Wilderness Therapy in the Media
Residential treatment options for young people have recently received intense media attention, with much of the coverage focusing on negative portrayals of therapeutic programs, including wilderness therapy programs.
This attention gained traction after media personality Paris Hilton spoke out about her experience in treatment centers as a teenager in the late 1990s. It has been heartbreaking to learn Hilton’s story as well as other allegations of mistreatment in residential treatment centers, and Open Sky condemns programs that use punitive or coercive means to enact behavioral change. We stand with victims who have experienced neglect, abuse, or trauma and support the mission to provide struggling youth with safe, ethical care. We encourage anyone who has experienced abuse or mistreatment in any program to report concerns to the state licensing board that oversees the program.
Fortunately, since Hilton’s experience in treatment over 20 years ago, the landscape of treatment options for youth has evolved significantly, and programs that do not center client care as their highest priority have largely ceased to operate. However, many critics of therapeutic programs, such as the Breaking Code Silence movement, have spread misleading narratives about wilderness therapy. They do not recognize the research, evidence, or personal experiences that indicate the effectiveness of many wilderness programs and instead focus on:
- circulating sensational anecdotes from under-regulated and outdated behavior modification programs that do not represent current practices and standards;
- flooding the web with negative reviews, regardless of personal experience with the program;
- managing information on online forums and discussion boards so they do not allow for open dialogue or opposing views or experiences.
As such, families considering Open Sky might encounter criticism of residential and wilderness therapy in general, and even Open Sky specifically. We understand how distressing it can be to read such information, especially when seeking treatment for a loved one, and hope to provide a more complete picture of who we are and what we do.
Below, you will find information about the standards and values that inform our work at Open Sky, how we treat the young people and families who entrust us with their care, as well as actions families can take when making treatment decisions.