The testimony was found on Qoura where the question was whether it helped.
As someone who spent 5 months in a wilderness therapy program (in the Utah desert, in a program that is supposed to last 28 days or less), I can tell you the answer is both yes and no. In short, it depends on the person. Most people I encountered were there involuntarily (including myself). You could consider the experience character changing, to say the least (my experience has stuck with me 10 years and one child later).
After having been highjacked from their beds in the middle of the night, flown out against their will across the country, blindfolded for hours on end during a never-ending-car-ride-from-hell until reaching their final destination, the first impression is understandably unfavorable. However, coming out of the program, I can say with confidant certainty that ”complete rehabilitation” was 0%, while “partial rehabilitation” was (at best) 50/50.
I know of more than one program “graduate” that went home only to kill themselves (one camp-mate of mine with her own fathers gun), and several more that ended up in very bad places. This was due to a variety of factors. What parents don’t realize upon sending their “troubled teens” out there, is that they are handing their kids over to people who are largely unsupervised in an extremely harsh and unforgiving place. A place where basic, common sense laws don’t seem to apply to children or ADULTS. Many of these programs are male/female, so there are both male and female staff to supervise. Just because they are “trained staff” does not mean they have ANY business around children. Several girls (from 13–16 years old) were raped or molested during my time there, and the adults were never held accountable or punished.
During my time there I had witnessed multiple staff members breaking down and sobbing hysterically (completely unable to function) either because our water sources ran dry or were frozen solid (and there was barely any snow to melt, so water was rationed by the sip, or at best by the ounce), the “food drop” trucks (that came once every 2 weeks) were several days delayed (for different reasons) so we would go hungry, they would get LOST in the desert which would require 15+ mile pitch black night-hikes (on top of the 15+ already hiked during the day) on steep mountainsides (where kids were rolling down the mountain every 10 minutes while carrying 80+ pound packs, only to be saved from certain death by smacking into one of the many trees that littered the edge just before the cliff drop-off)….
If that is not enough, there were smaller (but considerable) issues with kids getting frostbite, no helicopter for emergencies (it would take 4–5 hours minimum on a good day for a truck to come pick you up, only to drive another 4–5 hours back to get to the hospital-no ambulance service out there), so if you broke a bone or severed a limb you were SOL. Plus pneumonia from the physical toll of hiking all day with an 80 pound pack, 20 pound gas can of water (held by hand in my case, after someone maliciously ripped open my water bladder for no legitimate reason) and a 20 pound tarp on top. Then after all this you have to set up camp (the “tent” consisting of a thin tarp and some rocks) and dig a fire pit, latrine, and washing hole using a dull stick and your hands. THEN make a fire using literally sticks and stones (god help you if it rained), and if you couldn’t build a fire you had to eat raw dehydrated food out of dirty pouches. And if it did rain, you could enjoy an all night bath of flood water in your sleeping bag and wake up soaking wet and freezing cold (in winter) and watch the water dripping from your hair turn into icicles in 3 seconds flat (I seriously CANNOT make this up).
In a wilderness program like this, you can say goodbye to hygiene (no showers and not enough water and soap to sponge-bathe), you can say goodbye to pooping in private (enjoy talking to your whole camp as they debate what kind dump your taking, a mere 5 ft. away), say goodbye to toilet paper (enjoy finding a leaf big enough to wipe your ass if you poop), say goodbye to feminine hygiene products (although the manual labor was so hardcore my period stopped for 4 1/2 of the 5 months I was there) and say goodbye to personal health and safety.
You can, however, say hello to creatures you have never seen crawling up your legs from the inside of your zipped-and-cinched sleeping bag. Dark red scorpions half the size of your forearm, large exotic spiders, monster ants over an inch long, huge fire red ticks …these are your best-case-scenario sleeping buddies. I don’t even know the names of the worst, only that they are in the stay-away-or-you-will-literally-die category, and look fresh out of your worst nightmare (another cause for the “Responsible-Adult-Staff psychotic breakdown”, after we had to abandon several camps infested with these demons from hell-seriously, what kind of pale/fleshy poisonous monstrosity should be able allowed to exist that bites, stings, AND pinches with 3 inch claws???)
Believe it or not I could keep going, but I do have enough sense to stop here. Long story short, just take your family and go camping for the weekend.
Whether you are a parent debating sending your child (don’t do it, they literally just want your money and will milk it until you are broke with a second mortgage taken out of your house, while sending your child back to you even more damaged than before), or a teen considering your options (see above), you would be better off taking a safe weekly stroll in the park and hiring a therapist.
I apologize for the excessive rant-kudos to anyone that makes it through the whole thing, and I hope whomever reads this finds a safer alternative to self-betterment than this type of program.
-Went anonymous for this out of concern for personal safety and legal repurcussions, as well as privacy- since this is my first Quora post (I am still learning how this works). I have not made my troubled past in “wilderness therapy” or “therapeutic boarding schools” (another story) known to certain friends/acquaintances/parents of my child’s schoolmates, so I am employing an overabundance of caution even though I would prefer complete transparency. Godspeed.
*EDIT: To answer question below, this was 10 or so years ago at a place called RedCliff Ascent. Many people transferred to RedCliff from similar programs, and many of their story’s were similar (but often much worse) than this. I believe the program is still running because they have somewhat improved safety over the years, but other “sister” programs (run by the same people) have been shut down after reports of abuse, neglect and “suspicious deaths”.