Yves is here. I have always been leery of wild therapy because even as a young man I would quickly sprain my ankle and get into serious trouble. But in general, it looks like a cult process of breaking someone’s will (here, in particular, in connection with the subsequent process of “rapprochement”). This is completely different from street rituals of passage or vision quests, where the participant is psychologically prepared and critical.
Katherine Gibbons is a 21-year-old psychology student who advocates for reform of the wildlife therapy industry. Originally posted on Dark
The nightmares and memories only started two years after I left Evoke Cascades. I was only 17 years old when I was taken there against my will. Located in a secluded wilderness near Bend, Oregon, Evoke Cascades was part of a lucrative commercial wilderness therapy program industry for teens. Like similar programs, it assumed that children who, like me, struggle with self-medication or self-destructive behavior, are best treated by removing them from their familiar environment – and from civilization in general.
Living conditions were insidious; the physical demands were tough. I often had to endure cold and frost with only a thin tarp for shelter. During the 13 weeks that I was there, I had no access to the outside world except through weekly letters from my parents.. I felt abandoned, unwanted and unloved, despite the fact that I understood that my parents sent me there to try to help me. Like many other teenagers in these programs, I immediately went from wild therapy – dirty and exhausted – to seven months of residential therapy, further prolonging my isolation from friends and family.
For a while, I suppressed those memories. I returned home to suburban Chicago, completed my senior year of high school, and entered my dream university, a highly respected Catholic school. IN history 2020 in Undark magazine, I testified that wildlife therapy helped me overcome self-medication and focus on myself and my studies again.
Then, in my freshman year of college, the memories began. Deep-rooted anxieties surfaced. Over time, I realized that wilderness therapy, which I attributed to reversing my downward spiral, was actually traumatizing me.
I’m not alone. There are currently dozens of wildlife therapy programs in the US. in accordance with The American Bar Association, a troubled teen industry including therapy boarding schools, treatment centers, boot camps, and correctional facilities, treats between 120,000 and 200,000 teenagers each year, about 50,000 of whom were sent privately by their parents. There is little scientific evidence that wilderness therapy is effective, and many such programs have faced lawsuits for abuse, juvenile mistreatment, and wrongful death. Many of them have closed permanently. However, wildlife therapy remains a thriving industry, with parents often paying $16,000 or more per month.
However, many young people who graduate from these programs report lasting trauma. In recent stories The keeper, USA Todayand other media outlets, survivors of wild therapy have described symptoms of PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder that were triggered by their experience.
My own symptoms appeared in the form of unnecessary memories of my sudden transport to the Ewok Cascades—of waking up in a tiny motel room with two strangers and fearing I had been kidnapped for a human trafficking scheme. Although I knew it was irrational, during these flashbacks it seemed to me that it could happen to me again. I relived the feeling of abandonment that I felt when I was there.
These anxieties increased with each passing year in connection with the anniversary of my exile to therapy in the wild. I started self-medicating to cope.
The Undark article in which I appeared, which I feel portrayed me in an unflattering light, did not help matters. Every time I thought about it, heard about it, or read about it, I felt a new trauma.
Eventually, I realized that my worries hadn’t gone away and that I couldn’t deal with them on my own. I left school to attend a trauma center where the medical staff gave me a clinical diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, which they determined was related to my experience at Evoke Cascades. Using brain mapping, they found traces of trauma in my occipital and temporal lobes. I now have clinical and scientific evidence that therapy in the wild has hurt me.
But the trauma center also provided me with tools to help me deal with PTSD. I used neurofeedback learn to better control your brain functions, and Accelerated Resolution Therapy helped me regulate my reactions to emotional triggers. I also do more sports – endorphins help improve mood, thoughts and feelings. Through trauma therapy, I have healed, made friends and understood myself better, and gained a sense of self-love that has allowed me to go back to school and succeed.
Approximately two years after I left Evoke Cascades, the program closed and was reorganized into another branch of Evoke. But, almost certainly, it continues to wreak havoc on the mental health of many young people who have been sent there, traumatized, and held there against their will. I was lucky: I found resources that helped me feel good both physically and mentally. Others may not be so lucky.
And so I support the public figures, nonprofits, and survivors who have called reform the industry of “problem teenagers” and investigate allegations of abuse and neglect that surround him. Yes, Wild Therapy may have helped me temporarily kick certain self-destructive habits. However, it was not worth the lengthy injury.