SUWS of the Carolinas is a therapeutic wilderness program that focuses on short-term, high-impact clinical intervention and assessment for adolescents, both male and female, ages 10 to 17, who are struggling with a range of academic, behavioral, emotional, and substance abuse issues.
Located in Western North Carolina, our highly recommended program uses the outdoors as an alternative to conventional treatment environments, while also engaging students with traditional therapeutic methods. This unique treatment environment removes modern distractions, simplifies choices, and teaches valuable lessons. As a result, our students begin to accept responsibility for personal decisions, address individual and family issues, and become invested in their own personal growth.
Depression is not just a disorder that affects adults. Many children and adolescents also struggle with the disabling symptoms associated with this serious mental health disorder. Depression is a relatively common, but serious mental health disorder that can have a devastating impact on a young person’s life. A young person with depression will display persistent feelings of sadness and irritability for a prolonged period of time and may also experience a range of other symptoms such as a change in sleep patterns, change in appetite, and impaired cognitive functioning.
Children and adolescents with depression are not able to simply “snap out of it” and will most often need help from a mental health professional. The skillful staff members at SUWS of the Carolinas have years of experience treating children and adolescents who have been diagnosed with multiple mental health concerns, including depression. Our unique and highly structured approach to treatment allows our students to identify and overcome any limiting emotional beliefs and destructive behavioral habits.
Helping a Loved One or Family Member with the Treatment Process
If you suspect that your child is suffering from depression, take action right away, don’t wait until things get worse before seeking help. Set aside a time to talk to your child, sharing your concerns with them in a direct, but nonjudgmental way. If you can, try to point out some specific examples of worrisome behaviors that have you concerned. After you are done expressing your concerns, encourage your child to share what he or she is going through and make sure that you truly listen to what he or she says. At first your child may be reluctant to open up and may claim that nothing is wrong, but this does not mean that you should ignore your original suspicious that you child may be suffering from depression.
Once your child has received a diagnosis of depression, the next step will be placing your child in a treatment program that will address his or her specific needs. While you may be worried about sending your child off to treatment, remember that a mental health professional is the most qualified person to provide your child with the treatment needed to overcome his or her depression. Share any program information you have with your child so that he or she will know what to expect when treatment begins. Throughout the entire treatment process continue to offer your child unconditional support.
Why Consider Treatment at SUWS of the Carolinas
Unfortunately, many children and adolescents with depression are undiagnosed and untreated because their presenting symptoms are simply passed off as normal emotional and psychological changes that occur throughout the developmental process. While some children and adolescents with depression are still able to function reasonably well, others will suffer in multiples areas of his or her life. A depressed child may show a noticeable change in academic performance and may no longer participate in social activities or hobbies they used to enjoy.
Additionally, children and adolescents with depression often engage in risky behaviors such as drug and/or alcohol abuse, which may only exacerbate the presence of the depression and lead to even more serious consequences. Sadly, children and adolescents who struggle with depression may attempt suicide.
Finally, research has shown that depression is sometimes followed by a more serious mental health condition later in life, which is why early diagnosis and treatment is essential for the future health of your child.
Types of Treatment Offered at SUWS of the Carolinas
At SUWS of the Carolinas we provide four different treatment programs, which are designed to meet the distinct needs of all of our students, including those struggling with depression. Each program varies according to age, maturity level, presenting challenges, as well as social and adaptive development of our students. All programs have a strong therapeutic foundation of evidence-based treatment practices and a holistic approach to health and wellness. These four distinct programs include:
- Approach: For adolescents, ages 14-17, who are struggling with autism spectrum disorders, social issues, social avoidance, technology addiction, and more.
- Phoenix Outdoor: For adolescents, ages 14-17, with substance abuse and co-occurring disorders.
- Seasons: For pre-teens, ages 10-13, who are battling ADD/ADHD, defiance, entitlement, and poor social skills.
- SUWS: For adolescents, ages 14-17, who are struggling with anxiety, depression, emotion regulation, learning differences, and trauma.
Additionally, the treatment curriculum offered at SUWS of the Carolinas is designed to support the growth of each student and is based on a level system. Each level carries a specific intention, measurable objectives, and can be individualized for each student’s needs. The admissions process will help you determine which program is the right fit for your child.
Throughout the duration of our program all students will go on multi-day wilderness expeditions where they will participate in challenging experiences and activities on a daily basis. After each wilderness expedition students will then spend a week at our base camp, which is used as an extension of the treatment process. Some of the evidence-based therapeutic methods used in the treatment of depression may include the following:
Medication management: Antidepressant medication is often used in the treatment of depression, however the use of medication in your child’s treatment plan will be a mutual decision between you and your child’s psychiatrist, whom they will meet with on an as needed basis. Additionally, our psychiatrist is available at base camp every other week in the fall, winter, and spring, and every week in the summer. We also have a registered nurse on staff and all of our field staff are trained in medication administration.
Individual therapy: Each student at SUWS of the Carolinas receives individual counseling sessions up to two times a week, where they will be able to meet one-on-one with a licensed mental health professional. Individual therapy can help children and adolescents, with depression, work through emotional distress they may be facing and can begin to change unhealthy patterns of thinking.
Group therapy: Process groups are held on a daily basis, while therapy groups are held one to two times each week. Some of the topics covered in group include, but are not limited to: communication skills, bullying, mindfulness, social skills, anxiety, and emotion regulation.
Family therapy: Throughout the duration of a student’s stay, parents will engage in weekly calls with a SUWS therapist where they will be updated on their child’s progress, will be involved in treatment planning, and will be able to discuss how they can effectively support their child’s recovery process. As part of our programming, SUWS of the Carolinas provides family members with a two day workshop, which is rooted in psychoeducation and is built on the “Love and Logic” model. Finally, there are a number of family webinars available, which are provided to further support and involve parents in the therapeutic process.
Experiential therapy: In addition to traditional therapeutic methods SUWS of the Carolinas offers a number of other highlights and benefits, both at base camp and in the wilderness. Some of the activities our students can participate in include:
- Fire starting
- Trap building
- Trail navigation
- Tree identifying
- Therapy certified dogs
- Equine therapy
- Expressive arts
- Ropes course
Continuing Care and Levels of Treatment
Once a student has completed their treatment program at SUWS of the Carolinas they will participate in a three day graduation process, where students and their families will come together in an emotional reunion and will participate in final closing sessions before reintegrating back into a complete family unit. During the graduation process parents will be reunited with their children and will spend a night in the wilderness, where they will practice establishing new behavior patterns while still under the supervision of the SUWS of the Carolinas staff. On the last day of graduation, a ceremony honoring the accomplishments of each graduate, will be held prior to their departure.
As part of the treatment process here at SUWS of the Carolinas, we also provide each student and their family with transitional planning to help determine the most appropriate placement, upon graduation from our program. SUWS therapists will coordinate aftercare planning and discharge with parents, referring professionals, and the family transition specialist, as needed. Many of our students will go on to attend a longer-term residential program, while others are ready to return home. Our therapists and other mental health professionals will work diligently to make the transition to the next phase of treatment as smooth as possible.
At SUWS of the Carolinas, we are devoted to providing the highest level of care possible for children and adolescents who are struggling with depression. Our highly recommended wilderness program will provide your child with life-changing treatment, allowing for a happier and healthier future.