Admissions Information

SUWS offers life-changing wilderness-based therapy programs for adolescents ages 10-17 who are struggling with mental illness, mood disorders, and substance abuse issues. Starting with the call to our admissions team to graduation, you will interact with a compassionate team of experts, dedicated to helping your whole family on the journey of recovery.

At SUWS of the Carolinas, we are honored to work with parents and other family members whose dedication to their children has led them to our campus, and we are committed to providing you with a premier treatment experience that exceeds your expectations and provides your family with a renewed sense of hope and health.

From your first phone call until the day your child returns home, we will work diligently to ensure that your needs are met, that you have all of the information that you want and need, and that you remain an active, positive presence in your child’s life throughout his or her time in our program.

Admissions Criteria

In order to qualify for admission to SUWS of the Carolinas, your child must meet the following criteria:

  • Between the ages of 10 and 17
  • Struggling with a behavioral, developmental, mood, or substance use disorder
  • Capable of fully engaging in a wilderness therapy program

Unfortunately, SUWS of the Carolinas is not equipped to accept adolescents who are experiencing or demonstrating any of the following:

  • Eating disorders
  • Self-harming or actively suicidal/homicidal
  • Extremely aggressive behavior
  • Certain medical conditions, including, but not limited to, diabetes or any conditions that require blood-thinning medications

If, during the course of our assessment, we determine that a young person would not be a good fit for programming here at SUWS of the Carolinas, we will provide referrals to programs that may be more appropriate.

The Enrollment Process

Starting the enrollment process at SUWS of the Carolinas is as simple as making a phone call, either to make an appointment for an in-person assessment or to begin the process over the phone. A member of our admissions team is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Once you have made this initial call, the enrollment process will progress as follows:

  • The staff member with whom you speak will gather the information that is necessary to determine your child’s appropriateness for our program.
  • Once we have a complete enrollment application on file, our Clinical Director or Executive Director will review the application and make an admissions decision. Our goal is to have all completed applications reviewed within two hours of receiving them.
  • When the enrollment application has been approved, you will complete some additional paperwork and coordinate with an admissions counselors to determine your child’s enrollment date.
  • If you are not able to bring child to our base camp yourself, we can provide you with information about hiring a transport service.
  • When your child arrives, he or she will be outfitted with all appropriate wilderness gear. If you are present, you will also receive a full orientation.
  • We will schedule your initial call with your child’s therapist and will provide you with login information for our parent portal.

Online Application Form

We clinically assess every student to ensure our level of care is appropriate, as well as to determine the family’s readiness to fully engage in their child’s overall treatment and care. In addition, we will evaluate a minimum level of physical ability in each student.

For your convenience, we are pleased to offer a secure online application for admission. Please utilize the link below to begin the process.

Application Form

Our Admissions Team

SUWS Admissions Team

Kelly Dunbar, MA
Director of  Business Development

Professional and Academic Background:

With over 30 years of professional experience in assisting families and students in residential settings, Kelly brings a wealth of knowledge, both administratively and clinically to the SUWS family. She earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology and her Master of Arts in Human Behavior and was a founding member of Carlbrook School where she served as the Dean of Admissions for many years. Before joining the Admissions team her experience included direct work with families through counseling, advising students, group facilitation, and facilitating parent workshops. In 2013, she joined an educational consulting firm as a lead consultant specializing in educational and therapeutic placements. In 2014, Kelly returned to Virginia after her first grandchild was born and had the privilege of working for an outdoor therapy program in Georgia.

Kelly is excited about the opportunity of spreading the word about SUWS as the Director of Business Development. Her relationship with SUWS really began is 2002 when Carlbook opened it’s doors and their first six students arrived from SUWS of the Carolinas. She holds SUWS in high esteem and feels grateful to be a part of such a long-standing program.

Rachel Vandevoort, BA
Admissions Director

Rachel grew up in southeast Iowa. After high school, she attended Central College in Pella, Iowa, where she initially studied business administration. Due to her interest in social issues and helping others, she changed to a sociology major and set out to have a career positively impacting youth.

Rachel spent 10 years in Missouri, where she worked in residential treatment. She initially provided direct care to adolescents before moving to admissions for the program in 2015. She brings all of this experience with her to the SUWS of the Carolinas team, which she joined in 2021.

Along with her husband, two children, and four pets, Rachel now lives in northern Iowa. She enjoys supporting her children’s activities, reading, and kayaking.

Sharon A. Findlay, MS
Communications Director/Admissions Counselor

Raised across the country and abroad, Sharon grew up in a military family. She has worked in mental health, education, and management fields for over 15 years and brings a great deal of personal and professional experience to SUWS of the Carolinas. After Sharon began her therapeutic program experience with a therapeutic boarding school, she earned her Master of Science in Organization Development, with a focus on resilience in individuals and groups. This emphasis, combined with the systemic and consultative approach her studies offered, inspired Sharon to return to the field with a new goal: helping clients reach their full potential while simultaneously addressing the health of the organization, its staff, and program as whole. Sharon had the opportunity to further hone these skills in multiple residential settings. Sharon has witnessed first-hand the powerful and life changing outcomes that occur at SUWS as result of her tenure in secondary programs. She is excited to now be a part of the first stage of the change process for so many young people.

Sharon is extremely dedicated to helping our clients and their families heal. She appreciates the holistic and intentional approach that SUWS of the Carolinas utilizes. She is also very committed to social justice issues and serves on the Gender Education and Demystification Symposium (GEMS) board of directors, which is a not-for-profit that oversees an annual conference designed to offer a clinical and educational perspective regarding gender identity.

Sharon currently resides in Asheville, North Carolina, and loves spending time outdoors and with friends. In her spare time, Sharon can be found crafting, nurturing her garden, and snuggling her cat Ethel.

Initial connection to the program through the internet and contact with the Admissions team was the key to our decisions to sending our son to SUWS. They made us feel heard and finally not alone with what we were going through as a family

– Anonymous Parent