FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

It’s natural to have many questions as you consider the options for your child. These are some of the questions that we often get from parents about therapeutic programs. If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact us any time.

  • Can’t I just research therapeutic programs on the internet?

Google is an excellent tool to connect us with written information; however, it does not allow us to truly analyze and differentiate between programs and the resources they offer. A fancy website does not always translate into a solid program. There is no substitute for on-the-ground research and knowledge. At Meyer EFS we support parents in targeting the right programs, services, and approaches based on our years of experience with these programs.

This saves time, money and heartache, as your child is in the right program the first time.

  • Do we have to send our child away?

Our first goal is always to keep families united. We are parents ourselves and know firsthand how hard it can be to raise young people in today’s world. Sending a child to a program is often the last step in what can be an arduous process.

If you make the decision to have your child attend a program, we will always have our eye on family reunification and placement in the least restrictive program possible. We will only make the recommendation for a child to attend an out-of-home placement when all other interventions and resources have been exhausted.

  • How can I be sure the program my child goes to will be reputable?

Our experience running schools and programs, establishing protocols, and developing systems has given us unique perspective into programs. We only work with established, licensed programs with a history of ethical behavior and a proven track record with our students. We will make sure you have positive and appropriate options for your child and stay involved throughout the process to make sure expectations are met.
As is true in any field, there are disreputable people and organizations. We do not associate with programs that use intimidation, abuse, or deprivation. We only associate with proven, reputable, therapeutic programs that are evidence-based.

  • What’s the difference between a Wilderness Program and Boot Camp?

There is a big difference. “Boot camps” are typically state-funded and are designed as a last step before incarceration for behaviorally out-of-control adolescents. The approach is one-dimensional and does not employ licensed therapists to oversee the treatment team.

Wilderness therapy programs are typically privately run, have licensed therapists, and are evidence-based. Wilderness therapy programs work with a variety of kids and programs, and groups within programs specialize in specific populations. We help match programs and students based on their issues. WIlderness therapy programs do not admit anyone with a long history of legal involvement or violence towards others.

  • Why are so many therapy programs located in Utah?


Many states, including Utah, have very strict and clear rules for the operation of therapeutic programs. As the past head of a therapeutic school, James can attest personally to the rigors of licensing in Utah.

There are three main reasons so many programs are located in Utah: first, Utah and other western states are rich with spectacular desert and mountain terrain. This terrain and varied climate offer a perfect outdoor setting for recreational therapy. Secondly, along with the availability of wilderness terrain, the state of Utah has successfully developed the adequate regulation required to operate therapeutic wilderness programs on public and private lands. And finally, the prevalence at Utah universities in post-graduate Master’s and Doctoral programs in School Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy, Social Work, Recreational Therapy, and Psychology, along with the development of second- and third-generation programs started by professionals who have been in this field for nearly three decades, ensures a strong professional network in Utah and availability of programs.

One of the benefits of working with Meyer EFS is that our location in the midst of these programs. We know them intimately. We personally love the beauty, serenity, and availability of outdoor recreation in the West. We have raised our children here and are proud to call it home.

  • Our wilderness therapist says our child should go to another program. Shouldn’t we have our child come home?

You may be right – your child may be ready to return home. This is what we can help you with; the decision regarding your child’s next step. Often you will hear your child or wilderness therapist talk about “after care.” An analogy that helps many parents is the idea that if wilderness is the “emergency room,” where a child would go to have a broken bone set, the next placement step is the “physical therapy.”

Many students need to exercise the skills they have learned while at wilderness at a next step such as a residential school. If the treatment team makes the recommendation that a next step is needed, we will find the right program and support the process until your child comes home. By objectively analyzing what makes sense, we can help you determine the best path for your child and your family. Because we often visit your child while he or she is in wilderness, we have a clear understanding of his or her needs. If your child does come home, we will give you support in the transition. We can act as a safety net should you need to change course.

  • Will my child will fall behind in school if she goes to a program?

Most programs include some form of academic study. Wilderness programs often offer courses such as Physical Education, Psychology, and Science, while longer-term programs have accredited academics or are structured much like traditional schools.

The type of program your child goes to will depend on their academic goals and abilities. This is a large part of our assessment. That being said, if you’re considering an out-of-home placement for your child, chances are they are struggling in school. Therapeutic programs are usually year-round, to help get students caught up academically. The majority (upwards of 90%) of students attending these programs end up at four-year colleges.