First Light Wilderness’s base of operations is located in Dahlonega, Georgia, approximately 75 miles north of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. Our field area is nestled in the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forest, sprinkled with miles of clear-running streams, rivers and ponds. As a nomadic wilderness program, First Light Wilderness holds permits to utilize 650 square miles of this beautiful region of the Blue Ridge mountains, which our students travel via hiking trails and rugged Forest Service access roads. Our location and altitude also contribute to temperate conditions year-round, with average summer temperatures in the 70’s and average winter temperatures in the 40’s.
No. Backpacks, individual tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, water bottles, cook sets, and stoves are all provided. Additionally, all Outdoor Clothing, including thermal wear, outer layers and footwear are all provided in your program fee. You will receive a list of “What to Bring” prior to enrollment.
First Light prides itself on maintaining a small student to staff ratio. Typical group size is 8 students to 3 staff. However, smaller groups are run too, with no minimum group size. This allows for increased individual attention and support.
Students are provided with their own tent as part of our trauma-responsive treatment model. This allows students to have their own space. Tents are arranged in close proximity to ensure safety and supervision. If there are any concerns about a student’s well-being, they will be placed in a group tent with a minimum of two staff members.
Yes, students learn how to cook meals along with other valuable life skills. First Light prides itself on providing meals and snacks that deliver a nutritious balance of whole grains carbohydrates, protein (both meat and plant-based) and a healthy selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, with twice-weekly food resupplies to ensure fresh produce is part of our students’ diet. We carefully monitor intake of food and water to ensure adequate nutrition and hydration. We also provide healthy snacks, so students have the caloric energy they need to actively participate in our nomadic wilderness model.
Our programs are designed to meet individual needs. We can accommodate some physical disabilities. However, our programs are strenuous and require a certain amount of fitness and ability. All clients are required to visit a physician prior to their expedition as part of the enrollment process. FLW will coordinate with a physician and parent to determine if we can manage certain physical limitations/restrictions.
Field Instructors are trained in medication administration, and all meds are held by Field Instructors. Medication checks are also available by psychiatrists.
After speaking with a member of the admissions team, you will be asked to complete a thorough application for admission, as well as to submit any supporting documentation such as prior psychological or educational testing, treatment discharge summaries, etc. Once your child is accepted for admission to First Light, your admissions counselor will provide you with enrollment documentation.
Our staff must pass a background check and thorough screening process. Our field staff possess college degrees and/or have the expertise and qualifications to work in our relational, therapeutic environment. Each group has access to a certified Wilderness First Responder, as well as training in CPR. FLW’s field team has access to medical professionals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. See our staff page to learn more about our Field Instructors.
Yes. We carry full liability insurance.
First Light Wilderness’s clinicians utilize cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing, Dyadic Developmental Therapy, Emotional Focused Therapy, Brainspotting, EMDR, Trauma-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), Brainspotting, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills, Canine-supported therapy as well as experiential and adventure-based therapies and healing through metaphors. Our therapists bring their unique clinical skills and talents to work with each student individually, utilizing interventions and clinical modalities that best meet students’ unique needs.
Yes. First Light offers a limited number of scholarships and financial aid annually. Please inquire with your admissions counselor.
First Light Wilderness students are automatically enrolled in The First Light Wilderness Academy, which is accredited through Cognia. Students can earn up to 1.5 academic credits upon completion of the program. FLW may coordinate work in the field with schools during the school year as appropriate.
First Light Wilderness does not have any specific religious affiliation. However, the nature of wilderness therapy commonly lends itself to deep reflection, and students often return from our program with a greater understanding of themselves spiritually.