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How Wilderness Works – By Making Things Real

Let me share a “wilderness experience” that may illuminate the opportunities that avail themselves in such an incomparable intervention that occurs in small groups in the woods.  

A student had been focusing for a year, advancing academically in a structured residential program when she relapsed, and to prevent her from drawing false conclusions, the family and school decided the pared-down environment of wilderness therapy was necessary.   This decision was difficult emotionally, in some ways feeling a step “back”, and my visit to the field, for a few hours, provides this nugget of the power of wilderness.

I knew the girl from a year ago, and after one week roughing-it, didn’t expect to find her smiling, and “oriented” in her own perspective, but here she was, laughing as she came over to say hello, and to welcome me to her group.  As is typical in wilderness, the entire peer group gathers for a formal sit-down for guests, introducing themselves and sharing a sliver of their therapeutic focus.  My student had more time and expectation for explaining her relapse, at the co-ed residential program; she spoke of her shallow willpower, the building temptation, what might have intervened in which moments, and the new path she now had in front of her.  She explained, in her first week in the woods, that she was now strikingly aware of how she found herself rather powerless to men, that attention from men provided self-confidence… and that she was going to sincerely work on generating awareness and willpower to “say no” to males.

As the group would continue for a bit, one of the staff asked the student to please gather more firewood, so that the group visiting her might be as comfortable as possible.  Off she went into the trees, and returned  a few minutes later with an armful.  The instructor asked her to notice that, immediately after her declaration of intent to notice and defend against being adrift in pleasing males, she’d left her introductory group with her Ed Consultant, because a (male) instructor had asked.  All but one clever instructor had been unaware of the opportunity to experience the difficulty of grappling with life’s nebulous distinctions and the ever-present chance to begin, again and again.



About the Author
Jenney Wilder M.S.Ed launched All Kinds of Therapy in 2015, as the only independent online directory for the Family Choice Behavioral Healthcare Industry. With an impressive case of ADHD and her starter career in the 90’s in Silicon Valley, the dream for creating a website with features like side-by-side comparison and an integrated newsletter was born. Jenney stopped counting treatment centers and all types of schools that she has visited when she hit 500 many years ago. 
She was the sponsoring author of the only Economic Impact Study of the Family Choice Behavioral Healthcare Industry, which revealed the only true financial figures about this industry (in Utah). 
Jenney has a Masters in Special Education from Bank Street College (NY) and a Bachelors of Arts focused on History from Wheaton College (MA).