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.
Entrada is in the southwest corner of Utah. Here, the Great Basin, the Colorado Plateau, and the Mojave Desert converge making our field area one of the rarest and most beautiful desert landscapes around. Our field boasts some of the most unique geographical formations in the world and varies from sand dunes and red rock cliffs to Ponderosa Pines and Aspen trees. We backpack in the Clover Mountains and the Dixie National Forest. The elevation in this area ranges from 3,000 to 8,000 feet.
Perhaps the thing that separates Evoke Therapy Programs from other programs is our unmatched commitment to family support. Letter-writing therapy, family phone calls, family visits, local parent support groups, national family workshops, a webinar library of almost 400 webinars along with twice-weekly broadcasts, sibling webinars, and access to a robust parent portal are some of the services we offer to support our families. Parents and children are guided on parallel paths towards health and healing. In addition to the support offered during the program, parents are granted life-long access to parenting webinars and support groups offered to our current participants. New parents are provided Parent Mentors from alumni parents eager to serve and give back some of the gifts and wisdom they received while at our program. These resources are commonly used by parents for years in order to remind them of lessons learned and also a venue to offer mutually beneficial support to new families. For additional support, Evoke Therapy Programs also offers Parent, Couple, and Family Intensives throughout the year.
Our Parent Portal offers parents and siblings the opportunity to access group journals, group and individual pictures, and weekly letters. Siblings may be asked to write letters and are offered the opportunity to receive letters to address important family issues. Evoke provides special webinars focused on siblings and sibling issues. Your children can log in to ask questions or send in questions in advance to later see those questions answered by Dr. Brad Reedy, author and co-founder of Evoke Therapy Programs. Click here to view one of the Sibling Webinars mentioned above.
Evoke Therapy Programs is a gender-affirming organization, and we aim to create a safe and welcoming space for all of our participants.
The love of a parent is perhaps the strongest love we know. This love often comes with guilt for myriad shortcomings and the recognition that we cannot always know and do what is right for our children. The decision to send a teen or young adult to Evoke Therapy Programs is a courageous one and often brings with it anxiety and guilt. Parents will be provided education and parent coaching to deal with this guilt and move past it in order to provide more effective parenting. Forgiving themselves is one of the most important things a parent can do for their struggling child. This forgiveness allows parents to become more clear and hold healthy boundaries with their children, even as young adults. Moving away from guilt is essential and allows parents to do the right thing for their children instead of being held hostage by a child’s feelings of sadness or resentment. Their teen or young adult will forgive them when they get healthy because this is what healthy people do. They will learn during their participation at Evoke to challenge old notions of guilt and shame and they will learn to do the best thing for their child in spite of the guilt they may feel. There is no shortcut and no way around this lesson, and they will be supported to walk through their guilt to the other side where they will find hope and connection to their child and their needs. Read our related blog article.
Staff participates in a 24-day internship including a seven-day simulated field experience before directly supervising clients or students. All staff are required to be certified in CPR and First Aid. Senior Staff members are required to obtain or have Wilderness First Responder or an EMT equivalent certification. All staff must pass a federal background check before hiring. On average, 90% of Evoke's Field instructors are Bachelor level college graduates. Our staff training is one of the aspects that sets Evoke Therapy Programs apart. We designed a curriculum to teach our staff about wilderness living skills and therapeutic intervention skills that involve a significant amount of experiential and hands-on learning. They must participate in activities and feedback processes that demonstrate competency in communication skills training and a broad understanding of diagnoses and psychological approaches. As soon as possible they are certified in de-escalation techniques and are required to re-certify these skills periodically dictated by certification standards. Each week staff participates in large group in-services with the clinical team and each staff is supervised by a therapist in the field and a senior instructor with a year of experience. Our instructors offer a tremendous amount of life experience across the board, staying with the company an average of 18 months and often longer. Many students return to become staff as they gleaned so much from their interactions with these talented, compassionate, intuitive, and skilled individuals.
