SUWS of the Carolinas Reviews, Cost, Complaints

SUWS of the Carolinas


suws-of-the-carolinas-dreamstimeSUWS of the Carolinas Review

Originally founded in Idaho in 1981, SUWS of the Carolinas is a member of Acadia Healthcare. The focus here is on treating children and teenagers suffering from substance abuse and emotional and behavioral issues in a wilderness setting. SUWS of the Carolinas offers a unique experiential rehabilitation approach.

Accommodations and Food

The SUWS residential campus is located right outside Asheville in Old Fort, North Carolina. Kids between the ages of 10 and 17 are separated by gender and sleep in seven large cabins, four for the boys and three for the girls. Cabins have four bedrooms with four clients in each room and each client has a single bed with a shared dresser and closet. Communal restrooms and showers are located outside the cabins in a typical summer camp arrangement.

Meals are prepared as a group under the guidance of a licensed counselor and residents are responsible for both set up and clean up.

Food, camping equipment, suitable outdoor clothing and hiking gear are all provided by SUWS. No personal electronics are allowed at the campsite and at no time are the students allowed to leave the campgrounds to go into town.

Treatment and Staff

Each student is assessed in the first 48 hours post admission. Anyone suffering from withdrawals will not be admitted because SUWS does not offer detox. The clinical staff uses this initial evaluation to create a treatment plan, which consists of group therapy, educational classes and individual therapy. The specific therapy modality—either CBT or DBT—is determined at this point as is the treatment for any dual diagnosis needs. Clients are introduced to 12-step concepts and the power of the social model of recovery.

Because these are teens and preteens, the atmosphere is used to clinical advantage at SUWS. Upon arrival, students join an existing group with an established positive peer culture in which leadership positions are earned through achievement. Groups are supervised by a core treatment team comprised of a therapist and three counselors, and are overseen by the program’s clinical director.

SUWS strongly believes that positive peer influence helps students to shift their focus from entitlement and blaming to mastering personal responsibility and practicing healthy relationships. The goal is to work through problems in the group rather than running from conflict in order to form lasting bonds.

SUWS is an expeditionary wilderness treatment model. Students go on backpacking trips lasting between 10 and 14 days, then return to campus at regularly scheduled intervals to participate in equine therapy and the ropes/challenge course.

Each camping trip lasts anywhere from five to 10 days. There are, on average, seven to nine students on each trip and at least two field staff (all counselors have Bachelor’s degrees in wilderness training and are certified in first aid). SUWS of the Carolinas seeks to move kids out of their comfort zones, placing them in challenging but safe environments. The hope is that the demands of mastering a new setting will allow therapists and counselors to positively engage clients. The outdoor camping experience might also release deeply held passions common in adolescents in healthier ways than they’re used to. The program aims to teach character development and to assist in the discovery of core values and guiding principles.

In Summary

SUWS of the Carolinas, nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, provides clients with a safe, uncomplicated natural environment. By submerging students in the wilderness, the kids are stripped of chaotic and often damaging stimulus and distractions. Whether sending children this age to wilderness rehabilitation is the best plan is for family members to decide, but keep in mind that for every three campers, there is one staff member standing by. For treatment of this sort, SUWS is a solid choice.

SUWS of the Carolinas Location

363 Graphite Rd
Old Fort, NC 28762

SUWS of the Carolinas Cost

$16,580 (28 days). Reach SUWS of the Carolinas by phone at 888-828-9770. Find SUWS of the Carolinas on Facebook

Do you have a complaint or review of SUWS of the Carolinas to add? Use the comments area below to add your SUWS of the Carolinas review.



  1. I was there as a 16 year old in 2001. They told us we would only be there for 30 days and go home. On the 12th day we all found out we were going to different centers for a year or until we were 18. During the hike that day I saw what looked liked some houses of in the distance so I told 2 of the girls (Kelly and Sophie) that we should run away that night. It was February and very cold. They took our boots away at night so we couldn’t run but we had 2pairs of 2 kinds of socks each so we slid out of our sleeping “burritos” into the night. The cops later told us that we had gone 16 miles that night to the neighborhood that we found. I broke into a house and stole clothes, food, guns, and tools to steal a car. We changed out of our clothes and took bird baths to freshen up a little but got in and out pretty quickly. We buried our clothes so police dogs wouldn’t be able to trace our scent but they found us anyways. We should have showered. We went to the top of a mountain to wait for nightfall and right before nightfall is when the chase started. 2 cop and 2 K9s come up behind us and we take off running down the mountain. I’m unloading guns and throwing them different directions while running through the brush with no trail. By the time we get to the bottom it’s dark, we have crossed what they call a creek (but it was 6ft deep cold rushing water), and now the dogs are barking at us from the other side. There is a large field with a whole search party in the tree line. It’s comprised of cops with spotlights, rifles, and K9s. At this point I’ve taken off all my clothes except for my long john pants so I don’t get hypothermia and my boots I had taken were stuck to the bottom of the “creek” which actually almost took my life. There is a cop car with lights going 300 yards to the left. I think that’s our last chance. Then a Helicopter comes and spotlights us. I tell the girls that they think we are armed so we mustn’t make any sudden motions as we walk out into the middle of the field with our hands up and fall flat on our faces. They put Kelly and I in adult jail in solitary confinement. Sophie ended up in Juvenile. I was able to yell through the cinder block walls to talk with Kelly but I got bonded out and never heard from her again. I get sent to the SUWS in Idaho to finish off my month of SUWS. I got specialized treatment for the first week until they realized I wasn’t trying to mess up again. At this point I was now looking at 5 years in the penitentiary so I was a good boy and was happy hiking and sleeping in the snow.
    Now to tell about the conditions of the different SUWS’. There was a tent that we slept in one night in Idaho that was supposed to be a frigid stormy night but other than that we would use the same plastic that we made our backpack with and make water tight burrito with our zero degree bags stuffed into it. In Idaho it was 2ft of snow so the hiking was much flatter than the mountains of North Carolina but each step had another kind of resistance. We had to dig to the ground in the snow to put our sleeping burritos down below the wind of the tundra. Coyotes would keep us awake with their howls. In North Carolina we first would learn to make a char cloth and make a fire with quartz and steel sparks. Then we learned to make a bowdrill set and make every fire from that point forward with that. The only showers
    I got in that month were in jail and at the end of my Idaho trip. I look back very fondly of it. I was a tough kid though and there were other kids there that just couldn’t do it. They would cry and throw tantrums and were dealing with body aches, constipation, and lack of nutrition because they couldn’t shit in the woods and they couldn’t get their fire going at night after hiking all day.
    From Idaho I was sent to another wilderness program in Virginia where I excelled and stayed at for 1 1/2 years. It was good for me. I didn’t come out of the whole process as the thug that I entered it as but different things work for different people.

    • I forgot to mention that I was in there in the first place because of a GTA charge and they knew I was dealing guns and doing drugs. Don’t send your fucking kid to that place because they’re smoking weed. Deal with it yourself. I deserved it. I was living a rough life at a young age but their were some pansy kids in there that it was torture for. My parents had to remortgage their house for this and my grandparents had to give up their life savings to get me out of jail. Don’t let an overabundance of money make this decision for you because you might break a weak kid sending them there.

  2. $16,580 (28 days) WTF. That’s like the cost of two years or half a B.S degree at my local public university. Are these people high or something?! Helping kids my a**.

  3. I went to Suws in the summer of 2017 after getting kicked out of my school. I was in the female substance abuse group, P3. It saved me, no joke. After reading all these reviews and talking to my old group members Im aware that others had different experiences than me, but I am 100% sure I would be dead if I had not gone to SUWS. I met two of my best friends there, I worked on myself, grew, and re-established a relationship with my family. I went to a boarding school after SUWS and others who had gone there from SUWS also loved SUWS. I was fed, taken care of, and when others in my group were injured they were taken to the hospital. I never witnessed any abuse in my two months there.

