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

Josh Gunalda
Admissions Director

Professional and Academic Background:
Josh received a BS in Outdoor Education and Environmental Studies from Montreat College. He is very passionate about teaching and facilitating experiential activities with a wide range of audiences. He began his career working with a wilderness program serving adjudicated youth. His next challenge was facilitating backcountry expeditions with fathers and sons who wanted a meaningful, bonding experience. He then instructed leadership courses with high school graduates in preparation for college enrollment.

In 2003, he joined SUWS of the Carolinas, where he spent the next several years as a field instructor working with students and families. He was recognized by SUWS and brought in to help build and launch a young adult wilderness treatment program in North Carolina. While serving as the Base Director for the newly formed Four Circles Recovery Center, he had the great privilege of presenting on wilderness treatment at a number of professional conferences around the country.

He enjoys working with families and is eager to educate and work hard for parents and loved ones so they receive all of the support they need during their challenging experience.

Personal Background
Josh lives in the Asheville area and when not working, he enjoys spending time with his two boys.

Akela Bryson
Admissions Advisor

A native of North Carolina, Akela Bryson attended the University of North Carolina in Charlotte and studied Business Administration. With over 12 years of experience in a business environment, Akela joined SUWS of the Carolinas in 2007 looking for a more fulfilling career in a field where helping others was the focus. She began in the SUWS community as an intake coordinator and was soon promoted to the office manager. With five-years of experience working directly with SUWS staff and therapists, students and parents, she was the perfect candidate to take a position as an admission advisor. Akela is an important and trusted resource in helping to guide families to the most appropriate treatment options.

Akela is a wife and a mother of a very active and precocious 6-year old daughter. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and watching/playing sports.

Michael Vines
Clinical/Alumni Outreach Specialist

Mike earned a B.S. in Business Administration and Spanish from Montreat College. He has extensive experience working with struggling adolescents including as an instructor at North Carolina Outward Bound School, a residential treatment staff at Stone Mountain School, a program leader at Trails Carolina and a master instructor and ropes course coordinator at SUWS of the Carolinas.

His love of the outdoors and caring nature is showcased throughout many volunteer roles including La Escuela Segundario Simon Bolivar-Tarija Bolivia teaching English, Porter Mountaineering in Ecuadorian/Peruvian Andes, Scuba and coral restoration in Tanganga, Columbia and trail maintenance in SC Parks.

A former soccer player at Montreat College, he spends his spare time hiking, rafting/canoeing whitewater, climbing back packing and cooking with his wife.

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