big island of Hawaii, participating in land and service projects designed to protect Hawaii’s natural heritage, learning the principles of organic farming, experiencing exciting outdoor excursions and taking in all the Hawaiian culture has to offer. Pacific Quest’s Wilderness Therapy Program provides the ideal safe and guided atmosphere to possibly re-set a depressed teen’s inner compass.

The Therapeutic Effect

Pacific Quest uses cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy techniques due to their effectiveness in addressing teen and young adult anxiety disorders and depression. This approach helps each student examine his or her personal anxiety and depression, anticipate situations in which it is likely to become amplified and understand its effects. Once a student has mastered this, they are better equipped to develop tools to help combat their anxiety and depression. Pacific Quest’s Wilderness Therapy Program aims to treat teen depression and anxiety by helping them work to:

  • Reconnect with nature and find meaningful work in the garden
  • Create community with fellow staff and teens
  • Lead, set goals, create plans and engage in opportunities to experience success
  • Find their inner “truth”
  • Participate in Rites of Passage to begin a new chapter in their lives filled with happiness

The Path to Lasting Change

The power behind Wilderness Therapy as a treatment method is the proven ability to imprint lasting lifestyle changes. In teen and young adult depression and anxiety treatment specifically, lifestyle changes play a large role.

According to Dr. Steven Ilardi, psychologist and author of The Depression Cure, “depression-free” communities such as the American Amish and Kaluli people of Papau New Guinea have shown us that these six lifestyle changes are key to happiness: Regular exercise, a healthy diet high in omega-3s, adequate amounts of sleep, longer exposure to sunlight, involvement in social activities and participation in meaningful, time-consuming tasks.

If you’re searching for the best anxiety or depression treatment for your teen, or have any questions about if wilderness therapy is right for your family, please contact our Admissions team or download Pacific Quest’s Adolescent Brochure.
Download the Adolescents Program Guide

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