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The Family Experience

First Light Wilderness’s philosophy is that opportunities for healing throughout the entire family system is a core component of treatment and an essential element to student success. Parents and caregivers engage weekly in online parent support groups and call 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 midway 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. Attention to the whole family system as an element to create joy and heal generations.

Our Generational Empowerment Model

First Light Wilderness Therapy offers families a parallel therapeutic process where parents will engage in self-exploration, healing, and growth alongside and with their child. As students at First Light work towards building confidence and healthy coping skills, providing parents with the tools to better understand unhealthy family dynamics, develop more effective and impactful parenting skills, and continue progress at home is critical to long-term success and meaningful and sustainable change. Our Family Therapist works directly with parents to better understand their own underlying beliefs, family dynamics and communication patterns that contribute to relationship challenges, and to identify and support changes that will contribute to healthier family life moving forward.

The ultimate goal of family services at First Light Wilderness is to provide opportunities to grow, heal and rebuild healthier family systems. Utilizing the power of the wilderness experience, our family services are designed to engage all family members in deepening their understanding of themselves and each other, step outside of unhealthy dynamics, and step into a new space of empathy, compassion, and growth with one another.

Family services at First Light Wilderness services encompass the experiences of settling into the program, integrating the therapeutic processes to understand each family member’s role in treatment, evaluating family patterns, coaching and supporting the development of new ways of understanding old patterns, learning new skills to replace them, and connecting families with resources for ongoing support and sustainable change. Our family therapist may make recommendations for books, articles, videos, and other resources that are specifically tailored to meet families where they are in the program, and in their family’s journey. All in order to provide a smooth process for the families of our students throughout and after the FLW experience.


While families are enrolled in First Light’s program, they can expect:


  • A weekly update call with their child’s primary therapist focused on the child’s therapeutic process and the parent/caregiver’s role in supporting that process;
  • A regularly scheduled call with the program’s family therapist focused on family dynamics/system, psychoeducational, and strategies for building new skills and strategies for a healthier family;
  • Weekly written communication between parent/caregiver and child, often utilizing clinical guidance to ensure that these contribute to the therapeutic process;
  • Access to Family Bridge, a parent portal that is utilized for weekly assignments, webinars, a parent resource library, and photos from the field;
  • Weekly parent support and education group;
  • Family workshop and visit, usually scheduled 5-7 weeks into a child’s therapeutic journey;
  • ATTACh Parent Support—private parent support group available through First Light’s affiliation with ATTACh, including free access to bi-monthly parent support calls, access to webinars, training, and conferences focused on adoption and attachment
  • Transition planning support and guidance, including a transition ceremony honoring a student’s journey and providing a “capstone” to a family’s therapeutic process and a roadmap for continued growth and progress.

Additional services:


Transition Coaching:

For students, families, or both – transition coaching focuses on supporting the transition process, implementation of home agreements, coaching on parental boundaries and communication, and continuing the healing process. This is an adjunct to home-based therapeutic support services and can aid in continuity of care.

Family Intensive:

A 2-5 day family therapy intervention individualized to each family for a unique and impactful experience. This in-depth intervention takes place in a neutral environment deep diving into generational healing and shifting out of unhealthy family patterns while embracing new strategies for families to engage in healthier, more productive ways. Traditionally, this takes place at an Airbnb-style environment near Dahlonega, GA. Families will have the opportunity to practice skills and connect through adventure, relaxation, somatic experiencing, and facilitated group sessions. Each day incorporates 4-5 hours of direct and intensive therapeutic work. Intensive design and goals are uniquely tailored to meet each family’s needs.

Parent Services and Resources

The role of parents involves everything from offering support to gaining an understanding of child behavior and actions. Communication between Our Primary Therapists and the staff in our programs Field Guides communicate and collaborate closely to ensure that we can observe and share an accurate picture of each student’s successes and challenges, and how these relate to what has been observed prior to enrollment. Our therapists are intentional in their approach to engaging children and families, as caregiver involvement is vital to ensure all families are engaged with their children’s to each child’s success. The parent model includes:

Weekly Phone Calls With the Lead Therapist

This is an opportunity for parents to hear about their child's progress in the program and provide an opportunity for therapists and families to discuss, understand, and challenge family dynamics.

Skill Development

We want to provide the tools and knowledge for parents and challenge them to gain a deep understanding of their child's difficulty and work to create a secure caregiving environment.

Building Stronger Parent/Child Relationships

Ongoing family work consists of assigned readings and therapeutic assignments, including letter writing, journaling, and webinars to complete intended to provide parents with more confidence and healthier communication skills to use in the their relationship with their child. In addition, weekly parent support groups and regular calls with our Family Therapist help parents to better understand underlying issues, gain new insight and skills, and be better prepared to create a healthier family dynamic.

Mid-Program Family Workshop

Our Family intensive programs Workshops occur over a two or three-day period after students are about halfway or more through the program. These are multi-family experiential workshops intentionally designed to address family system issues, such as communication styles, re-establishing healthy connections, intergenerational trauma, and the foundation for healthy caregiving. This on-location program includes parent-only workshops, individual family therapy sessions with the child, multi-family sessions, multi-family adventure programming, and dedicated parent-child time. Contact us to learn more about our family program.