An Educational Consultant can provide parents with continued support after our program. Part of their role is to provide recommendations for aftercare based on the Evoke therapist’s observations and assessment. In addition, consultants can serve as a quality assurance advocate for parents and a neutral third party for parents to discuss the treatment progress. Perhaps the most important role of a Consultant is to provide a thread of support through the various stages and placements for a family. Connecting wilderness and other residential placements to the home therapist in the community can often best be facilitated by someone who has been there all along and who knows of the resources in their home community. Read our blog article about Educational Consultants.
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.
In addition to the thousands of glowing reports from children and families over the last several decades on the effectiveness of Wilderness Therapy, Evoke Therapy Programs is a leader in providing parents access to ongoing research. With continuing participation in outcome research, Evoke stands apart from the crowd in our commitment to challenging the status quo and ensuring that the treatment we provide is highly effective. Check out our Proven Results page for specific results. But the common result is significant change that lasts long after graduation from the program.
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.
Therapists provide assessments and recommendations, in collaboration with the family's other treatment professionals, but parents are responsible for the aftercare decision for their child. In the case of a young adult, the young adult will have the last say in their aftercare decision. It is common for recommendations of aftercare from residential treatment to therapeutic boarding, to transitional living, to intensive outpatient to be included in the assessment of your child. Our experience tells us that many of our graduates would benefit from continued care. This basis is not a theoretical one, but rather one we have developed from decades of experience in the Wilderness Therapy field. Nevertheless, each participant will be treated individually and his or her recommendations will be made to the parents (or young-adults) so that they may make the most informed decision possible.
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.
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
The initial phase of the program consists of the participant spending a few days outside of the social circle of the group. The new enrollee sits just outside of the group in order to observe the group culture and learn about group expectations. Staff and an assigned peer mentor allow for more focused conversations and instruction while the new member is in the initial phase. This initial step is so that a new participant can reflect on the circumstances that led to their enrollment in the program. Self-reflection is also facilitated through a Life Story Assignment that will be later shared with the group. This time also allows the staff more focus and attention on new members of the program to ensure that their adjustment is a safe one.
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.
All groups are organized around themes and diagnoses related to the specialization of each Therapist. However, there is some range in terms of presenting issues and levels of functioning. This range provides all our participants with exposure to those differences as well as exposure to others who may be functioning at a higher or lower level. Groups also go through cycles where they are functioning well and when they are struggling. These differences provide a rich opportunity for participants to engage in leadership roles, or be led by others with more experience. Exposure to peers who are presenting with serious issues also provides participants with opportunities to overcome distractions and peer pressure in a controlled and safe environment.
There are two important points to make here; first, most participants will complain to their parents that the others in the group are sicker than they are. They play on parents’ fears that they are being exposed to more serious issues in an attempt to get parents to rescue them. Second, the level of supervision in our wilderness programs is such that any peer pressure or negative behaviors are addressed in the here-and-now. Thus, being exposed to others who might have different or significant issues does not go untreated and provides students a powerful therapeutic benefit.
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.
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)
Therapists are in the field each week for two long days and into the night providing individual sessions, group sessions, staff training, and treatment plan updates. The other days of the week Therapists are providing updates to parents via weekly calls and discussing relevant information with the family’s Educational Consultant, home therapists, aftercare program, and other home professionals. Often it is the space “in-between” the Therapist visits where the most important therapy occurs. Our Field Instructors are highly skilled at facilitating the Therapists' treatment plans and participants need time between sessions to work through issues. While this may be uncomfortable or seem like downtime, these times between the Therapists’ visits are often where the work and growth occurs. Wilderness therapy is an action and experiential program rather than a talk-therapy program. Field Instructors facilitate mid-week updates and check-in with the Therapist to adjust treatment plans as needed.