  4. Andrew moore on

    Anyone who works or profits off SUWS are evil and deserve brain cancer.They are equal to Hitler or Stalin!

  5. I am a former student of SUWS of the Carolinas and I just want to share my experience for those parents thinking of sending their child here. I was sent to SUWS for substance abuse (I only smoked weed, never did any other drugs so I don’t know how what would be considered substance abuse but okay). First off, SUWS is not the place to send a child with substance abuse issues, this program will only emotionally destroy them. The way they treat the students DOES NOT help a kid who has no sense of security, doesn’t think they should be there, or has been using drugs. As for kids with emotional issues, SUWS could be a good place to help. SUWS claims to be a therapeutic program to help teens with substance abuse and emotional problems, but it is far from that. It is a very dehumanizing and emotionally traumatizing program. I was told on my first day that I, as well as the other girls in my group, would be working with each other, staff, and therapists to develop coping skills that would work in the real world. In reality every one of us was completely stripped of any sense of security we had. We were not allowed to talk to each other alone or have any personal conversations with people we felt comfortable with. This aspect really hurt me because I thought the whole program was supposed to help me open up and share my feelings, but I never felt comfortable exposing myself like that in a group of 7-13 people. SUWS also claims that “kids between the ages of 10 and 17 are separated by gender and sleep in seven large cabins, four for the boys and three for the girls. Cabins have four bedrooms with four clients in each room and each client has a single bed with a shared dresser and closet. Communal restrooms and showers are located outside the cabins in a typical summer camp arrangement.” It literally says that in the above section under “Accommodations and Food”. During the two and a half months I stayed at SUWS I had the opportunity to shower 7 times, I used a real toilet maybe 5 times, and my single pair of pants and two shirts were washed 3 times. At SUWS you never stay in a cabin, I think we went to base one time for three days. As for the conditions in the woods, they cram 3-4, sometimes 5, students into a very small tent every night – keep in mind these are teens who have gone weeks without showering. The “therapeutic” aspect of SUWS isn’t great either. You meet with a therapist every week and talk which is nice, but most of the kids there just say whatever to make the therapist happy and get out of there sooner. And for the therapists, they don’t help with anything really, at least for me and many of the other girls and boys that I spoke to while I was there. I had a very big issue with my therapist that I didn’t find out about till after I graduated. I Had been really sick for a few weeks – another note, if you are sick or injured they still force you to hike miles every day with 70 lb on your back, and if you refuse you and your whole group is punished- and my parents paid money to send me medicine. My parents were told by my therapist, Alice, that I has been taking the medicine, but I never got any of the medicine. On another occasion I fell and sprained my knee very badly, yet I was still forced that same day hike three more miles with 70 lb on my back when I could hardly walk. For 6 weeks I asked to see a doctor about my knee and nothing ever happened. My therapist, Alice, had told my parents that I had seen a doctor twice. I actually did see a doctor when I finally got home and was told that I have permanent knee damage because nothing was done to take care of it when I first got hurt. This next story is about periods so if your a guy and you think it’s gross skip this part. I got my period the second day I got to SUWS and had it for 26 days in a row. I had it on and off consistently the entire time I was there (56 of the 70 days I was there I had my period). Now I know this doesn’t sound that bad, but we were not allowed to have tampons. All we had were these huge diper size pads. No imagine having to hike for hours every day, while bleeding into this huge pad that ends up leaking down your leg anyways, and not being able to shower. The diper rash was bad too. As you can see my personal, medical, and hygienic needs were not met. SUWS is a place that will scam you of your money, lie to you, neglect your children, and leave them with PTSD or other long term emotional damage. It has almost been a year since I left SUWS and I see things every day that make me think of SUWS again. I have panic attacks that I never had before I went to SUWS (I had a panic attack at school today because I was reminded of SUWS and now I am home writing this review). I still have problems dealing with my feelings. I know this is not just a one time bad experience because I am in touch with many of the girls I met there and they are still going through the same things I am. I also don’t want to say that every single this about SUWS is horrible because it isn’t. Some of the staff are amazing and they can actually make things fun. When it isn’t raining some of the views were amazing – another note, it rains all. the. time. the pisgah national forest is considered a rain forest – I also met amazing people there. My best friend in the whole world is one of the girls I met there. I hope this gives some insight into what SUWS is really like for parents thinking of sending their child here. Also if you do send your kid here DO NOT USE A TRANSPORTATION SERVICE!!!!!!! I had a terrible experience with mine and every kid I talked to said the same thing.

  6. It’s horrifying to have to send a loved-one to a place like SUWS, even if she were making her life, and our lives, a living hell. My daughter had descended into such a bad place, constantly putting herself in terrible peril while being agonizingly belligerent and hateful to her family. We first learned about programs like this almost two years ago and resisted until our latest therapist finally said we had to either send her to a program like SUWS (though she did not endorse SUWS or anywhere else) or a facilityhospital. The latter seemed repugnant to me.

    I ask all of those who posted the negative reviews, what other options would you suggest? If you were in a similar spiral, what else would have helped? Would a hospital have been a better option?

    I don’t doubt any of your stories. I was sent to a certain school when I was in 8th grade and though nowhere near as immersive as SUWS, it haunted me for years. So I get it on some level (I know it’s not close). But really would like thoughts on options. Letting this thing sort itself out is not an option. Had we not acted, I’m sure she’d be in jail sometime soon.

  7. I was considering sending my child here and from looking at their website, it looked very promising. I’m glad I read up on reviews here and on some other sites and saw both sides of the story. Appreciate it, rehabreviews. Also didn’t know this program would this expensive, but that’s besides the point.

    • Too add to my previous comment, decided not to my child here due to safety/abuse concerns and cost. I appreciate you all for giving your reviews and testimony.

      • SUWS "camper" from '03-'04 (Idaho) on

        This is what any real parent should do before even considering sending a child to such a program…. Here is my story…..
        I went to SUWS Idaho back over 14 years ago now… Just reading some of the things people have listed about the accommodations made me remember how much worse it was when I was there. I was there for 68 days without a single shower, the only time we get to stay in a tent was if it was below like 10 degrees and the “tent” we were put into was a crappy tarp with bunk style beds made out of PVC pipes and plywood… not mattress pad or anything . I was there from before thanksgiving time until first week of February. I never got to change my clothes not one time. By the time I left I had dirt and stuff embedded into my hands and face which took MONTHS (3+) of daily showering to finally come off. The first day I got to SUWS they stripped me naked took away all my clothes besides the one pair of underwear I ended up wearing for the entire stay. They then gave me a 5 pound can of peaches to lug around, that was my ONLY meal for the next few days as I was instructed to eat the can until it was completely empty and bone dry on the inside. Shortly after I and another “camper” were put into basically a orientation where we were unable to SPEAK for 4 days unless it involved going to the bathroom. I ate only Oates for breakfast, PB & apricots on pita bread for lunch & Lentils and rice for dinner for the entire program. I did get a disgusting chicken or something in a can on thanksgiving to eat which at the time was like the best tasting meal after being deprived of all other foods and meat for so long. I also can recall having to eat uncooked rice and lentils many of nights at first because if you couldn’t start your own fire you ate your food as is. I remember they give you a tiny thing of butter for dinner each night in the start and that was literally all I would eat. I was a very skinny person at the time (Maybe 100 pounds) and I ended up losing roughly 15 pounds while attending the program. I was unable to contact my parents for at least 2 weeks and I think I got to write a total of 5 letters or something absurd, all letters were pre-read by staff and if something they didn’t agree with was on it they would not send it out and make you write a new one. This was a fairly traumatic experience as a 16 year old. I remember once I finally got back home from my residential school (which also closed down due to shady stuff) I would slept with a knife under pillow until the time I turned 18 because I was under ZERO circumstance going back to a place like this every again at all costs. I did make a few good friends from all around the US who I spoke with for many years after leaving, sharing a bond with these kids of the most difficult and challenging days of our lives. I know I am not giving many details into what else happened at SUWS but that is because I have repressed those memories since the day I left that place. I was mentally exhausted and psychically drained after being deprived of so many lifes simple pleasures while attending this program. The one thing I got out of SUWS is a new appreciation of freedom and the ability to be grateful for the little things in life. I have spent some time before in jail and that was a cake walk compared to the 68 days spent at SUWS. If anyone else from SUWS idaho from November-February in 2003-2004 would be interesting to also hear your story.

