Increased Precautions We're Taking in Response to COVID-19

LAST UPDATED ON 03/15/2021

As updates on the impact of the coronavirus continue to be released, we want to take a moment to inform you of the heightened preventative measures we have put in place at SUWS of the Carolinas to keep our patients, their families, and our employees safe. All efforts are guided by and in adherence to the recommendations distributed by the CDC.

Please note that for the safety of our patients, their families, and our staff, there are certain restrictions in place regarding on-site visitation at SUWS of the Carolinas.

  • These restrictions have been implemented in compliance with updated corporate and state regulations to further reduce the risks associated with COVID-19.
  • Options for telehealth visitation are continuously evaluated so that our patients can remain connected to their loved ones.
  • Alternate methods of communication for other services may be offered when deemed clinically appropriate.

For specific information regarding these changes and limitations, please contact us directly.

CDC updates are consistently monitored to ensure that all guidance followed is based on the latest information released.

  • All staff receives ongoing infection prevention and control training.
  • Thorough disinfection and hygiene guidance is provided.
  • Patient care supplies such as masks and hand sanitizer are monitored and utilized.
  • Temperature and symptom screening protocols are in place for all patients and staff.
  • Social distancing strategies have been implemented to ensure that patients and staff maintain proper distance from one another at all times.
  • Cleaning service contracts have been reviewed for additional support.
  • Personal protective equipment items are routinely checked to ensure proper and secure storage.
  • CDC informational posters are on display to provide important reminders on proper infection prevention procedures.

The safety of our patients, their families, and our employees is our top priority, and we will remain steadfast in our efforts to reduce any risk associated with COVID-19.

The CDC has provided a list of easy tips that can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then immediately dispose of the tissue.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are frequently touched.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.

For detailed information on COVID-19, please visit

The Effectiveness of Wilderness Programs for Troubled Teens

We remain open and are continuing to accept new admissions.

SUWS of the Carolinas remains committed to providing clinically superior services within a safe and supportive environment while taking all appropriate precautions to protect the well-being of our students and staff.

For admissions information, or to learn more about the heightened preventive measures we have put in place, please click the link at the top of this page or call us at (828) 489-3198.

The results below suggest that wilderness therapy programs are teaching important emotion regulation skills and that adolescents are continuing to refine their skills after graduation. Overall findings provide considerable support for the use of wilderness therapy in treating resistant adolescents.

Effectiveness of Wilderness Therapy Programs

A Review of the Latest Research on the Effectiveness of Wilderness Therapy Programs

Mental illness impacts the lives of millions of adolescents, yet the majority are not receiving needed treatment. Some of the barriers preventing teens from getting the help they need are the shortage of adolescent-specific treatment programs and the fact that adolescents tend to be a difficult population to treat as they are more likely to minimize the gravity of their mental health issues and resist intervention.

Adolescents who don’t receive appropriate treatment for their mental health disorders are at increased risk for poor academic performance, dropping out of school, family conflict, substance abuse, violence, and other emotional and behavioral problems.

Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH), also referred to as wilderness therapy, has proven to be an effective alternative for treatment-resistant youth. Wilderness programs have evolved over the last five decades, growing into a comprehensive and clinically sophisticated intervention. Most wilderness programs now offer clinical assessments, individualized treatment planning, individual and group therapy, and substance abuse education and treatment.

Research Overview

Recent Research Confirms the Effectiveness of Wilderness Therapy

Until recently, research examining the effectiveness of wilderness therapy programs has been limited. But in 2003, Keith Russell and the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Research Cooperative conducted one of the first comprehensive empirical investigations, using a large sample of adolescents who were enrolled in multiple wilderness programs.

Russell and his colleagues examined whether adolescents’ psychological functioning improved as a result of their participation in a wilderness therapy program, and whether improvements were maintained 12 months after graduation. They found that adolescents demonstrated significant improvements in their emotional and psychological functioning as a result of their participation in a wilderness program.

A second study conducted in 2006, using a large sample of adolescents (774 participants) in OBH programs, focused on rates of anxiety, depression and substance use. The teens reported greater therapeutic engagement and readiness for change upon graduation from the wilderness program. They also reported improvements in levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse and dependency, as well as an overall satisfaction with the therapeutic process. Improvements were maintained at the 6-month follow-up assessment.

These studies prompted further investigation. In 2006, the Center for Research, Assessment, and Treatment Effectiveness (CReATE), in collaboration with the Arkansas Institute of Developmental Science (ArK.I.D.S.) at the University of Arkansas, developed a research partnership with Aspen Education Group, the largest provider of OBH treatment programs in the United States.

As an extension of Russell’s earlier work, the researchers conducted a rigorous, well-controlled effectiveness study of OBH programs. Using state-of-the-art assessment, sampling and retention techniques, the research team launched a multi-site, longitudinal study of the impact of OBH programming on adolescents’ overall functioning.

The study involved 190 adolescents, ages 14 to 17, who were enrolled in three different wilderness therapy programs across the U.S. Ninety percent of the teens had participated in at least one prior therapeutic experience, with 22 percent of adolescents reporting four or more prior therapists.

The researchers collected data upon admission; one week after they started treatment; graduation from the wilderness therapy program; 3 months post-graduation; and 12 months post-graduation. Upon admission, the teens reported impairment in peer relationships and school performance as well as significant symptoms of ADHD, aggressive behavior, substance abuse and dependency, depression and anxiety, sleep disruption, and suicidality. A majority of the teens also reported significant lifetime substance abuse:

  • 48% reported daily tobacco use
  • 47% reported weekly (or greater) alcohol use
  • 60% reported weekly (or greater) marijuana use
  • 12% reported recreational (at least once per month) use of amphetamines (not prescribed by their physician)
  • 11% reported recreational (at least once per month) use of powder cocaine
  • 20% reported binge drinking (consuming 5 or more drinks in one hour) at least five days out of the previous month
  • 40% reported smoking marijuana 10 or more days out of the past month (with 15% acknowledging daily use)
  • 38% reported using substances to manage stress, 15% to regulate negative emotions and 66% to escape boredom

Like Russell’s early findings, teens in the effectiveness study made significant progress during treatment, and maintained these therapeutic gains for a full year. The adolescents demonstrated marked improvements in the following areas:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Substance abuse and dependency
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Defiance and oppositionality
  • Impulsivity
  • Suicidality
  • Violence
  • Sleep disruption
  • School performance
  • Interpersonal relationships

The wilderness therapy offered at SUWS was the dynamic solution needed to help my son with his behavioral issues. When my son left SUWS, he was completely changed for the better and also created new bonds and unforgettable memories! I can't recommend SUWS enough for anyone in a similar situation!

– Britney A.
Marks of Quality Care
Why does this matter?
  • Cognia
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)
  • Forest Service Department of Agriculture
  • National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP)
  • National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
  • NC Department of Health and Human Services
  • Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council
  • Safe Zone
  • Sky's The Limit Fund
  • The Jason Foundation

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