Comments: 134 • Responses: 19  • Date: 

adoubledee89 karma

Can you please give us more information as to why you are doing this AMA? Was it a bad experience? I heard of these “wilderness programs” before but mostly about them being horrible experiences filled with abuse. Just googling “troubled teen industry” made me curious. Hope you’re ok now that you’re out.

Glazedhamss210 karma

The main reason I’m making this AMA is to share my experience and enlighten others of the abusive nature of teen wilderness programs. While I did grow and learn for the better, I was also subjected to harsh weather conditions such as a three day long monsoon, as well as being neglected of medical needs. We were forced to hike 4 days a week with 40-50 pound makeshift backpacks. Not to mention the fact the we were hours away from any hospital and had easy access to broken glass and shards of metal. My hope for the future is that the abusive qualities of these programs are eradicated, allowing them to become what they really should be; a place to experience nature and to connect with oneself through overcoming difficult,but not traumatic, things.

Filthy_do_gooder14 karma

Your response is fascinating. On the one hand you call the program abusive. Literally the next sentence you say that you came away from it better.

Perhaps I’m off base here, but to me these things are incompatible. No one improves from abuse.

I don’t doubt that you suffered. The following sentences confirm that, but I’m also not convinced that all suffering is created equal.

I have spent many hours enduring crippling cold, cuddling nearly naked with fellow patriots trying to stay warm and not sleeping due to the aforementioned discomfort.

There are obviously problematic pieces of your experience, but I’d love to hear further elaboration on why aspects you found helpful, what parts you found harmful and what parts were both.

Glazedhamss6 karma

I can’t deny the fact that I left better then I came in. That’s why I chose to separate the good and the bad. When I say that the program changed me for the better I’m only referring to the positive aspects of it. I can say confidently that no one should have to suffer the way I did because of this program. I do wish that everyone had a chance to experience the good parts about it. It’s like life; not all of it is great, but if I died I would have never lived to see change in myself, or the beauty of the world in general. I still don’t believe in this program, but I believe in building a wilderness program that fosters the growth and change that I saw, in less abusive ways.

miggidymiggidy1 karma

I wish someone would force me to hike 4 days a week in Utah.

Glazedhamss2 karma

Yeah well I think the hiking is a great idea in theory! If I had control of the program I would have put in a lot more precautions tho, considering how hot/ cold it gets and the damage that amount of weight can do to your back/shoulders if you aren’t built for it

asm12037 karma

How much did it cost?

Glazedhamss63 karma

Each day was about $600-$700 at Outback

MrCooper201255 karma

So did it feel like it was worth the money? Stuff like this is great if it works for you, but unfortunately most people don't have $50k to drop on such therapy.

wonderabouttheworld17 karma

Some insurances will cover these programs at least in part. Additionally there are often scholarships available. Not for all programs, it is certainly an overwhelmingly white/privileged clientele base.

I can't speak for OP's experience but I look back fondly on my time at a program and it put me on the path to what I do today. One of the biggest issues that fundamentally underpins the ineffective nature of a lot of programs like this is the fact that participants have to want to be there if not just want to change. That's why I had success with my experience. I chose to be there and wanted to change, which is not the norm.

Glazedhamss4 karma

EXACTLY! It really is about your willingness to change! That’s why I believe these programs would be so much more successful if they were less intense!

kch-n-scarlet18 karma

Did you work with licensed therapists? And I’m not trying to stir up trouble…but if you are living in the wilderness, what in the world is the $600-$700 per day used for? This sounds sketchy to me. And did you have a safe place to sleep? I’m so confused why anyone would spend this kind of money on a wilderness addiction/troubled-teen recovery program. How many kids were with you? Did the program staff stay with you all too? This is just bizarre to me! Hope it wasn’t bad for you, but I just have so many questions on the validity of this!