  8. As a former participant of SUWS, I can understand the sentiment a number of individuals on this forum have expressed of anger. Following my experience, I too was angry, though ultimately what I found SUWS to be helpful for was making me more aware of who I was, even if I did not necessarily recognize this at the time. The challenge for me afterwards was coming to peace with a diagnosis of ASD that came at long last from a lifetime of social challenges, etc. SUWS provided a supportive atmosphere for me to process this diagnosis (even if I was not aware of it) and provided very supportive staff around me to help me grow. Social relationships worked in the program, although I have not kept in touch with anyone there. Looking back, I see it as a good experience as it showed me that I could be capable and accomplish things, something I had not been feeling for a few years given particularly severe depression. I see the experience as saving my life in a way. It was challenging, though an important step and as I continue with my second year of medical school, I am grateful for having the opportunity to re-assess my life and make something more of myself than the likely angry young man I would have been. Of course I had a good experience and with adequate support was able to turn my life around. Clearly it is different between individuals, though understandably not many like being forced to do a program like this and have their routines changed. For parents, this understanding of what the program will be like for their child must be balanced with the benefits that can develop through such a program.

    • Further, just as medicine is not all what happens in the office, what made a difference for me was having continued support following the program even when I was a bit difficult (a bit more passive following the program due to the in-program expectations). Becoming better aware of my choice towards how I wanted to continue my life was also helpful and a function of having support, thus preventing me from becoming defensive and perhaps preventing my ability to see the opportunity that I was presented with.

      • And per other comments deliberating on any potential abuse, I was treated with nothing but respect at the program and any issues were promptly dealt with. Adequate food, hydration, respect for physical abilities, sanitation (while we infrequently showered, we learned to clean ourselves outside), psychological support, safety, etc. Counselors trained on necessary first aid, never travel too far away from a place where a child could get any necessary medical treatment given allergic reactions. Well run program.

    • For individuals thinking of using the program, while I was able to turn my life completely around in a relatively short period of time, everyone responds to the program in a unique way. Some people like me completely respond, others perhaps do not respond at all. I would recommend looking at multiple sites to get a better picture from parents who have a greater perspective on a participant’s response to the program (while someone may come out angry, as I did, I am assuming my parents saw an improvement). I subconsciously noted an improvement as I went from nearly failing high school coursework to getting Bs. Was required to participate in ECs with high school, though also saw how I could be more active after not really having any ECs in prior HS.

  9. “SUWS of the Carolinas Cost: $16,580 (28 days)” …sigh, there goes my new car that I’ve been saving up for. On a serious note though, the greed couldn’t be more obvious. Don’t know what is more of a scam at this point, SUWS or the University of Phoenix.

    • At least at that shitty and overpriced college, you get a piece of paper in the end. On the other hand, SUWS…….you’re paying them to abuse your kid for a month or two; if you’re gonna do that, might as well donate the 16k to a charity, it’d be better spent on a better cause.

  10. this place is a living fucking hell do not DO NOT send your kid there. that shit will scar them for fucking life

  11. Went here for 68 days. It was by far the worst experience I have had. I ended up getting scabies from being in the woods and no one would take me to a doctor or even give me Benadryl. I also have chronic stomach issues and they would often not give me my stomach medications. Would not recommend.

  12. Like the clothes we wear, there is no such thing as a one size fits all program. For some people, it may help; for others, it may make them worse or traumatize them for life. So don’t go around assuming just because this program helped a coworker’s child will in any way correlate to your child’s rehabilitation. I’ve known kids develop PTSD due to getting kidnapped in the middle of the night and sent to some wildnerness or boot camp. A soft, sensitive child full of anxiety will not respond well to that. Do research on programs and make absolutely sure to get unbiased information/reviews. This means info about any “success stories” from the SUWS website would be considered biased due to the fact that they omit anything negative about their program. Go to sites like rehabreviews for example where you can see real experiences, both good and bad and get multiple professional licensed psychologists or psychiatrists to verify if such a program might be a good fit. I’ve heard of articles of some boarding schools/”treatment programs” shut down by FBI from time to time due to child abuse. I am in no way saying SUWS is one of those, but you never know. Always be on the safe side especially when handing your child off to strangers for a few months.

  13. Our son went to SUWS in February 2016 as a confused, hard-to-handle child addicted to marijuana and failing high school. He spend 68 days there and that changed his life in a very positive way. There are negative reviews here from some children who have been at the program. Every program has some children that dislike the program….and some will write negative reviews…which is too bad, since those negative reviews may prevent some parents from sending their child here.

    SUWS will not change your devil into an angel. But it will give your child a chance to reset, and begin the long journey to maturation. At the end of the program, you will have to decide whether to bring your child back home, or send him to a therapeutic boarding school.

    We chose to bring our child back home, going to a new school, and enrolled him in an IOP. Following the IOP, he has been seeing a therapist once a week. We have had many family meetings in the past year. There have been ups and downs, but we are happy to say that our son now has normal teenage problems, not the devastating issues that we were dealing with before SUWS. He has been accepted to several excellent colleges and we are hopeful.

    Overall, we would give SUWS an “A”. It is very expensive, but it is an excellent program. The counselors we worked with were terrific.

    If you are reading this review, it is likely you and your child are in a bad place, and need help. SUWS will provide it.

    • Every person, whether parent or child, is entitled to their own opinion regarding the school. There is no right or wrong review. You expressed the fact that SUWS was great for your child, and I’m happy for you. However, for some people, this program might not have helped as much, if at all, and they are free to express their experience so readers will be able to discern both good and bad of the program. If a parent chooses not to send their child due to some negative reviews, then it’s likely that this program would not have been a good fit for their child. For me, even if I wanted to, I can’t afford this program at 16k a month to send my child here, something which you have the luxury of doing so. I’m getting by already hard as it is.

  14. I have PTSD from this place that will never go away. I slept under a tarp from Nov- Jan in freezing conditions. We showered once every 3 weeks if we were lucky- Even in the cold we all smelled horrible and developed serious acne. There were no cabins or computers like in this video? Absolutely no education. If you google it all the therapists and field workers are unlicensed. I am forever traumatized. The other girls I went to the program with – post graduation – are all in and out of jail. So I guess it didn’t work for them either. I can assure you that most of the positive things written on this site are from SUWS employees.

    • I just graded from Bravo yesterday. I’m glad that you said the truth because I’m worried if I might have PTSD as well. I almost passed out the first time I went into a grocery store.


      Suws of the Carolinas is not only a scam for your money and personal info, but also an abusive and horrible environment/experience. I swear to god suws was literally the worst thing I’ve ever had to experience in my life and I forsure have PTSD from the traumatic overall experience. I was sent there July 25, 2016 and gradded in the end of October that year, its been a little over a year now since I’ve been home and i still think about suws almost every day. Fuck that place fr

      go to this website to read more about why suws is a scam legally^^^^^ HEAL has found multiple problems with the SUWS of the Carolinas/ Phoenix Outdoor’s enrollment agreement including apparent unconscionable terms and/or contradictory terms, leaving me and many others to believe that SUWS of the Carolinas/ Phoenix Outdoor is running a money-making scam on families in need of real assistance. THEYRE PUTTING OVERALL PROFITS OVER THE SAFETY AND CARE OF THE CHILDREN IN THE ASPEN PROGRAMS SUCH AS SUWS.

