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First Light Wilderness Therapy Parent Resources

This section is intended on informing parents about some of the more finite details about our program, including food, seasonal activities, who Educational Consultants are, and specifics about mental illnesses in pre-teens, adolescents, and young adults. This catalogue of resources is intended for your benefit, and we aim to improve, update, and research new and exciting articles, videos, and other documents related to our specialties.

Making a Tough Decision

The decision to send your child off to treatment may be one of the most difficult decisions a parent may have to make. Parents wonder: “Am I doing the right thing?”, “Will my child be safe?”, “Can I trust the staff at FLW?”.

At FLW we take the care, safety, and well being of your son/daughter very seriously. We consider it an honor to have the opportunity to work with families, and to be part of the healing process. Our Admissions Team is available to help discuss this difficult decision.

All parents receive a Parent Guide upon child’s admission.

Food Report

FLW knows the importance of having a balanced menu for a healthy body and mind. We believe proper nutrition not only has a positive effect on a students health but also on behavior. Students are provided plenty of whole grains and a variety of protein sources, and limited amounts of refined sugars or processed foods. Fresh fruit and vegetables are also brought in weekly to ensure that nutrient needs are being met. Students are taught how to plan and prepare meals for the entire group.

Frequently Asked Questions

Please visit our page specifically for FAQ’s.

Recommended Resources

Brainspotting: The Revolutionary New Therapy for Rapid and Effective Change [Paperback]

by David Grand, PhD (Author)

Book Description: Brain-based therapy is the fastest-growing area in the field of psychological health because it has proven that it can immediately address issues that talk therapy can take years to heal. Now Dr. David Grand presents the next leap forward in psychological care-combining the strengths of brain-based and talk therapies into a powerful technique he calls Brainspotting.

Available on Amazon: Here

Wilderness therapy (WT) is a complementary/integrative approach for treating struggling adolescents by using outdoor adventure activities to foster personal and interpersonal growth/well-being. Empirical support for the effectiveness of traditional WT is growing, but evidence supporting trauma-informed WT (TIWT) is lacking. This pilot study addresses that gap. Method: Between 2009 and 2019, 816 adolescents (Ages 13–17, Mage = 15.36, SD = 1.25; 41.1% female) completed the Youth–Outcome Questionnaire–SR 2.0 at intake and discharge (M = 75.02 days, SD = 28.77). Three-hundred seventy-eight adolescents also completed the Family Assessment Device–General Functioning (FAD-GF), and 253 adolescents completed two, 2.5-min segments of heart-rate-variability biofeedback (one while resting and one while using a coping skill). One-hundred eighty-nine caregivers completed the Youth–Outcome Questionnaire 2.01, and 181 caregivers completed the FAD-GF.

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Transforming Stress: The Heartmath Solution for Relieving Worry, Fatigue, and Tension [Paperback]

by Doc Childre (Author), Deborah Rozman (Author)

Book Description: This book teaches readers to use the HeartMath method, enabling them to see and experience in real-time how thoughts and emotions affect their heart rhythms. It teaches them how to engage their hearts to bring emotion, body, and mind into balance, and helps them stay in a zone of focused clarity, optimal health, and high performance. Changes brought about through this method are fast-acting and long-lasting, the perfect antidote to our chaotic and fast-paced lives.

Available on Amazon: Here

A Therapists Guide: Using HeartMath® Tools with Clients with Post-Traumatic Stress, Addictions, Chronic Pain, Grief and Loss.

Written By Sara G. Gilman, M.F.T.Marriage and Family Therapist

Throughout my last 10 years of intensive trauma and attachment-focused clinical interventions, the science of HeartMath has proven to be one of my most effective tools when used in combination with other advanced clinical interventions. This is based on the evidence from hundreds of interventions that I have both supervised and performed. The state of high coherence makes all forms of clinical intervention…” –Steve Sawyer, LCSW, CSAC

Using emWave® Technology For Children With ADHD: An Evidence-Based Intervention

Written By Jeff Goelitz, Educational Specialist, Institute of HeartMath & Dr. Tony Lloyd, Chairman, ADHD Foundation, Liverpool, England

“Over the last few years, there has been a surge of interest in the emWave® technology for children, ages 7 to 18, diagnosed with ADHD. Both parents and educators are drawn to this technology because it helps children reduce stress and improve impulse control.”