Glazedhamss5 karma

We had one hour a week with a licensed therapist. Every once in a while we would have one stay with us for a few days in the field (the desert where we stayed) but we were not forced to talk to them. I’m other words, they were there if we needed support and often lead group therapy at night. The amount of kids changed as they came and went. The most amount I ever had with me was 10 I think. The money covers the staff and the food. The food was definitely not great. Mostly consistent of MRE type things like powdered milk and TVP. We slept under a massive tarp side by side on the ground with a sleeping bag and a “yoga mat”. If there’s anything you want me to show for proof I will lol.

Glazedhamss11 karma

(In response to a deleted comment because I spent a long time writing this and I think it is important)

I understand where you are coming from, but you are assuming things about me that are simply not true. Outback was INCREDIBLY difficult financially for my family. I’m glad your program was free for you but it definitely was not for me. I know that I shouldn’t have been treated the way I was. I am so very thankful for the opportunity I had for change I believe that a lot of the methods were wrong and at the least borderline abuse. I came out of wilderness therapy much stronger then I was before. But I did have to sleep in a freezing puddle of mud for three days during a monsoon. I was forced to hike even when I was blacking out and fainting. The nurse (who I only saw maybe 6 times my whole stay) refused to believe any of me when I said something was wrong. There were even a few times where we were told we weren’t getting our food if we didn’t hike even though many of us were injured. There are many more examples that I could list of abusive/ unsafe practices, but that’s not what is entirely important here. What is important is that I highlight the beautiful aspects of this program that saved me. First off, the students; I would have never been able to get out of my social anxiety if it had not been for the chance to bond with the others. A lot of them were very difficult to deal with, but that only made my communication skills better. It has opened my eyes to the way people feel and act. Another major thing is the nature; being outside with absolutely no real distractions allowed me to look inside myself and understand what my root problems were. The whole experience is extremely humbling which I have mixed feelings about. On one hand it really allows you to reinvent yourself, on the other, it really felt dehumanizing. If I could go back and change going there I don’t think I would, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think Outback is an abuse program.

_heyoka5 karma


Glazedhamss5 karma

Lol no I wish

ApologeticallyWhite34 karma

I work at a transitional living program for college-aged students, many of whom previously went to wilderness programs. Some loved their time, but many hated it. What is something you would look for in a program like this to make it so it actually serves as a helpful place of transitioning to independence, as opposed to a reinforcement of what people hated about wilderness?

Glazedhamss5 karma

The hardest thing is trying to get back to your previous friends ships/relationships. One of the biggest things is understanding how you may have affected them when you were in a different mindset and understanding that those people may have a much different image of you. I was always clinging to my friends for support, I was putting my life in their hands.I can’t imagine the amount of guilt they might of had for not being able to stop me after my attempt. I also have lost real contact with many of my friends simply because I was gone. I am lonelier then I have been in months.


Were you kidnapped in the middle of the night?

Did your parents feel remorse?

How do you feel about your parents now?

Glazedhamss5 karma

I was woken up at 7:00 at my residential treatment place in California with no notice. They gave me 30mins to be ready to go. They didn’t tell me where I was going. It was some lady and a very large Russian man named Sorin. It was definitely a much, much better experience then most have with transportation teams or “goons”. My parents don’t really understand the suffering I went through. I love them and don’t believe in any way they thought this place would harm me.


Have you told them how much it harmed you?

Glazedhamss2 karma

Yes, I have. I think the problem is they feel like I'm blaming them for sending me there. I don't blame them at all. I blame the indoctrination that these programs spread to parents.

duffofthefruits7425 karma

I’m assuming you were sent there by your parents. How did that affect your relationship with them?

Glazedhamss6 karma

I was very mad at them at first from taking me away from the RTC I was at. I found out a little later that it wasn’t really their fault. I love them and believe they genuinely believed this placed would be good for me.