  15. My son attended SUWS of the Carolinas from March 11 – May 4, 2016 at the ago of 16. He was part of the Alpha group and has a diagnosis of ASD, more specifically high functioning Asperger’s Syndrome. Before coming to SUWS, my son had gotten to a place where he had very low self esteem, lacked good social boundaries, and basically felt lost and depressed. As a family, we knew that what we were doing at home to help him was not enough, and we found SUWS. Davis stayed 8 weeks at SUWS and during that time he slowly began to peel back all the layers and began to really discover himself. He would not have been able to do this by himself. He had loving, patient and qualified support from the SUWS staff that helped him along his journey.
    I knew from the first phone call that I made to SUWS that this place was special and unique. Every call, and I made MANY, were always returned promptly. I was even given cell numbers and told to call anytime…and I did! I went to tour the campus on a Thursday and met with almost everyone that would be involved in my son’s daily care, and I walked away with no doubts. We brought Davis to SUWS the very next day and our journey began. Our weekly calls with Davis’ therapist were extremely thorough and never felt rushed. I never worried about his safety or well being while he was away from home.
    If you are reading this because you are considering SUWS for your son or daughter, please know that I recognize that your situation/child may be very different from ours. All I can do is tell you about our experience and let you know that we lived it. My son would tell you that this was one of the best experiences that he has ever had and that it forever changed him. He would also say that there were times when he was sad, missed his family, and felt defeated, but those struggles didn’t trump the feelings of accomplishment, internal motivation, strength, and overall success that he felt when he walked over the hill and reunited with his family on his graduation day! I was one proud mom….but it didn’t happen all by itself. SUWS is fully responsible for the initial changes in my son, and I will be forever grateful. My son now attends a therapeutic boarding school and continues to grow by developing the skills he needs in order to live a happy fulfilled life. His future is endless and it all started at SUWS!!!!!!!!

  16. Janice Stallard on

    My daughter participated in the SUWS Luna program during the winter of 2016. In her words, this program “saved my life”. I am very grateful to SUWS and its staff for their dedication.

    I do want to caution parents, however, not to expect any kind of after care support or guidance. The line we got when we came to that time was to ask our educational consultant for the best options. I thought that was shocking after how well they get to know our kids and all the money we have spent on SUWS. I felt like there was an invisible barrier that has been created not to ‘compete’ with the role of the educational consultants. It’s really very sad.

    As a result of SUWS’ staff not helping us in any way – and after several attempts to propose alternative boarding schools directly to our daughter’s therapist to try and get her opinion – we had to pay an educational consultant $3,000 for her advice. The problem is, while the educational consultant recommended SUWS she barely knew our daughter. I felt like it was a purely business arrangement and am so incredibly disappointed in SUWS for how they manage this aspect of their program.

    This type of business oriented mindset should really change! Please feel free to contact me more (parents) if you would like further details. While SUWS is a great place – let’s face it, they run it without always the children’s’ best interests in mind.

    • Janice Stallard on

      I would like to add a note that SUWS followed-up with me about their aftercare support and in fact, cannot provide recommendations because they do not themselves visit these programs or know the details of how they work. They also do not want parents to feel that there is not a transparent relationship among the various care providers. That makes sense to me and only wish that had been explained more fully at the outset of our experience. We would have known what to expect going in – and then were would not have been any confusion.

      Thanks SUWS team for the great work that you do! Janice Stallard

    • Hi. I am considering this program for my 17 year old son. Would I be able to ask you some questions about your experience? Thank you so much.

  17. As the Alumni Outreach Specialist at SUWS of the Carolinas, I see a constant string of students who want to come back and spend a week with their former group to participate in a mentorship experience. Ultimately, the successes sustained in wilderness must be taken to the next level by the families’ providing a supportive environment for growth to continue. Wilderness is an intervention, an assessment tool, and a transition support service for families who are stuck in negative patterns. Any quality wilderness program will recommend an appropriate level of aftercare. The work of wilderness experiences are rarely a “stand alone” path to success. The family must be willing to engage in a parallel process of learning new communication skills and coping skills as a whole, not just the student. That said, the successes can be immeasurable. I could go on and on, but Here are a few testimonies from my recent mentors, and parents:
    “Coming to SUWS may have been the hardest thing I have ever done but by far the most necessary. SUWS stayed with me and I never forgot what I learned here. Everything changed for me, I got my family and life back. I became proud of who I was. I came back to SUWS 9 months after I graduated because I wanted to share my experiences with the girls and show them that you may leave SUWS, but SUWS never leaves you. I think it is easy to relate to someone who has been through similar experiences and I wanted them to be excited to start their lives after SUWS.”

    -Jenny K.

    “Coming to SUWS over a year ago was a major wake up call. The program taught me so much about myself and opened my eyes to new discoveries unimaginable before my stay. After graduation, I continued my therapy in a therapeutic boarding school and brought my experience and strength from SUWS into my new life. Now, having completed both programs, I decided to come back to SUWS as a mentor for a week. With a new group, and different people, this experience was different, yet so rewarding. My role at SUWS drastically changed and the students often commented on how clear it was that SUWS changes lives, especially with me coming back. This program changed my life for the better and I know it will continue to do so for others in the future.”

    -Hallel R.

    “SUWS is a really amazing place where you can be yourself. It really did help me and I was the happiest I had ever been there. The staff really put their time and best effort into helping me and other students. I was really thankful to have received the time I did at SUWS.”

    – Miranda L.

    “My son came to SUWS in December of 2008-February 2009. I’m not sure if anyone that was working then is still there. I just wanted to share this with SUWS because this program was the first step to recovery for my son. He went straight to High Frontier afterwards for 9 months then after, he started at Western Carolina. Thank you to SUWS for being part of saving my son’s life. Feel free to share this announcement to parents who are dropping off their sons or daughters and think that there is no hope. There is Hope!”

    – Susan

    “What an awesome place! I am a professional who works in the mental health industry and had the opportunity to go meet the staff and have a tour of this very special program. They have a very caring, highly skilled staff who is well-versed in treating a wide range of behavioral and mental health issues presenting in adolescents. I would highly recommend this program.”

    – Luke C.

    “SUWS of the Carolinas saved my daughter’s life. She was 16 going downhill fast, smoking, drinking, doing drugs, and getting expelled from high school. After two months in the wilderness she was my sweet daughter again. The program was top notch from start to finish. SUWS was professional in every way. They helped get her tested and helped us discern the follow up program she would need. They were responsive to our personal requests. She appreciated her life and all her creature comforts after her experience, plus she knows that if she could get through this, she could get through other challenges in her life. THANK YOU SUWS.”

    – Rayzel R.

    “SUWS was exactly what our son needed. We give SUWS our highest recommendation. SUWS saved our 16 year old son, and our family. He spent 53 days rediscovering himself, getting sober, and making a commitment to a positive future. We got our boy back.”

    – Jerry M.

    “Time in the Phoenix Outdoor program turned my son’s life around. He has been sober since leaving SUWS and will be attending college in the fall. My husband and I couldn’t be happier!”

    – Helen R.

    “My time coming back to SUWS was awesome. I was very nervous at first as it had been a long time since I had been there and would be working with kids who were dealing with some serious issues, but I felt very welcome from the start. I built relationships with staff and students quickly, and within hours I was sharing about my recovery and time at SUWS. By day two I was giving feedback. I worked on my skills, and by the end of the week, I felt very close to everyone there. My time as a mentor was fantastic overall.”

