Some of our most frequently asked questions are answered below. You can click on the question or the plus sign to the left of the question to reveal the answer, or you can click the play button to the right of the question to watch the answer on video. Please don't hesitate to contact our admissions team at 866.411.6600 with additional questions.
Wilderness therapy is an experiential approach utilizing outdoor living in a small group setting. Traditional, evidence-based therapies are overlaid on a primitive living experience in order to expose the participant to a multidimensional intervention. Nomadic living, hiking, camping, and small groups provide the participant with opportunities to practice various skills and apply insights gained from talk therapies. Wilderness therapy offers the therapist an integrated model to apply sophisticated clinical interventions. And participants have access to the beauty of nature, a healthy diet, exercise, and sleep. In Wilderness Therapy the lessons offered are not separate from daily living. Delay of gratification, frustration tolerance, problem-solving, and conflict resolution can be applied in the everyday challenges of wilderness living. Participants move through this rite of passage and participate in ceremonies and rituals that solidify lessons gained in more traditional approaches. Resistance is met with the natural challenges of wilderness living and the conscious defenses are bypassed through experiential activities. Participants realize a greater sense of accomplishment by meeting the challenges and experiencing the pleasures of outdoor living. In addition, research shows that wilderness therapy is especially effective in building a strong sense of confidence, resiliency, and healthy coping skills.
The experiential or “real-life” component of Wilderness Therapy provides our staff with much more information than the simple self-report that is common to most therapies. In other words, it is not what one says but what one does that offers us the most insight into the teen's or young adult's progress. Expert and experienced therapists and staff have the advantage of 24-hour observation in a context that is outside of many participant's comfort zones. The natural world, the elements, and the challenges inherent in everyday primitive living in a small group in the wilderness setting is a special kind of provocateur. We have time outside and there is not a better way to see into the mind and heart of a participant except through their daily living. Peers provide another portal into the mind of the participant. Our open groups with peers at different stages of development offer a positive peer culture and another eye for the therapist and staff to look into their minds. Parents are provided with education and therapy in order to equip themselves with skills and tools that will prevent continued manipulation. In addition, parents learn to parent assertively and get rid of their patterns of manipulative parenting.
Evoke Therapy Programs is a non-religious program. Each individual is invited to consider and understand their own spiritual background. In addition to this stance, we do offer some 12-step programming and a wide variety of spiritual tools like meditation, yoga, and a solo experience so each participant can begin to develop a greater sense of meaning in their lives. Drawing on existential philosophies, participants are invited to ask questions about their place in this world as it relates to nature and their fellow human beings. A culture of love, kindness, and empathy towards everything and everyone is often the result.
While it is not uncommon for adolescents to threaten to run from the program, it is rare that they attempt or succeed in doing so. In the event that a participant does run, Evoke employs our extensive resources such as: Field Instructors trained as trackers, search dogs, local law enforcement, and Search and Rescue teams to ensure their return. Attempting to run is often a changing point for the participant. The futility or metaphorical or literal escape often requires the individual to begin looking inwardly toward change. “Where are you going and what will you do when you get there?” is a question we ask those fantasizing that they can run, and thus escape from their problems or emotions. Since young-adults are at the program voluntarily, running is not an issue.
Evoke Therapy Intensives is gender-expansive inclusive and we aim to create a safe and welcoming space. We request that gender-expansive participants have a conversation with our team, before the program, to discuss how we can best meet their needs.
Enrollment typically lasts an average of nine to 12 weeks. Parents have weekly phone calls with their Therapist at Evoke to help them plan the discharge date and address aftercare needs. We are committed to selecting an intentional length of stay and empowering parents to discover what will work best for their teen or young adult and the family.
