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Adolescent Treatment at First Light Wilderness Therapy

First Light Wilderness Therapy offers an intensive and fully immersive therapeutic experience in an adventure-based setting w/ endless opportunities for experiential learning. We specialize in working with teens ages 13-18 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 and guidance. The wilderness environment provides a backdrop for teens to focus on the regulation of self, reconnection to their inner self, and attunement to the rhythms of nature. Every aspect of programming is intentionally designed to integrate trauma-responsive principles. We believe that relational and physical safety is imperative to the healing process. 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 thoughtfully designed program incorporates an entire system of responsiveness aimed at creating joy and healing generations.

father and son hiking

Building Teens Up

We promote a “build them up” philosophy, focusing on students’ strengths and empowering growth to foster an increased sense of self-efficacy, self-regulation, and experiences of success. The wilderness experience improves decision-making and provides opportunities to practice the skills needed to build healthier relationships. Our compassionate and empathetic staff prioritize the safety, care, and comfort of students 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 1-2 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 is intensively and regularly trained in trauma responsiveness; meaning from enrollment to discharge, students and families are met with compassion and understanding of the past experiences that may have led them to us. 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 relationships. Our relational approach is rooted in our understanding that all behavior is communication, and all healing happens in the context of a safe relationship. Our goal at First Light Wilderness is to heal underlying trauma and beliefs that are leading to unhealthy behaviors. This to support ultimately re-connecting our students and families with their authentic desire to love, be loved, and experience joy. 

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 group-oriented therapy
  • Access to specialized clinical staff 4+ days per week
  • Highly effective trauma treatment modalities to include Brainspotting and EMDR 
  • 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 system challenges, facilitated by our family therapist
  • Transitional services to include coaching sessions to support the continuum of care 
  • A family intensive program to address specific family issues and support a healthy transition to the next steps in care
  • Heartmath monitoring and self-regulating principles are interwoven throughout the program
  • 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.

Contact First Light Wilderness Therapy Today