    – Drew, a mentor for the Phoenix Group

    “One year ago I was a student in Seasons. I got to Eagle of Honors, and one reason I came back is SUWS helped me a lot; I wanted others to be helped too. When I first came I was not happy I was at SUWS, but I worked hard and I returned home to have a better life after 64 days.”

    – Carson, previous SUWS student

    • Of course you only include the positive reviews, never realizing that usually people with negative experiences with SUWS will not reach out to you guys after leaving SUWS so your idea that SUWS is vastly successful is skewed. The reviews on this page can attest to that. Have a nice day.

  18. I went there. I was there for 54 days. It was a wake up call but thats about all i learned. I’ve been out for about 3 years maybe 2 ½ years since then. The wakeup call was good because i needed that but not for 54 days. It was a waste of my parents money. Ive met many kids who went to SUWS or Second Nature and we all (people who were sent to wilderness) agreed that it was a waste of time and money. not much changed for me since then. I don’t use any of the skills i learned there to be honest. The idea of wilderness i don’t agree with. Everyone I’ve met who went to wilderness still do the same things that they would have before. Especially once they have their own freedom. You can’t forcibly take something like freedom away and then once someone has it back for everything to be the same. Most of the wilderness kids i met was at a boarding schoo. I graduated and I’m still friends with them and we talk about this at times. I don’t believe it helped. It has its pros but short term and not worth it. There are other options that are more beneficial.

  19. I came across this article because over the recent years, I’ve read so many counts of malpractice and residential treatment centers being investigated/ shut down by authorities in the news that its no longer a surprise to me anymore when I read some of these comments by former attendees. Forgive my pessimism, but I mean, when teenagers’ allegations of abuse are brushed off as mere anger and delusion by staff, it worries me. I won’t risk sending my child to this overpriced program.

  20. As an outsider weighing in on Suws and all, I can’t ever imagine sending a child to this place “SUWS of the Carolinas Cost: $16,580 (28 days)”. Is this a typo or a joke? That’s more than my degree costed. Living in expensive Silicon Valley on an average salary, is SUWS expecting parents to be millionaires or what? And I’m quite fortunate to be honest. What about low-income families who can’t take loans like that or even make smaller monthly payments . I just don’t get why so many of these programs are for-profit if their purpose is to help kids and all. I don’t know that much detail of SUWS, but I’m sure there are other affordable programs out there that are just as good.

      • Let’s do the math shall we? 2yrs community college at $46/unit (it was $26 when I first enrolled but let’s assume 46 for simplicity’s sake) = under $2800 + 2yrs local public university = 6k/yr. 2.8k +12k = 14.8k. Even with the extra fees on top of tuition, yes, under 16,580. Oh and this is 2015 graduation. And from what I heard, SUWS costs way more. Unless you’re rich, then it’s not worth IMHO.

  21. I worked at SUWS of the Carolinas for a 3 1/2 year period and now work in nature-based education. Reading some of these client reviews saddens me and I wish more of the clients I remember working with wrote in, because the overwhelming majority of clients, at least in my experience there, felt that the program was not only extremely positive but even positively life-changing (the amount of former clients returning later as field instructors is a testament to that). It would be lying to say that it isn’t difficult work, for both staff and clients, and there are certainly much cushier/relaxed places for treatment. But I have only ever known staff to put client safety at number one, to be extremely respectful and professional, and the majority of clients and their families touted the benefits of wilderness therapy. The natural consequences inherent in wilderness living is what so many families rejoice that their kids are finally getting, whether that is a kid refusing to put on rain gear when the staff repeated asks them to and then they get wet, or a kid refusing to eat our nutritious food (which I ate for years without complaining) when we made every accommodation possible for their dietary needs. Firm but caring boundaries is what the wilderness is about, especially this program.
    I also need to add that I am under no compunction to write in defense of this organization as it has never defended me, I am saying this out of my personal belief in it’s mission and the integrity of the vast majority of its staff. I was severely injured by a client in my last month working there for which I have had to continue trauma therapy ever since. When I spoke my concerns about structural components of the program I was dismissed as burning out from the stress of the work (which I was, but didn’t appreciate the dismissal). I heard behind closed-doors that one high-ranking staff member, feigning support, said I was “dead” to him. But thankfully the majority of the reforms I sought were accomplished in due time by other, less abrasive and embarrassing personalities, and even with that process I stand by SUWS as caring to their over-worked field staff and invested in their personal growth. My experience was far the minority. All of this is to say that I am under no compunction to defend this company, BUT I WILL. Some people there still probably don’t like me, but the program has a tremendous success rate for both clients and staff, and I can personally attest to the positive, life-changing results all of the clients I worked with brought with them out of this program, and in the case of those families who’ve reached out to me since in gratitude for my work with their kid, the long-lasting success these clients have had since.

    • I should mention that hearing about the continued client success and the positive results had very little to do with who I am as a person or my instructor style, and everything to do with how SUWS sets up their program and trains instructors, in case there was any confusion.

      • melissa levy on

        I am sorry you were hurt
        My 16 year old daughter is a little pipsqueak.
        she is not violent or aggressive in the least
        I am worried about her safety re the other girls
        what would you advise?

  22. Rebecca H. on


    FOOD: It’s never been restricted. Kids get a lot of food – 2 meals a day is group food (so that doesn’t run out), snacks, lunch and condiments are personal food that kids have to manage and can ration themselves. Some Kids could run out of personal food if they didn’t ration it well. Some kids had huge problems with this and it was a constant battle no matter how you planned with them. I would have to carry extra peanut butter for them, so no, they didn’t go hungry but they didn’t get fancy stuff either! The food is basic camping food, not luxury and that needs to be ok. Suws made more and more accommodations over the years I worked there with food and in my opinion kids only increased in their entitlement and complaints. For dinner they get beans, rice, quinoa, cous cous, soup in the winter, mac and cheese, & lentils for dinner. My biggest complaint about the food is that they actually don’t eat healthy enough in my view! They get a lot of carbs, and sometimes can eat MAC or Cous cous most of the week instead of lentils which is much healthier in. I would tell to to my students and they would give me crazy eyes. 😉

    DEATHS: There have been deaths in the wilderness, at summer camps and programs and I’m sure the deaths listed happened at a wilderness program. There have not been deaths at SUWS of the Carolinas to my knowledge.

    STAFF: I worked with many staff over the years and of course some were duds that came and left – but not abusive or evil. Field staff is one the most difficult positions I know of. If you are thinking of sending your child to wilderness it’s because you are struggling to handle them in some way – instructors manage a group of those kids. They don’t do it perfectly every time but they are out there in it with them. Everything a kid does, the instructors do. Sleeping, eating, hiking, weather, bathrooms etc…. instructors are side by side with the students, managing their behavior, their clinical goals, their safety. If I ever say abuse I would report it myself because I took my role and the care of the lives bestowed to me seriously. That accusation I’m a bit sensitive about. Many instructors were once students in wilderness (or like them) and come to give back. The difficult part for students is that instructors are not their friends, and they are not there to make them happy — this is a very different experience for our students who are often accustomed to getting what they want when they want it. I’ve seen students turn someones “no” into an abuse complaint a thousand times. Instructors deal with A LOT of abuse themselves. They are up late with a student anxious and acting out, then up early with a student for another issue, they are the punching bag for every task a student doesn’t want to do, they are in the rain with a stubborn student refusing, they answer a hundred questions, they are putting on bandaids, tying shoes, navigating tough conversations, listening to traumatic stories while their hearts are breaking. Also, this review said they are First Aid certified but they are all actually Wilderness First Responders which is more intensive training.

