Wilderness therapy programs are nurturing, structured programs that are designed to create a safe place for a participant to develop personal and interpersonal skills. It is important to know that wilderness therapy programs are unlike bootcamps, which are designed to get participants to comply with rules and are often harsh and punitive.
Wilderness programs typically offer some combination of expedition and clinical treatment, including immediate and on-going counseling by the clinical staff. A high quality wilderness therapy program teaches accountability, self-reliance, increased self awareness, and self acceptance.
Often these programs are used to “jumpstart” the therapeutic process and to identify and assess the priorities for future treatment. Wilderness treatment allows for an in-depth, dynamic assessment, and prepares adolescents and young adults for the next phase of treatment.
Most major metropolitan areas offer inpatient or acute units for patients who are an immediate threat to themselves or others. These units typically have an average length of stay of around 5 - 7 days and are designed to avert crisis and discharge patients as quickly as possible (as dictated by a patient's insurance plan).
Nationally, there are programs that are designed for sub-acute care, which are often locked units with milieus run by psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and a variety of other mental health professionals. Sub-acute/residential units often have a 30-90 day length of stay, and have a goal of in-depth assessment and treatment of psychiatric and/or substance abuse issues.
For clients dealing primarily with addiction issues, there are short-term programs (typically 30-90 days) that focus on substance use disorders. These programs often use the 12 Step philosophy of recovery and are commonly referred to as "re-habs".