GuineaW0rm5 karma


Glazedhamss3 karma

There are a lot of resources out there that can help people with low income. If your are a teen, there are many scholarships that can help with financial aid. Unfortunately I don't know what they are called because I refuse to be in the know about the money aspect as much as I can. I carry a lot of guilt for the money my parents have had to pay. Anyway I'm getting off topic. I would look into CBT and DBT, both are effective therapy techniques that I have been taught in the past. A big part of mental illness is Cognitive distortions and Defense mechanisms. The best that I battle destructive behavior is with coping skills. It sounds silly but finding something positive that you can use to calm yourself down is very important. I know Its easer said then done. For me its walking outside and thinking about why I'm feeling mentally unwell. Its important that when you feel depressed that you don't give in to the want to do nothing. A lot of research has shown the phisical moment improves mood and helps with depression. Its called behavioral activation Honestly the best thing you can do is talk to a professional. Im just a mentally ill 16 y/o.

bartleby_bartender4 karma

Did the counselors try to publicly humiliate the students or get them to shame/police each other?

Glazedhamss13 karma

No. The staff there were pretty nice for the most part. A lot of the abusive things came from the program itself. The staff tried to help the best they could with getting fired I think.( in most cases)

ElAyDubleZee3 karma

Woah I went to this exact one 13 years ago. I had a blast out there. Made some good friends and I thought the staff were really dope people just trying to better their lives. I didn't get much help from the therapists but that was just because I couldn't take a wide-eyed Mormon on SSRIs seriously. I made great friendships, some of them I still talk to here and there. I learned how to be independent through setting up my campsite every day and cooking my own meals which actually led me into hospitality when I got home. I've heard of these programs being abusive but I never once thought that way about this one. Then again before going out there I was skipping class, sharing spliffs with crackheads, and trying to avoid stepping on needles. So being out in the woods was a blessing to me. Do they still have you make your backpack out of juniper branches?

Glazedhamss2 karma

Yes, we did still have to make our backpacks out of juniper lol.

RationalYetReligious3 karma

What would you do differently if you were in charge? What was the best moment of the "therapy?"

Glazedhamss5 karma

A lot of the changes I would make would have to do with the health and safety aspects. I think that the hikes are a great idea but the packs are not. They are very painful and became increasingly harder to carry as you hiked from the exhaustion. I would also change the tarp that we slept under to tents as its a lot safer for unexpected weather conditions, and would prevent the sleeping bags from getting so nasty. Our sleeping bags were never washed. Two showers a week instead of one would be great.I wouldn't change the sleeping in the ground though. That was weirdly therapeutic. My best moment (ironically) was when I had gotten super sick after the conditions of the monsoon. I was forced to stay about 50ish yards from the main campsite under my own makeshift shelter and sleep there alone. I get very paranoid at night and it was super scary at first, but then it was really great. The isolation forced me to reflect on myself without any distractions. I don't think have have ever felt more connected to myself then in those 5 days. Not something I would force on anyone though. Definitely love the idea of of the personal time we had even though I hated it at the time.

Strange_Syrupz2 karma

Once back home, what were your parents reactions to the withholding food, medical, etc.?

Glazedhamss3 karma

I don't think they really believe me or at least don't want to. It hurts but I understand. My dad is still very supportive even if he is skeptical. They just don't want to feel responsible for my pain.

214b1 karma

Was every participant under 18, or are some older than that?

How much contact if any, could you have with the outside world? And by what means - like writing letters?

Have you heard of programs like Outward Bound? How does what you did compare to that?

Glazedhamss2 karma

I don't believe you were allowed to join the program if you were under 13 or over 17, but if you turned 18 there you have to sign a lot of paperwork. We were forced to write letter to our parent and we were not allowed to contact anyone else. Letters were the only communication we had with them. You get six hour with your parents at one point in your stay, where they physically visit you and you have family therapy. I have no idea how my program compares to others. I heard a lot of mixed things about wilderness therapy in general though.

[deleted]1 karma


Glazedhamss3 karma

I had no choice as the transport team that sent me were signed off as my legal guardians for 24 hours. I am 16, I was 15 then. My mental health has been much better, but definitely has gone up and down since the introduction to the “real world”