    One more comment about the staff at SUWS. Not everyone was my favorite. But before SUWS I worked in the non-profit arena, in Detroit and NC. I also worked for an adjudicated government program. When I first toured SUWS I felt conflicted about not working for a non-profit. The difference was flabbergasting to me. The amazement has worn off over time, but I remember being overwhelmed by how much better the care was at SUWS then all the non-profits I’d been involved with. It was incredible and it caused me to I stop being so jaded about for-profit situations.

    NUMBERS/SHOUTING: Students have to call out when they are out of sight. They always have to be in site and in earshot of staff. This sucks for them – it would suck for me too. Students hate this and complain a lot about it. They complain it’s breaching their privacy or like prison. But It’s the best way to stay safe as possible. So when they go to the bathroom (and are out of sight) they can count, call their name, sing a song… something so staff know where they are and that they are safe. Staff have to account for where every student is all day.

    All of this being said, I can pretty much understand every kids anger that came through the program – even if I think their perspective is distorted; I can understand how from where they are standing injustice is being done to them. None of us love consequences. If a young person left still angry at their parents, it was present before they came and it sometimes had to do with how their parents interacted or managed themselves throughout their stay… not the actually stay itself. Most students have way more wonderful memories then they’d like to think… and unfortunately some of the students I experienced leaving with hatred made it extremely difficult for themselves and everyone during their stay.

    Before I knew what wilderness was, I heard about kids being taken by “kidnappers” to a program. I admit, I judged the parents. It sounded terrible the way it was put to me! After I worked in a program I totally changed my perspective. Sure, some parents get it wrong and do that without cause, but I realized that many parents were totally out of control – their kids were running the show. They were scared for them and a bit of them. They had no influence and it was the only way to get help and interrupt the unhealthy cycle at home.

    My biggest advice, If you send your kid to any treatment, do your own work! I know you are exhausted and it’s going to feel like a breather for you — find help for yourself. You as the parent have more influence then you think right now. Your self-care, your growth, your openness to change and humility to face your part of the puzzle will make or break the future for your family. Don’t fall into the mindset that someone else is fixing your child. Your child isn’t broken. Don’t fall into the mindset that you’re sole to blame and you’re terrible. You’re not. You are where you are and you both have work to do, suck it up and do it. Make it happen. SUWS has lots of resources to help – try new ways of thinking even if your not sure. Show up for everything. Ask for help, resources, etc. Invest in yourself. Forgive yourself. Forgive your child.

  23. Rebecca H. on

    I previously worked for SUWS for over 5 years as a field staff (I think one of these student reviews is someone I worked with years ago and I have very succinct memories from another perspective) and I will do my best to be clear and unbiased for those who are sincerely seeking help and don’t know where to turn right now.

    We all have to remember that students sent to SUWS are mostly wonderful kids with some form of suffering in their life, some serious bad habits and a lot of issues stemming from entitlement that parents created until it was too much to handle. Dishonesty is a common factor in youth sent to treatment, and if you left the program still angry and entitled of course your perspective of it’s terrible. That being said, I don’t want to just just write off all their anger or negativity, it’s real and valid regardless of if it’s directed at the wrong place (and some of it may be directed at the right place as some people probably did have some bad experiences. We can have bad experiences anywhere).

    None of the comments written here are “new” or a surprise to me either! I’ve heard them in complaints made to me in the field and seen them (and much worse) in letters written home – especially when students are new or really upset.

    LIVING: SUWS has a large Base with cabins, showers, laundry. SUWS is not a “camp.” They are wilderness therapy program and are meant to spend much of their time out in the surrounding mountains. They come to base every other week or so (give or take) to do Equine Therapy and ropes Course (YES. They do this. I was a certified Ropes Course Instructor and Equine is contracted out with a local Equine Therapy Program who comes weekly and we rotate groups through working with them. The women they I’ve worked with on Equine are wonderful- but they are no-nonsense, and trust me, we all got a lot of nonsense thrown at us. If your considering wilderness, you are probably feeling that), some other activities depending on their group, and get showers and do laundry. They also come to base for unsafe weather conditions or medical concerns. Over the years they began pulling groups to base more frequently and I found we were on base often, but this does depend on the season and whats going on in your group. My personal opinion was that base is more stressful and distracting for students and that we were there way too often. I always had more behavioral issues while on base. Think about it… when your in your small group out at a campsite, operating as a family with no distractions, it’s much simpler to care for your students and for them to focus. On base you can see the road, try to interact with opposite sex groups, hear all the radio chatter and create drama – more distractions, just they way you want it when your a young person (or adult) avoiding dealing with whats going on internally.

    BATHING: Yes, you are not meant to be on base all the time where “traditional showers” are, but students are provided ways to bath and encouraged to daily in the field, required to a few times a week. I role modeled going off to this daily. Some students bath every day. You may find this hard to believe but most students refuse to bath or are really resistant to it – even though they complained about wanting showers – because of the extra effort it takes to get water from the creek and do the work to make it happen. Students are not prevented from bathing!!!! It was a constant battle to try to GET them to bath in the field. There are plenty of people in the world who go on backpacking trips that keep themselves sanitary. It’s a personal choice. A lot of students had an all-or-nothing mentality, and since it was the shower they wanted they would say “it’s not worth it.” You can also wash your clothes in the field the good old fashioned way. I did!!! I would try to get my students to do it. It’s also a requirement of the program. This is a totally new thing to them, so its understandable not ideal from a students perspective. Some students would say “this is like slavery” because they have to handwash their own clothes. I call it self-care and doing what needs to be done. Life is simple out there, and learning to invest time and effort in taking care of yourself is a fundamental part of the process of healing and growth. This helps many young people and even the staff.

    POOP: Yes, you do poop in a bucket. We have a WAG bag system (you can buy this at any outdoor store) It’s horrifying if your not accustomed to wilderness excursions but it’s very common in the outdoor world. The reason why we do this is because we reuse a lot of our sites and have too much traffic to just “dig holes.” Can you imagine all the kids that half-ass things not digging or properly covering holes around our campsites? THAT would be gross. The Wag bag system has multiple bagging and it’s a whole system. Also, the instructors carry the poop out. THE INSTRUCTORS. The kids are not allowed to – we have to. The kids carry the empty bucket but they are not allowed to manage the bags either — instructors put gloves on and do it every day. (Also, we all carry bleach out there with us). Yes, pooping in a bucket is not awesome. It’s grosser then a toilet and kinda awkward. It’s not dangerous nor does it hurt anyone. In fact, if you have to be in the wilderness, it’s best for the environment.

    HIKING: The comments about hiking are funny to me. We hiked 6-8 miles a week if we were lucky to get that far. Some hikes were a half mile. Yes, kids hate hiking and it is hard. The packs really are heavy for them and it’s not easy to hike in a large group — you have to stop ALL time time for a bathroom break or shoe tie or water break etc. Some groups do hike a lot more (often the boys) but it’s usually because they are motivated to. Some staff may push others to hike harder then others. The groups need to be pushed or they won’t hike at all. Someone always “can’t.” Hiking is an important part about what makes programs like this work. It’s a huge accomplishment to overcome a hike you didn’t think you could do. You learn what your made of and that when your brain says “can’t,” you still can. It’s all mental and this mental strength is translatable to life. I have seen many kids be transformed. Yes, it’s not easy or pleasant much of the time and that’s ok, part of the lesson is that worthwhile things are not always easy and pleasant and that’s a painful lesson to learn. If I had a critique it would be that the packs can get heavier then they should at times. However, I also found that some kids choose to carry around unnecessary things that made their packs heavier, and often they packed the lazy way, instead of the efficient way and that made it harder on them — their choice. They are allowed to choose that at SUWS.

