Adolescent Treatment at First Light Wilderness Therapy
First Light Wilderness Therapy offers an intensive and full immersion therapy experience in an adventure-based setting. We work with teens and pre-teens ages 12-18 years old. Away from the distractions of everyday life, such as screen time and peers, students have the opportunity to benefit from round-the-clock therapeutic support. The wilderness environment allows students to focus on self-regulation through attunement with the rhythms of nature. Every aspect of programming is intentionally designed to integrate trauma-responsive principles. Students sleep in individual tents and follow a nomadic model of movement, setting up camp in a new area once or twice each week, which allows them to regularly practice healthy responses to transition, build executive functioning skills, develop group cooperation, inspire curiosity and a sense of wonder, and increase strategies for self-care. Our carefully designed program incorporates trauma-responsive principles for positive change.
Building Teens Up
We promote a “build them up” philosophy, focusing on students’ strengths and encouraging growth in those areas through an increased sense of self-efficacy, self-regulation, and experiences of success. The wilderness experience improves decision-making and provides the skills to build healthier relationships. Our compassionate and empathetic staff has have the safety and care, and comfort of students prioritized at all times. Each student has an individual tent to create a sense of “having their own space” within an intensive group experience. First Light follows a nomadic movement model, setting up camp in a new place several times per week in order to build resilience, increase healthy responses to transitions, develop group cooperation, and inspire curiosity and a sense of adventure. All First Light staff are intensively and regularly trained in trauma responsiveness, meaning that from enrollment to discharge, students and families are met with compassion and understanding. Students are given time and space to move through old patterns of behavior as they learn new responses, skills and healthier ways of being in relationship. Our relational approach is based in our understanding that all behavior is communication, and all communication is learned in the context of relationship. Our goal at First Light Wilderness is to heal underlying trauma and beliefs that are leading to unhealthy behaviors, ultimately re-connecting our students and families with their authentic desire to love and be loved.
What to Expect
While the serenity of the Blue Ridge Mountains offers a powerful context for healing, First Light Wilderness offers students and families an intentionally designed therapeutic experience that incorporates:
- Intensive individual therapy at minimum twice weekly, in addition to psychotherapeutic groups-oriented therapy
- Access to clinical specialty staff three days per week
- Adventure education including kayaking, backpacking, mountaineering, fishing, and more
- Intensive parent education, including weekly update calls and weekly parent support group
- Weekly parent calls focused specifically on family issues, facilitated by our family therapist
- Continuing care options if required
- Transition coaching sessions to support continuing care
- Family intensive program to address specific family issues and support healthy transition to next steps in care
- HeartMath somatic stress-testing
- Mid-program on-site family workshop
Academic Learning and Credits
We are accredited through Cognia and offer options for academic credits for students. Educational learning is intertwined with therapy, and students are not removed from the group for classroom time. Instead, academics are incorporated into the daily activities and reflection time. Routine courses in which students receive credits in are:
- Physical Education
- Health or Psychology
- Language Arts
The Family Experience
First Light Wilderness’s philosophy is that healing family relationships is a core component of treatment. Parents and caregivers engage weekly in online parent support groups and calls with our primary therapists. Phone sessions with our family therapist are also included during treatment as is a parent workshop and family visit that takes place around halfway through a student’s time in the program. Families communicate via letter writing throughout the child’s stay in the program, which allows for intentional and thoughtful responses and guidance by the primary therapist in addressing relational issues.
Contact Us to Learn More About First Light Wilderness
The average length of stay for teens at First Light is between 10-14 weeks. This timeframe is guided by each student’s unique experience and by their treatment progress. We provide ample time, guidance, and support for participants to develop the skills they need to make positive behavioral changes, but more importantly, to get to the root of the underlying issues and begin to heal the wounds that are driving unhealthy behaviors and relational challenges. The lush temperate forest environment of the Blue Ridge Mountains makes First Light Wilderness Therapy the ideal location to experience nature, adventure, and healing.