The Evoke culture supports and encourages the whole-health of each of its employees. In addition to receiving sophisticated training, Field Instructors are encouraged to bring their passion, creativity, and uniqueness into their work. Creativity, autonomy, and a foundation of healthy self-care are critical aspects that help our Field Instructors provide the highest level of care for our participants. We further support our employees by providing stipends for education, personal therapy, and ongoing training.
When considering treatment options, it is essential to evaluate a teen's or young adult's specific needs. In addition, a parent needs to evaluate their own. Those evaluations may be best assessed with the help of an Educational Consultant or home therapist. A few helpful things to consider when a parent decides on the necessity of our programs are:
- Is my child ready to be a part of the solution at home?
- Have we tried less invasive attempts to create change with little to no success?
- What are the risks of intervening too early vs. intervening too late?
- Is my hesitancy to consider wilderness therapy about me or about what my child needs?
- Have I learned exactly what is involved in a wilderness therapy intervention?
Many people are hesitant to enroll their child or themselves in a wilderness program because they don't understand what it is. Wilderness therapy is an experiential approach that combines traditional therapy with new and innovative approaches set in the beautiful outdoors. It is an emotionally safe and nurturing program that promotes change without the use of shame, guilt, or intimidation. More than merely creating behavioral change, wilderness therapy promotes enduring transformations through ritual, metaphor, and rites of passage while engaging in a small group living environment. The wilderness group becomes the microcosm of home life where new skills and insights are generated and immediately put to use. Simply put, and as many of our parents realize, wilderness therapy may be the most dynamic and effective approach to therapy that you will ever experience. Parents can talk with an Admissions Counselor at 866.411.6600, or ask to talk to a Therapist at Evoke to discuss their specific concerns.
Evoke Therapy Programs has an accredited curriculum offering .5 credits in Science, English, P.E., and Psychology. Each participant may also work with their Therapist in bringing outside curriculum or test preparation to help stay on course towards high school graduation.
In many cases the answer to this question is that it doesn’t matter. Providing a teen or young adult with help and support in a wilderness program is an intervention to prevent further troubles as well as to reverse destructive patterns already present. Wilderness therapy is relatively short-term and can also provide parents with an assessment to find out whether, and what kind of support they will need going forward. Many times parents struggle to see the forest through the trees and consulting with a professional may help them to get clear about their teen's or young adult's issues and needs. An Independent Educational Consultant (therapeutic placement specialists) or a therapist that is informed about wilderness therapy may help them acquire the clarity they need to find confidence in their decision. Our Admissions Counselors can recommend professionals or you can visit the Independent Educational Consultant Website for a list of names in your area.
Weekly phone calls will focus on progress, assessment, and aftercare planning. Each participant’s situation is considered when making recommendations regarding length-of-stay and graduation. This discussion and decision is between Therapists and parents; and in the case of young adults, they will become a part of the discussions regarding length of stay.
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.
Evoke Therapists will make sure to provide the professionals working with your family all the necessary information needed to take advantage of the progress and assessment made during their wilderness experience. Parents are provided a lifetime subscription to the Parent Webinars in order to stay connected to the principles and skills they acquired while at Evoke. Our Research Director will periodically follow up with surveys or questions regarding participants’ continued progress. In many cases parents will reach out to Therapists in order to keep them updated or to ask for help.
Our numbers suggest that approximately 65% of teens are transported to to the program via professional transport services. This is often a safe and effective way to enroll a child. The transport from the home, with the support and presence of the parents, signals to the child that the parents are fully involved and invested in the intervention. Professional transporting also prevents escalation, running away, physical or verbal violence, and the temptation for parents to lie or promise things to the child during the enrollment process. Please ask your Educational Consultant or Admissions Counselor if you would like additional information. You may also click here to read our blog about our transportation study, or click here to read our blog, Utilizing Transport Companies: Allaying Fears and Addressing Myths Associated with Adolescent Transport.