  24. My experience as a parent has been extremely positive, much moreso than those reviews by a few attendees. I can understand teens who are ticked off and write about what they consider horrible conditions because their parent(s) sent them to a place that wasn’t their choice to try to break their cycle of self destruction. Having 3 kids in my family I also realize that each child’s interpretation of an event is different than the next one, with some imaginations running wild to create a sense of doubt in the adults who want the best for them. We found the staff competent, the therapists easy to talk to, and were kept in the loop on what the program would be doing with our son. It is correct that this is not luxury by any means….sleeping in tents, bathing from a heated can of water, eating sustainable but basic foods, wearing the same clothes for days at a time, and carrying all of your belongings on a pack on your back for sometimes a few miles a day…is all part of the experience. Getting the kids our of their comfort zone and creating a “need” for self-reliance and self-evaluation with natural consequences for their own actions or inactions is what this program is about. The weekly individual therapy sessions with their counselor, and setting goals for the teen to work on the following week are part of the program. There is a lot of time for self-reflection and writing, to try to get the kids to look inside themselves and figure out how they got to this place and examine what it would take for them to head in the right direction. There is nothing glorious or comfortable for the kids….they find it is hard work, and yes, we as parents find it just as difficult to be separated for a few weeks from our kids. The change that might occur in your child will only persist if it supported by us (the parents) when we are also willing to change our parenting style and how we view our wonderful kids…there has to be a lot of effort in both the parent and child. So overall, our experience has been good. There have been some hiccups once he came home, but things are much more peaceful in our family and the things he learned about himself are helping him be a more positive individual.

  25. While the authors of this article/review do not have consistently accurate facts regarding the functioning of SUWS (students most often sleep in tents in the wilderness with occasional trips to base/cabins, for example), as a current clinician I can attest to the therapeutic gains and care that are present in this setting. I have worked in many mental health settings (therapeutic foster care, community mental health, community health care) and have never received the level of support, continuing education, collaboration, and compassion that I currently receive at SUWS. This can be said for staff across the board and this translates into the excellence of care we strive for daily with our students. The wilderness conditions can certainly be new and uncomfortable at first, but the amount of growth and healing that is possible for pre-teens/adolescents in this wilderness therapy setting is unmatched and the attention to health and well-being is paramount. The leadership team continuously evaluates and improves our systems and ensures we provide the foremost standard of what a successful wilderness program should be and can become. I am incredibly proud of the work we accomplish and the lives that are enhanced by our efforts. The students that come back to mentor, write in after graduating to thank their team, and the parents that join our staff following experiences at SUWS that impacted their lives for the better perhaps speak to this better than I can.

  26. Sunny Smith on

    From looking around the SUWS listing as well as others, I don’t think rehabreviews has done its research. They write these bios – not the programs. If you want more factual info, talk to the programs, ask for a reference list, or get a professional counselors’s opinion. These half-cooked websites make ad money by inciting a “comment” war. Mental health treatment deserves accuracy so do your research and avoid inflammatory war stories.

  27. James Harding on

    I was a staff member at SUWS of the Carolinas from 2009-2012. We did not sleep in cabins every night. SUWS is a wilderness based program, we camped and hiked for a week to two weeks before returning to campus to do equine therapy sessions and ropes course activities. Showers are offered at least twice a week, although when we are camping we use the solar shower bags and bio-degradable soap. Not sure why everyone is so hung up on the cabins and showers. SUWS provides more time on base camp than most wilderness programs of it’s type, and i enjoyed my time there. Typically the students I worked with did not like the arrangements at first but adjusted well once they made some friends in their group. I loved working here, and would recommend the program for anyone who has a a teen that is not engaging in traditional therapeutic interventions at home.

  28. I am a freelance writer currently researching SUW Carolina and other wilderness treatment facilities for troubled teens. I am trying to get to the truth of these camps and the real experience that they offer – good or bad.
    If you were a student or staff member (and can verify yourself as such) and would like to discuss your personal experience at this or other wilderness camps, please contact me via email, [email protected].

  29. I was a student at SUWS and just got out about two weeks ago. I feel worse than ever. This place was pure hell and I feel sorry for all the kids who have been and will be sent here. The living conditions are not what they say. Cabins and showers were a rarity. We had to poop in buckets and ate the same food every night

  30. Three years ago today at the age of 12 I was sent to this program where I was bullied repeatedly by other students in my co ed group, bitten by a venomous spider, and I absolutely hated the experience. By the end of the program my pack omly waited 6 pounds lighter than I was. And at the end of the the counselers advertise for other programs even if the child in question is fine. This is the worst program ever DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER SENDING YOUR CHILD THERE!!

  31. I was at SUWS during the summer of 2015 for 60 days. I decided to look at the website when I got out to see what exactly was being said because if the truth was on the website I doubt my parents would ever send me here. This wilderness therapy place has barely any therapy. I got to see my therapist ONCE a week for 45 minutes. I was not allowed to talk to the other campers while in the program. If I was caught talking to anyone I was yelled at by the counselor. We got a bag of food once a week that had very small amounts and by the end of the week I was eating cheese that had black mold. I only got 2 shirts and one pair of pants for my entire stay and a sleeping bag that was NEVER washed. The group of girls I was with all got ring worm (fungus growing on flesh) because of the sweat and bacteria buildup in the cloth. We got ZERO medical attention. We were constantly living in the woods and only stayed in cabins an average of 5 days in 60 days. We had to poop in buckets and then carry it around with us for a week. This is no place to send your child. I currently just got out of a 5 month treatment center that helped me deal with my underlying issues in a wonderful way. I am clean now and have recovered from the trauma I endured at this “treatment” facility. There are better ways to help your child.

  32. I’d also like to chime in after reading the other reviews. They’re pretty much spot on. I was tricked and sent to SUWS due to depression during my teenage years for I think 58ish days. This place is literally torture. Staff members constantly belittle you. I was mocked and insulted by staff on many occasions. They do not have any intention of helping you whatsoever. Another thing is I love how the video portrays SUWS to be not so bad, with air conditioned cabins and smiling instructors, even a kid on a PC. THIS IS NOT HOW IT IS AT SUWS. For the 58 days that I was there, maybe 8 of those were spent in cabins altogether, with maybe 2 nights each time. There is no 12step therapy, horse therapy/CBT or any therapy of that kind, no computer/electronic use, just hiking 10 miles every day, carrying 90lb packs along with your bodily waste. Don’t get the idea that you will spend your stay in comfortable cabins, you will be sleeping on the dirt in the forest with maybe 2 showers your whole stay and one set of clothes that you will wear the whole time. Not to mention the fact that SUWS COSTS A FORTUNE and most if not all insurance doesn’t cover it. DON’T let them steal your money folks! After SUWS, the staff will trick the parents into believing that more help is needed for their kids, and to send them to a therapeutic boarding school. Again, this program is utter cancer and caused me to develop PTSD after my torturous stay here. Think of it like this, if SUWS truly wanted to help people, they wouldn’t rob you of your entire bank in the process (this place costed like 40-50k for my 58 days, my parents at the time had to take a loan to cover it)!! I have since defeated my depression on my own and currently in college.

    On an off note to the author, please learn to do research before posting another article in the future. At least half of the information is completely wrong. Don’t be deceived folks. Take it from us SUWS graduates who’ve been there and experienced it rather than SUWS employees or other “parents”. This place DOES NOT HELP for the majority of us.

    • I am a freelance writer currently researching SUW Carolina and other wilderness treatment facilities for troubled teens. I am trying to get to the truth of these camps and the real experience that they offer – good or bad.

      If you were a student or staff member (and can verify yourself as such) and would like to discuss your personal experience at this or other wilderness camps, please contact me via email, [email protected].

