Phoenix Outdoor, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains about 45 minutes east of Asheville, North Carolina, is a wilderness therapy program for adolescents with problems that include defiant behavior, family conflict, substance abuse and mental illness. The program is run by Aspen Education Group which is owned by the for-profit company CRC Health.
Accommodations and Food
During their time at the “base camp,” students sleep in tent platforms, although there is accommodation for extreme weather in the Student Lodge. Rooms have bunk beds and bathrooms for showering after clients return from the wilderness component of the program. Food during base camp is kid-friendly, meaning not necessarily healthy. During the wilderness portion of the program, students prepare and cook their own meals.
Treatment and Staff
Treatment at Phoenix Outdoor lasts anywhere from 30 days to two years. Clinical therapy during the five days at base camp includes neurofeedback, DBT, CBT and optional psychiatric testing and services. The wilderness component of treatment involves general recreation, ropes courses at the base camp and a 10-day “wilderness expedition” into the mountains where students climb, build and establish campsites, learn camping and other wilderness skills and participate in team-building activities and initiatives.
The treatment here really values family involvement. As such, the family program includes CD audio lectures, an online parenting resource, weekly treatment planning sessions and a parenting workshop.
Average length of stay at Phoenix Outdoor is 55 days. The cost is a one-time enrollment fee of $3,000 and an additional $485 a day, bringing the average cost for one individual to nearly $30,000. Insurance typically does not cover program costs at Phoenix Outdoor.
The staff at Phoenix Outdoor includes clinical therapists and field instructors who oversee the program and daily life. Therapists all hold advanced degrees in the fields of counseling and family therapy but only a few are licensed psychologists in the state of North Carolina. Although a nurse is on staff, the assistant field medic is the only other medical personnel at Phoenix Outdoor.
In addition to the physical activities inherent in the program, Phoenix Outdoor offers equine therapy, yoga and therapeutic drumming.
The staff members at Phoenix Outdoor are well-educated and well-intentioned. Whether the wilderness treatment is conducive to personal growth and healing for adolescents is up to the perspective client and his or her parents to decide. It’s certainly a unique alternative to traditional 12-step and evidence-based routes.
Phoenix Outdoor Cost: $29,675 (55 days). Reach Phoenix Outdoor by phone at (888) 828-9770. Find Phoenix Outdoor on Facebook
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