Beyond Point and Level Systems: Moving Toward Child-Centered Programming

From The 2009 American Psychological Association

“Many residential treatment facilities and child inpatient units in the United States have been structured by way of motivational programming such as the point and/or level systems. On the surface, they appear to be a straightforward contingency management tool that is based on social learning theory and operant principles. In this article, the authors argue that the assumptions upon which point and level systems…

Coherence Training in Children With Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Cognitive Functions and Behavioral Changes.

By Anthony Lloyd, PhD; David Brett, BS; Keith Wesnes, PhD

“Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most prevalent behavioral diagnosis in children, with an estimated 500 000 children affected in the United Kingdom alone. The need for appropriate and effective intervention for children with…

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Therapy Information

New Vision Wilderness programs are is involved in several long-term research projects, and First Light Wilderness is proud to continue this focus on research and results. FLW pre-tests and post-tests all students on both Youth Outcomes Questionnaire Self-Report 2.0 (Y-OQ) and HeartMath EmWave PC stress scans.

First Light Y-OQ and OQ Data Report

First Light Wilderness has facilitated incredible clinical change for adolescent and young adult students from enrollment to graduation. In order to identify clinical change, therapeutic programs utilize Youth Outcome Questionnaires (Y-OQ) and Outcome Questionnaires (OQ) to highlight significant risk factors in mental health. The community norm is 46. In order for data to be clinically significant, results for the Y-OQ must change by 18 points or more.

The Y-OQ focuses on six areas of functioning for adolescents covering how they feel inside, how they get along with significant others, how they cope with stress physically and behaviorally, and how they complete life tasks. Adolescent participants in our program show a decrease (improvement) of 24 points from enrollment to graduation, indicating that on average, our students are demonstrating clinically significant improvement after participation. Parent or guardian results show a decrease (improvement) of 60 points from enrollment to graduation. Even after graduating from New Vision, adolescents continue to show consistently lower risk factors close to the community norm.

New Vision Wilderness recognizes that each student has a path and the road to getting there cannot be reached by a cookie-cutter approach. NVW’s Mastery System helps individuals become a master of whatever they choose, and our therapeutic job is to assist in getting the blocks out of the way whether they are emotional or historical. We foster independence through empowerment, knowledge, and personal growth.

One of the most unique features of NVW’s treatment program is our Mastery System. The Mastery System fosters the relational model with our wilderness instructors and our students as they form an alliance during the process, which provides students with an opportunity to positively connect with peers and staff members This system does not rely upon students earning levels, points, or other authoritarian structured perspectives. The Mastery System encourages individualized treatment and attention for students.

First Light Wilderness’ strengths resides in the intensity of clinical interventions and a true Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) model. First Light tailors the entire intervention process with the understanding that the field environment is a stressed environment. A focused, advanced neural science-based protocol allows for an effective and safe intervention for adolescents and young adults.

First Light Wilderness, we offer 2 hours of individual therapy per week as well as 1 hour of group therapy each week. In addition to the individual and group therapy sessions, our clinicians are trained in modern, cutting-edge, and evidence-based interventions. Credentials of our clinical staff are updated frequently on our staff page, click here to visit the clinical staff pages.

We have clinicians in the field throughout the week, which broadens the intervening opportunity.

1. Stress Regulation and Over Stimulation Monitoring
  • Pre-/Post- Program Stressing Testing
  • Individualized Stress Reduction Plans
    • Guided Visualization – a program of directed thoughts and suggestions that guide your imagination toward a relaxed, focused state.
    • Somatic Stressor Intervention
  • Customized and Adjusted Field Operations
2. Neural and Somatic Stabilization
  • Strategic Exercise Regimen Model
  • Certified Yoga Body Awareness Programming
  • HeartMath Quick Coherence Implementation/HeartMath® Somatic Stress Testing – http://www.heartmath.org/
3. Cutting Edge Therapy
  • Dyadic Developmental Therapy
  • Emotionally Focused Therapy
  • Brainspotting
4. Institute of HeartMath Stress Reduction Protocols
  • Implementation of Institute of HeartMath Interventions Program
  • Training in Quick Coherence, Freeze Frame, and Heart Lock-in Techniques
5. Mastery Program for Attachment Formulation
  • No Level Systems
  • Collaborative Skills Building Model
  • Focuses on Mastery, Accomplishment, and Recognition
  • Rites of Passage Experience
What Is Trauma-Informed Care?

Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) is an intervention model that is dictated by the understanding that over-stressing the brain will hinder effective intervention and stop long-term change. This model is based on an advanced understanding of the brain’s response to stress and specifically addresses innate survival responses and many other nervous system variables. A true TIC model involves all levels of care including training in stress responses for all line staff. First Light Wilderness, there is an even stronger emphasis on trauma training for the clinical team who facilitate deep interventions to effectively manage stress in the field.

Making Wilderness Interventions Match Your Brain

Wilderness therapy has been in existence for a long time and has proven to be an effective choice for creating positive change. Many programs are notorious for using shock as their primary avenue for change. At First Light Wilderness, we understand that a shocked brain cannot retain information and creates an increase in defenses towards lasting change; therefore, carefully assessing stress and strategically adjusting interventions to the individual and group is our priority. This includes a stress pre-test of all students with bio-feedback technology to ensure a level of readiness to be challenged in the field environment. Based upon the readings, First Light individualizes the therapeutic intervention process in order to minimize the stress responses and defensive stances which leads to longer-lasting change.

Slowly Increasing Comfort Zones

The Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) model is inclusive by understanding individuals have unique life situations and stress responses. First Light carefully plans each step of the intervention, proceeding with caution, while not shying away from individual challenges. Seeking input from the client on each step in the process aids in transitions within wilderness immersion. A gradual increase of comfort zone boundaries allows for more effective positive growth.

Real or Perceived Powerlessness

Trauma-trained therapists understand that real or perceived powerlessness is a key factor in our brain’s ability to process trauma. Therefore, First Light seeks to minimize the fear response by maintaining a Challenge by Choice model. This means that input for interventions and challenges is sought with the client in an effort to create a sense of client ownership for the process of the challenge. This minimizes the feelings of powerlessness which leads to a sense of empowerment and inner strength without distress.

Art in the wilderness provides a non-verbal outlet of expression that aids in non-threatening communication and can provide a tangible product for exploration. Art created in the wilderness setting can be a different kind of forum for communication and a platform for interaction with the natural surroundings. Various projects can provide an increased exploration of core issues and aid in breaking down barriers to change. Art can increase communication, self-discovery, and personal growth.

Art projects may be created individually and in groups, such as collages, photography, drawing, mask-making, poetry, sculpture, bead-making, body tracing, journal-making, and nature sculptures.

Body/Somatic Awareness

First Light Wilderness emphasizes individual healing through the mind, body, and spirit connection. FLW utilizes mind and bodywork to heal trauma victims, create additional coping techniques, and further connect the physical self with core emotional release. Body and Somatic Awareness or Yoga programs are available to FLW students for individual study and mastery. Stretching and guided visualizations are incorporated into the group milieu and structured by our field instructors or therapists. The collaborative approach to healing allows participants to thrive and explore growth while addressing multiple intelligences including physical awareness.

“Canine Therapy uses dogs to promote health and healing.  Like other animals, dogs are accepting, comforting, and non-judgmental, making them ideal therapy companions.”

At First Light Wilderness our canine therapy program uses Golden Retrievers very strategically to teach our students how to work on healthy relationships with the ultimate goal being a transferable attachment. Transferable attachment is practicing relationship tools with the canines and then transferring those skills learned to healthy human relationships. The unconditional love and loyalty that canines provide make them the perfect animal to work with when practicing safe relationships.

When coming to First Light, students are gradually introduced to our program canines, Rush and Springer, who are integrated into student groups and live fully in the field with our student groups. During this time, their initial focus is on their own safety and self care, and as they build relationships with the canines, they are encouraged to participate in canine activities and are able to interact with them daily. Once students are ready, they are able to take on the role of canine caregiver. As the canine caregiver, they are responsible for practicing our CASA model-which stands for commitment, acceptance, security, and attunement.


Research suggests that through caring for and interacting with a dog, there can be many benefits, including:

  • Decreased stress
  • Increased physical activity and healthy play
  • Relief from anxiety and depression
  • Increased focus and attention through experiential learning
  • Improved communication and social skills
  • Learning appropriate ways to treat self and others
  • Unconditional love, affection, nurturing, and empathy
  • Increased self-esteem and feelings of empowerment
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Elevated mood
  • Raised levels of oxytocin
  • Reduced loneliness and bigger sense of purpose
  • Setting and respecting boundaries
  • Motivation to stay in treatment and participate fully in therapy

Aside from their teaching role with students, Rush and Springer are available for free cuddles, emotional support, a nudge to play fetch, and assistance with meal clean up!

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Contact First Light Wilderness Therapy Today