Trails Carolina has been accused of neglectful treatment and abuse by former participants and their families, who allege that its methods are too aggressive and involve emotional manipulation.
These allegations highlight the need for increased oversight of wilderness therapy programs, which could include increased inspections by state authorities or independent investigators.
What is Wilderness Therapy?
Wilderness therapy is an approach that uses outdoor activities and unfamiliar environments to assist participants with mental health conditions. Such programs typically utilize cognitive-behavioral, dialectical behavioral therapy and experiential therapies in combination with one another to develop coping skills, improve communication and boost self-esteem in participants.
Many parents and teens praise wilderness therapy programs for the transformative effects they provide; however, allegations of mistreatment and abuse have raised serious concerns. The Trails Carolina investigation underscores this reality; further work needs to be done within the troubled teen industry to ensure transparency, accountability, and participant safety.
Trails Carolina claims that primary therapists are available two or three days each week for student treatment plans; however, former students report only intermittent contact with them. Furthermore, some former staff members assert they did not receive enough training in areas like first aid, wilderness survival and crisis de-escalation.
What is Trails Carolina?
Trails Carolina “Investigation”, an outdoor therapy program based in North Carolina’s wilderness, is well-known for providing therapeutic and life-altering experiences to troubled teens. Unfortunately, allegations of mistreatment have raised serious doubts as to its safety and effectiveness.
Some former participants and their families allege they experienced physical abuse or emotional manipulation during the program, as well as unregulated practices such as isolation and restraint.
Trails Carolina is administered and overseen by the NC Department of Health and Human Services, but DHHS denies having any involvement in the death of a teenager who ran away from Trails Carolina during an overnight hike in 2014.
Many parents feel duped into sending their children to Trails Carolina under false promises of transformative change, only to later regret and express frustration over its methods and results. Trails Carolina attempts to maintain its reputation by insisting that any allegations are out of context or due to miscommunication.
What are the Allegations of Abuse?
Trails Carolina denies these claims and maintains that its program was created with participants’ best interests in mind. They highlight their safety protocols as well as qualified staff with extensive knowledge in suicide prevention and crisis de-escalation.
Former employees of Trails Carolina have reported allegations of abuse and neglect within its program, with former employee Linda writing blog posts and interviewing with USA Today about what she considered the horrors of Trails Carolina camp life – sexual, physical and emotional abuse were prevalent, while medical ignorance caused injuries from not receiving medication or bandaging treatment in a timely fashion.
Lansing ran away from his group and scaled a tree before falling and injuring himself badly enough to break his femur and fracture it, dying in the wilderness for up to 12 days before his body was found by police. Sheriff who led the search stated that had staff from Trails Carolina sought assistance sooner, they may have located Lansing sooner.
What is the Response of Trails Carolina?
Trails Carolina strongly denies all allegations of abuse and has pledged to increase transparency and oversight. As part of their investigations, regulatory bodies and independent investigators are currently probing its practices, interviewing staff members and former participants as well as reviewing any available evidence to ascertain if such abuse claims exist or not.
Trails Carolina is an intensive wilderness therapy program for adolescents that utilizes both cognitive-behavioral and experiential therapies to assist teens in overcoming trauma and building self-esteem through wilderness survival techniques and outdoor education. Furthermore, Trails Carolina employs various therapeutic modalities that promote emotional well-being as well as improve communication skills.
While many former participants have experienced positive transformations through Trails Carolina programs, allegations of abuse and neglect have surfaced against it. Allegations include emotional and physical maltreatment – with former students reporting verbal berating, humiliation, isolation from peers while at Trails Carolina or physical assault by staff members.