  33. This article could not be more wrong! Many years ago, I was a former SUWS attendee sent here for around 2 months during my early teenage years and this program can honestly be considered borderline abusive and even illegal. Many (though not all) staff members treated us inhumanely, verbally and even physically abusing us at times. For example, one account of this occurring to me was during a daily hike. Now, keep in mind that we were forced to hike many miles 5-10 miles 6days a week uphill/downhill, in the rain, in the blistering 100 degree heat, carrying 70pound backpacks and our own shit and piss as well (we shit in buckets then carry it), with maybe one or two 5minute breaks. As a 100pound skinny kid, I was literally exhausted beyond comprehension after a while and was barely conscious/hyperventilating. The field instructor wouldn’t even give me a break and what does he do? Ties a rope around him and me and literally drags me through the dirt the rest of the way as I couldn’t walk anymore. This was just one of many instances.

    “For the first 28 days of the program, clients live in their assigned cabins.”. DO NOT believe in this BS. Usually for the first 2-3 days, we stayed in cabins, and then we are assigned to groups led by a couple field instructors (most of whom as I said were quite abusive and inhumane, though a few were nice). We slept in bottomless tents (like a previous reviewer said) and went back to camp maybe only 2-3 times to shower the WHOLE 2 MONTHs. We also had to wear the same dirty clothes the whole time too. The food was terrible though fortunately I never hungered.

    Do not listen to Mike Vines, or any employee of SUWS. Not only was I traumatized to this very day almost a decade later, but the fact that this place not only failed to help me with my problems back then, but made me worse in some ways.

    To any future parents who consider SUWS, don’t. I believe the cost of this program was around 28k/month (when I was there) and most students are usually here for two months so do the math. They only care about your money, nothing else. Just read the news of those so called wilderness and thereaupetic boarding schools being shut down by the authorities and FBI. I wouldn’t be surprised if this place too gets shut down.

    My teenage years were just a phase. Sure I was depressed and anxious, mostly from being bullied back in middle school and going through that teenager phase, but I got better as I matured on my own, not through some BS wilderness program. Today, I am in my early 20s, a college graduate, about to enter the IT industry. Again parents, do not be deceived. This was my experience and everything written here is unbiased and true.

    TLDR: If you want to help your children by traumatizing them for life, then this program is for you ( I would’ve chosen 2 months of solitary confinement in prison over this program any day of the week). Many staff members abuse and treat students inhumanely. Stay away. I’m not bashing all therapeutic programs, I’m sure some are halfway decent, but SUWS is not one of them.

  34. Please do your research before considering SUWS. Doesn’t sound like they were in cabins huh.
    Two known deaths are recorded:
    Gregory Owen Jones -aged 13. On July 3 – 1985 died of dehydration. Due to heat wave in the area the first two waterholes were empty and Mr. Jones collapsed and died on the way to waterhole a third waterhole even it some newssources claim that it was a fall.[4]. According to the local sheriff the group had been without water for 9.5 hours in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees [5].
    Rocco Magliozzi – aged 12 died July 2006 when he contracted the West Nile Virus. The program sent Rocco to the doctor, who cleared him to return to the desert. When he was taken to the doctor a second time, he never returned to the desert and passed away in the hospital [6]

    • You may want to do some research of your own.
      Looks like those deaths were in the high desert. Last I checked, there are no deserts in North Carolina.

  35. I was reading the part about the cabins and couldn’t help but to laugh. You never stay in cabins there or even on campus except maybe once a month for a day. I was 15 at the time that my parents sent me there. I was only doing minor things that any normal teen would do. I had sex one time and smoked pot twice. Going into this program I would have snapped out of the phase I was going through but since my parents sent me here, when I got out I was worse than ever . I hated them, and have horrible trust issues that I will have to live with for the rest of my life. I’m honestly glad I saw this, it makes me dispise them a little less knowing when they told me this place was a nice “camp” that I’d only be at for two weeks they only said because they were fed false information. I stayed for 63 days in the summer. I showered twice while I was there. You’re so malnourished you even stop getting your monthly cycle. Everyone in my female group stopped getting theirs. That can’t be healthy for girls going through puberty. I have trauma from this place. We had to hike nine hours with our 80 pound backpacks on up hill the whole way, then back down half way because there was no water at the top. You get two short breaks each hike. One time the girls in our group had to pee themselves because it was raining and we were actually chilly from hiking in the rain. They give you two pairs of clothing and that’s it! You live in bottomless tents. Not cabins. You hike hours everyday except the one day break a week you get. Ever since I left this place my life has gone to shit from the trauma of being dumped here. I’ve struggled with drug abuse , I have two babies with two different guys , I’m clean by choice now and have been since my first pregnancy. but wow I wish I was never sent here. Whatever the staff is telling you are lies!!! Don’t fuck your kids up , they are kids ! They go through phases! Learn how to be a parent!

  36. Just to clear the air. I am currently on the campus here at SUWS, working in the main office, and ALL of our kids have been in cabins for the past five days, due to extreme rain and flash flood warnings. Our policy requires students to come back to campus when severe weather conditions are in place. We regularly schedule basecamp stays for our kids as they must participate in equine therapy sessions, ropes courses, and neuro-feedback sessions. Honestly, this helps us manage our land usage permits as well, it does not behoov us on a clinical or practical level to keep kids out in the field all the time, thus we are an expeditionary model. I was a field instructor for over six years and I can say that when I started in 2006 we spent quite a bit more time in the National Forest than we do now, but even in the old days it was mandatory that we ask our students to bathe themselves in the field at least twice a week, we use solar showers now, but the old method was heating a gallon coffee can called a ‘billy bucket’ by the fire and setting up tarps to ensure privacy and using biodegradable soap. Students of course have the right to refuse. Anyone can access our records with the North Carolina Board of Health and human Services, as public record, and an additional level of oversight from our accreditation with the Coalition for Accredited Rehabilitational facilities , National Association for Therapeutic Schools and Programs, NATSAP, Outdoor Behavioral Health Council, and various others. We are committed to safety, clinical excellence, and compassionate care. I have worked in many programs over the years, and I believe in SUWS which is why I choose to spend my career supporting it’s mission.

    • Just to clear the air.. I was a student in the Seasons program 2 years ago and we were not given the opportunity to shower in the field. In my 8 weeks of being at SUWS I only got one 5 minute shower. And when I arrived I only stayed with “Group H” for an hour before going meeting my group and leaving camp to go hiking.. So don’t like. We students know how the program works.. don’t sugar coat it for parents.

    • Yukon Cornileus on

      What ???
      All these people are lying about their time at SUWS.
      How do sleep at night ?
      In most civilized countries your would be arrested.

  37. I was also in SUWS, it’s very odd to me that they are claiming the clients sleep in cabins, or shower more than two times (if sent to base camp after an incident) in the entire stay, there is zero 12 step therapy involved, the food rations are extremely small and unsafe. This camp was purely brutal, hiking all day, going to the bathroom in buckets, being yelled at by staff that was highly sarcastic in their comments, I’m honesty almost in tears for the kids that have to go through this still, any parent who has a child in need of help with drugs should look more towards… A 12 step rehab, not this place. And I remember begging to go to Broughton at the time, even after this process I relapsed two weeks in. This was in 2009, now I’m in Recovery by choice and have accumulated time. Stay away from SUWS parents!

  38. As an attendee of SUWS of the Carolinas 6 years ago, I can vouch for the conditions at their program. Children, by no means sleep in cabins. They hike an average of 8-10 miles daily and only primitive camping is utilized. Their are no showers or beds or bathrooms, just the wilderness and going to the bathroom atop a 5 gallon bucket in a waste safe bag, then carrying it around for a week until a new staff change. I am not bashing the program and the merit of success it has had over the years, but please don’t glorify the living conditions that kids endure here.

    • I have to agree we don’t ever stay in cabins and rarely take showers I was there like 3 days ago. It’s a great place but you don’t stay in cabins and it’s kinda full of shit

    • You have to remember that this initial posted review is not written by SUWS, it’s written by this website.

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