Many consider Wilderness Therapy to be the most dynamic and impactful of interventions on the treatment continuum. Nevertheless, it is a short-term intervention that is most often best used in conjunction with other services. Wilderness Therapy is an interruption in a crisis. It provides the teen or young adult, and their family an immediate respite and cessation of the troubles they are experiencing. Because we are able to provide a high level of care and support due to our level of supervision, containment, and clinical sophistication, Wilderness can provide immediate safety and time for the family to catch their breath and regroup before choosing long term care. Wilderness programs provide unique opportunities for assessment that can lead to a more appropriate placement. Out-patient therapy and assessment may not be the best measure of a teen or young adult's capacity and potential level of functioning. In addition to formal testing, observation in a small group setting with experiential activities provides powerful insight into their struggles, coping skills, and level of functioning. This invaluable information often leads to a more appropriate placement than moving directly from home into a residential placement. Wilderness Therapy can address some of the initial resistance often offered by participants. It is a cooling down that introduces the culture of therapy and residential care that can help participants prepare for a longer-term placement. In other words, participants can qualify for a level of care that they would not otherwise qualify for if the placement was made directly from home. With the addition of experiential therapy to traditional therapy, participants and their families often report years later that their wilderness intervention was the most successful and positive part of their treatment experience. Read our related blog article.
Evoke provides participants a healthy diet with reduced processed sugars, preservatives and additives. Food is sourced from local growers and companies whenever possible. All meals are dietitian-approved and include a range of gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options. Special dietary needs are also honored and accommodated with the same attention to quality and detail. You can learn more about our diet and how it fits into our commitment of whole health and healing by visiting our Health and Wellness page.
Healthy exercise and enjoying the beauty of the landscape are an important contribution to the whole health of our clients and staff. Thus, hiking is one of the activities that our clients participate in during the normal course of the week. Nomadic living means that groups move from location to location establishing a new campsite each day. The length of the hike depends on the functioning of each group, accommodation to newer members ability to hike, the natural elements, and the overall group treatment goals. Layover days are non-hiking days, and occur a couple of times each week. These allow for logistical resupply, organization, and therapists visits. Day hikes from the established campsite can take place in situations where moving to a new campsite may not be ideal.
Although each group differs and each client’s needs are taken into account, there is a general outline that can be observed. Activities are designed to facilitate therapeutic assessment and benefit. Everything becomes grist for the mill: the weather, the group dynamics, hiking, camp set-up, letters from home, etc. Here is an example of a typical day:
- 8:00 am Wake-up
- 8:20 Orientation
- 8:30 Breakfast/Camp clean-up
- 10:00 Morning Group
- 11:00 Hike
- 1:00 pm Lunch
- 2:00 Personal Time
- 3:00 Hike
- 4:00 Games and relaxation time
- 6:00 Chores, Set-up Camp, Fire Building
- 6:45 Dinner Prep and Eat
- 8:30 Group Therapy
- 9:30 Games, music, or relaxation
- 10:30 Sleep/personal time
- Spontaneous Groups
- Individual Sessions
- Layovers—non-hiking days or day hikes
- Food distribution
- Letters to and from Home
- Solos—72 hours of solo time from the group to reflect, work on assignments or rest
A large part of our wilderness therapy program is about improving self-care. We encourage and empower participants to improve issues related to personal safety and hygiene. Hand washing, bathing and brushing teeth are monitored daily by Field Instructors, as are hydration and nutritional intake. If participants are neglecting self-care, the Therapist is notified and the issue is addressed in the participant’s therapy plan for the week. If this neglect presents a safety risk, the Medical Coordinator and parents are updated, and medical support is provided as needed.
At least one Field Instructor with Wilderness First Responder certification is in every group at all times. All of our Field Instructors are trained in CPR and First Aid. Communication with the Medical Coordinator, doctor, local hospital, and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) are always available to the staff in the field. Each participant receives a physical before entering the field and bi-weekly in-field check-ups from the Medical Coordinator. If issues arise during daily check-ups with staff, the Medical Coordinator is contacted and a treatment plan is decided upon. Participants receive treatment in the field, and are taken to the clinic or ER by program staff if treatment in the field is insufficient. In the event of an emergency, participants receive EMS via helicopter. Overall, research shows that participants are safer in the field and have fewer emergency room visits, than their peers at home.
An essential component of wilderness therapy is meeting and overcoming the challenges presented by the natural elements. Upon admission participants are provided the highest quality technical gear and tents with stoves are provided in the field when needed. It should be noted that we do use a nomadic model and the field areas have their own ecosystem and climate.
St. George, Utah (Entrada Location)