International Media Attention for SUWS of the Carolinas Teen Recovery Program

Share Article

Unique Wilderness Therapy Treatment a Successful Substance Abuse Recovery Alternative

It was a constant worry of never knowing what was going to happen the next day, because it was very volatile

Over the last six months, SUWS of the Carolinas, a wilderness therapy program located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, has been featured in top British documentaries exploring successful alternatives for treating teen substance abuse.

SUWS of the Carolinas is a licensed wilderness therapy program for students 11 to 17 years of age who are suffering from a variety of emotional and/or behavioral problems, including substance use, low self-esteem, family conflict, defiance issues, attention deficit disorder. Utilizing outdoor experiences and peer interaction in combination with individual and family therapy, SUWS of the Carolinas helps to positively change the lives of these young people.

SUWS of the Carolinas has been featured twice on the U.S.’ nationally syndicated “DR. PHIL” program. Now, audiences in the United Kingdom have been learning about the effectiveness of wilderness therapy in working with teens as an alternative recovery setting for substance abuse treatment.

Sherrie, a British teen struggling with binge drinking and substance abuse, was featured in a March 2006 episode of “Tonight with Trevor McDonald,” Britain’s most-watched current affairs program. Often compared to the CBS show “60 Minutes,” McDonald’s show charted Sherrie’s successful transformation from SUWS of the Carolinas to Academy at Swift River, a therapeutic boarding school in Massachusetts. One of Britain’s most respected journalists, Trevor McDonald’s broadcasts twice weekly on ITV, the country’s most popular commercial channel.

“It was a constant worry of never knowing what was going to happen the next day, because it was very volatile,” said Linda, Sherrie’s mother. “If Sherrie lost her temper she would thump the walls, she would break things, she would argue with her siblings and not go to school.”

“We admitted Sherrie to SUWS of the Carolinas, where she was immersed in a positive, goal-oriented environment and participated in individual and group therapy. SUWS of the Carolinas nurtured Sherrie and within a month she had blossomed into a more self-confident, happier girl.”

SUWS of the Carolinas is part of Aspen Education Group, the nation’s leading provider of therapeutic education programs for teens struggling with emotional or behavioral issues that interfere with their lives at home and in school.

“We work with students who typically have self-esteem issues, which are then translated into problems such as alcohol and drug use, defiant behavior, or depression,” said Shawn Farrell, senior instructor at Aspen’s SUWS of the Carolinas. “We use the wilderness to challenge teens like Sherrie and to take them out of their comfort zone. While Sherrie learned wilderness skills, she learned other life-long lessons such as patience, preparation, and problem-solving techniques which she will ultimately be able to bring back to her home environment."

Sherrie’s dramatic story also was featured in the fall 2005 Granada Television documentary “Britain’s Youngest Boozers” which explored questions of why U.K. youth are binge drinking and provided insights from parents, therapists and health professionals. Granada Television is the U.K.’s largest and most successful commercial TV production company.

International interest in wilderness therapy as a successful addiction intervention treatment model has surged.

Aspen Achievement Academy, a therapeutic wilderness program located in the majestic red rock canyons of Utah, was the focus of the most recent BRAT CAMP series in the United Kingdom that aired in February and March 2006. The UK’s BRAT CAMP is an award-winning series that tells the inspiring stories of struggling teens whose lives are transformed by nurturing therapeutic programs like Aspen Achievement Academy.

Aspen Achievement Academy is one of the few wilderness programs nationwide to be selected one of the top teen drug treatment programs by Drug Strategies, a Washington, DC-based research institute. “Treating Teens: A Guide to Adolescent Drug Programs,” was developed by Drug Strategies with guidance from an advisory panel of 22 nationally-recognized experts, including academics, clinical researchers, treatment providers, and adolescent development specialists. The guide was funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The study was featured on National Public Radio “All Things Considered,” which noted how the study sets research-based standards of quality for teen substance abuse programs.

Working with a team of nationally recognized experts, Drug Strategies identified nine key elements of effective adolescent drug treatment.

These are:

  • Assessment and Treatment Matching
  • Comprehensive, Integrated Treatment Approach
  • Family Involvement in Treatment
  • Developmentally Appropriate Program
  • Engage and Retain Teens in Treatment
  • Qualified Staff
  • Gender and Cultural Competence
  • Continuing Care.
  • Treatment Outcomes

The success of outdoor programs for teens battling substance abuse, among other behavioral and emotional issues, is supported by outcomes research.

Several Aspen Education Group outdoor programs have participated in an independent research study by Keith C. Russell Ph. D., of the University of Idaho's Wilderness Research Center. The study was designed to measure treatment effectiveness in outdoor behavioral health care using the Youth Outcome Questionnaire (Y-OQ).

The Y-OQ is an industry accepted outcome instrument designed to measure symptom reduction in therapy. The study concluded that participation in outdoor behavioral health care resulted in clinically significant reductions in severity of behavioral and emotional symptoms. In a 12-month follow-up study, suggests that students not only maintained their outcomes, but had continued to improve after treatment.

To learn more about SUWS of the Carolinas, please visit or call 888.828.9770.


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print