How Do I Choose a Brat Camp?

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Since wilderness programs provide a strong and powerful psychological and emotional intervention, many families are turning to them for help with their troubled teen or struggling child. However, selecting a brat camp or a wilderness therapy program is not easy an easy task. You have every right to be suspicious of programs that will enroll your child without giving you all the necessary information about the program – including the average length of stay, what kind of treatment your child will receive, and what to expect when your child returns home. It’s appropriate for parents to take an active and assertive role in becoming fully informed.

Before you start researching programs, it’s best to asses your child. By determining which type of issues, or combination of issues, your child is experiencing you can then best decide the best form of treatment.

Are you child’s problems behavioral, psychological, or a combination? Behavior problems are often learned and can be changed. These problems are typically displayed as anger and/or defiance, insecurity, being disrespectful or oppositional, lying and/or being dishonest, being destructive, manipulative, impulsive, and withdrawn or isolated. Psychological problems can be the result of high levels of stress, alcohol and drug abuse, or trauma in a child's life. These often include learning disabilities, depression, anxiety related disorders, or post traumatic stress disorder.

The following criteria are among the most important to consider when choosing a brat camp or wilderness program:


A safe wilderness program will have a clearly defined structure and operational outline with detailed policies and procedures. The program will be staffed with professionals who are properly equipped with everything they need to take care of you child. The program and its employees will be educated, licensed and trained in handling a variety of experiences while caring for your child. Many programs have been in existence for a number of years and it’ advised that you avoid programs that only recently opened their doors. Established programs usually have a stronger understanding what’s required to keep children safe in the wilderness.

Range of Services Provided

Wilderness therapy programs can be put into categories bases on length of stay, structure, and type of services offered. Some offer a fixed duration and others are more flexible depending on how quickly your child responds to treatment. Ask about individual and group therapy and how often they occur. Outdoor programs typically center on experiential education and some include academics as well. Find out if your child will receive school credits while they are enrolled in the program and what kind of accreditation and licensing the program has.

After-care, Goals, and Outcomes

A good wilderness therapy program will tell you what to expect following your child’s outdoor adventure. Depending on your child and your family, programs will often recommend that your son or daughter continue their treatment at a boarding school before returning home. In the case that your child is expected to return directly home, ask what type of aftercare is provided. What happens if your child relapses into old behaviors? Will your child have access to any of their therapists? Quality programs will have the answers to these questions and many that you may not even think of.

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Brat Camps for Troubled Teens