Outdoor Therapy

Outdoor Therapy involves the use of challenges found in nature (such as rock climbing, white water activities, and backpacking) to provide growth experiences that can help people make fundamental changes in their lives. These programs have been used for many years as a supplement to addiction treatment (the first program was Colorado Outward Bound’s Alcohol and Drug Courses in 1978). Therapeutic benefits of these programs include establishing a deeper connection with the natural world, nurturing the ability to trust one’s community through the experience of teamwork, developing a healthier approach to the issue of control, taking responsibility for one’s actions and how those actions impact others, and increasing feelings of self-esteem, joy and pleasure. The goal of these programs is to provide people with opportunities and skills to deal with difficult situations so that they can draw upon these experiences in the recovery process.


Outward Bound (outwardbound.org)
Has been offering a variety of challenging wilderness programs for over forty years. While it does not provide a structured therapeutic recovery program, the emphasis on skills development and personal growth in areas such as self-reliance, responsibility, teamwork, leadership, confidence, and self-knowledge can have a positive impact on long term recovery.


Four Circles Recovery Center (fourcirclesrecovery.com/about/articles/gardening-project/North Carolina)
Four Circles Recovery Center is an innovative, state of the art wilderness-based treatment program for men and women, ages 18-28, with substance abuse issues. As part of its program Four Circles introduces young adults to the therapeutic benefits of gardening to enhance their recovery.


ANASAZI Foundation (anasazi.org)
Licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services and nationally accredited by the Joint Commission as a residential outdoor behavioral healthcare provider. Offers a variety of programs including a 50-day outdoor treatment program for youths ages 12-17 ($465 a day plus $1,250 admission fee) and young adults over 18 years old ($465 a day plus $1,250 admission fee). They also offer help for parents including educational consultants and intervention training for parents. Financing options are available including fixed monthly payments and help finding appropriate loans. Financial aid may be awarded to those who qualify in the form of partial scholarships.

Aspiro Adventure Wilderness Therapy (aspiroadventure.net)
A wilderness outdoor adventure therapy program where students live in the outdoors. It is licensed by the state of Utah as an Outdoor Behavioral Health Program and serves teens ages 14 to 17 and young adults ages 18 to 28 years old. It focuses on healing, direction, and personal empowerment through the use of a clinical approach intertwined with daily adventure activities. Students receive weekly individual and group therapy by a licensed therapist. An academic curriculum is available to all students who need high school credits. Aspiro's average length of stay is 50 days. The cost is $455 per day. After 60 days, the daily rate will adjust to $395 per day. There is an equipment and administration fee of $2,400.

Pacific Quest (pacificquest.org)
This wilderness therapy program for struggling teens ages 13-17 and young adults ages 18-24 is located on the Big Island of Hawaii. In addition to traditional wilderness therapy, sustainable life skills are taught. The wilderness program model provides students an opportunity to view the working farm, organic gardening and sustainable agriculture as a mirror for life’s challenges and rewards. Owned and operated by a veteran team of professionals with years of wilderness program experience, they offer a holistic, experiential, yet clinical approach to treatment that is individualized for each student. The average length of stay is between eight and ten weeks, with length of stay customized to meet individual needs. Tuition and financing options are available through the Admissions Department at 808-937-5806.

Second Nature Wilderness Program (snwp.com)
This therapeutic outdoor program in Utah, Georgia, and Oregon are licensed, clinically oriented wilderness programs for preteens and younger adolescents (age 11-14), adolescents (ages 13-17) and adults (18 and older). Second Nature’s program was created and implemented by licensed clinicians who develop an individualized treatment plan for each entering student, tailored to their specific therapeutic needs. Treatment includes individual and group therapy and also utilizes a therapeutic wilderness model: primitive living, ceremony, metaphor, and affinity for the beauty and spirituality of nature. Cost is $485 a day (35 day minimum length of stay required) and $2000 for gear, clothing and equipment. A variety of loan programs are available through American Healthcare Lending.

SUWS of the Carolinas (suwscarolinas.crchealth.com)
This outdoor experiential program based in Old Fort, North Carolina provides 3 programs for adolescents and teens: SUWS of the Carolinas (ages 10-17), Phoenix Outdoor (ages 13-17) and Approach (ages 14-17). Their structured treatment program consists of individualized treatment plans and flexible lengths of stay averaging 4-7 weeks. The program is accredited by CARF, an independent, nonprofit organization that accredits health services including treatment for addiction and substance use. Loans may be available through American Healthcare Lending.

Updated May 19, 2017