SUWS of the Carolinas is a therapeutic wilderness program that focuses on short-term, high-impact clinical intervention and assessment for adolescent male and females, ages 10 to 17, who are struggling with a range of academic, behavioral, emotional, and substance abuse issues. Located in Western North Carolina, our program uses the outdoors as an alternative to conventional treatment environments, while also engaging students in 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.
Anxiety disorders are a group of disorders that are characterized by intense, excessive, and continuous worry and fear about typical everyday situations. Children and adolescents with anxiety disorders are often so afraid or apprehensive that they are not able to function normally and will often develop a number of long-lasting negative effects in all aspects of their lives.
If you have a child with an anxiety disorder, right now you may be confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed as you try to figure out what you can do to help your child. At SUWS of the Carolinas, our structured programs have helped many children and adolescents successfully learn how to manage the symptoms of their anxiety and develop coping skills that allow them to return home healthier, happier individuals.
Helping a Loved One or Family Member with the Treatment Process
Whether you have a child who has been previously diagnosed with anxiety or has just begun to show symptoms of anxiety, it can be extremely upsetting to see him or her struggle. As a parent if you notice repeated symptoms of anxiety in your child, it is important that you reach out to medical or mental health professionals for help.
You can start by talking to your child’s primary care physician who will be able to determine if your child’s symptoms are the result of an anxiety disorder or the result of another medical condition. If needed, they will also be able to provide you with referrals for a mental health professional. Once you have connected with a mental health professional, they will work closely with you and your child, providing them with therapeutic interventions and medication, if needed, which will help to alleviate some of your child’s distressing symptoms.
As a parent, you play an essential role in helping your child or adolescent learn how to manage his or her anxiety. Through modeling and rewarding good coping skills and brave behavior, your child can learn how to face his or her fears and overtime will gain more confidence within him or herself.
Why Consider Treatment at SUWS of the Carolinas
Anxiety is a completely normal emotion that every young person will experience at some point throughout their childhood. However, for a young person with an anxiety disorder the presence of anxiety can cause a significant amount of distress and can ultimately interfere with their ability to function adequately on a daily basis.
Children and adolescents with anxiety may begin to do poorly academically, often refusing to go to school, and may socially withdrawal from those around them. Furthermore, untreated anxiety can lead to the development of multiple problems later on in life including the development of depression or substance use disorders, inability to obtain employment as an adult, difficulties establishing meaningful relationships, and an overall lower quality of life.
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 with anxiety. Each program varies according to age, maturity level, presenting challenges, as well as social and adaptive development of our students. These four distinct programs include:
- Approach: For adolescents, ages 14-17, who are struggling with autism spectrum disorder, 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 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.
All programs have a strong therapeutic foundation of evidence-based treatment practices and a holistic approach to health and wellness. 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 many challenging experiences and activities. 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 therapeutic methods used in the treatment of anxiety may include the following:
Medication management: While medication is frequently used in the treatment of anxiety disorders, all medications needs will be determined on an individual basis. Our psychiatrist is available to meet with students at base camp every other week in the fall, winter, and spring, and every week in the summer. Additionally, we 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, depending on each student’s needs, where they will be able to meet one-on-one with a licensed mental health professional. During individual sessions your child can gain a deeper understanding of possible triggers for their anxiety and work on fine tuning new coping skills.
Group therapy: Process groups are held on a daily basis, while therapy groups are held one to two times per 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 at SUWS, parents will participate in weekly calls with a therapist who will update them on their child’s progress and treatment status. Because we firmly believe that family members should also be making positive changes in their lives, we also provide a two-day family workshop for parents, which is designed to foster awareness of their own behaviors. We also offer a 10-week series of webinar classes where parents can learn more about wilderness therapy, anxiety, and the recovery process.
Experiential therapy: In addition to traditional therapeutic methods, SUWS of the Carolinas offers a number of experiential therapies to provide our students with well-rounded recovery. Some of the therapies offered to our students include:
- Expressive arts
- Therapy certified dogs
- Equine therapy
- Ropes course
- Trap building
- Trail navigation
- Tree identifying
- Fire starting
Continuing Care and Levels of Treatment
Once a student has completed treatment at SUWS of the Carolinas, he or she will participate in a three day graduation process, during which he or she will be reunited with family members for final closing sessions before returning home. During the graduation process, parents will spend a night in the wilderness with their child, where they will begin to establish new behavior patterns. On the final day, a ceremony honoring the accomplishments of each graduate will be held prior to their departure.
As part of the treatment process at SUWS of the Carolinas, we provide each student and his or her family with transitional planning to help determine the most appropriate placement upon graduation from our program. SUWS therapists will coordinate aftercare planning with parents, referring professionals, and the family transition specialist as needed. Our therapists and other mental health professionals work diligently to make the transition to the next phase of treatment is as smooth as possible.
The exceptional staff at SUWS of the Carolinas is dedicated to providing the highest level of care possible for your child, no matter what their presenting concern may be. Throughout the duration of our unique program children and adolescents with anxiety disorders will learn how to take control over their lives.