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Wilderness and Boot Camps

answered 03:35 PM EST, Tue November 29, 2011
My son is a bright, funny and thoughtful person. He is also a high school drop-out who seems to have no ambition greater than hanging out with his friends and riding his skateboard. I know that he also smokes marijuana and sometimes drinks alcohol, but I do not think that he has a real problem with drugs or drinking. He is quite open with me and we do not have a contentious relationship, but I do not know what to do with him to get him off this track he’s riding to a dead-end job kind of life (he just doesn’t seem to care.)

I have been looking at wilderness programs and boot camps as options. The boot camps look horrific to me and I can’t imagine forcing my son into such a prison-like situation but some of the wilderness programs look like they might actually be fun and they seem to be advertising to take kids like my son. But do they actually work? Would I be flushing a lot of money down the toilet to send my son to a month of glorified summer camp, or do they actually get results?

Could they really get my son interested in going back to school and looking to the future? I realize that these are for-profit programs so I am looking for some outside confirmation of their value beyond what’s listed on their own websites.

Dr. John Gorvin Says...

I am concerned about regular alcohol and marijuana use in a young man who doesn’t have a great deal of focus or tangible plan for his life.  You re correct to be concerned that he may be heading down a dead end. 


I am not highly familiar with wilderness programs, but for the right person, it can be a good way to intervene.  I would ask each program you consider what their success rates have been, or other kinds of outcome measurements they use.  While they are for profit, that doesn’t automatically mean they are not potentially effective.


The real thing to consider is if your son is motivated to try to go, and will he make an effort to benefit from it.  If he is unmotivated, even the best programs may not be effective.  Does he think his lifestyle is a problem?  Is he tired and bored, or is he actually happy with how he lives his life? 


Does your son work now?  Are you charging him in any way to live at home, even if it is a token amount to apply toward groceries or bills?  This is a good time for you to help introduce him to the responsibilities and expectations for adults. 


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Page last updated Nov 30, 2011

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