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Stories from the Field: Mental Health and the Outdoors

Mar 19, 2024

In this special episode, Will sheds light on the upheaval in the wilderness therapy landscape, particularly spotlighting the closure of Embark Behavioral Health's New Visions Wilderness Therapy programs. This narrative delves into the broader implications of private equity's role in the mental health care industry, with a focus on how these financial underpinnings have influenced the recent pivot away from wilderness therapy models, especially in the context of adolescent treatment. The episode underscores the closure of not just New Visions in Wisconsin and Deschutes Wilderness Therapy but notes a startling trend: the total cessation of ten adolescent wilderness therapy programs in the past year alone, signaling a seismic shift in the field.

In discussing New Visions Wilderness Therapy, the episode shares a brief history of the program and spotlights the utilization of trauma-informed care as a factor in its growth and success. The incorporation of trauma-informed practices into their treatment model did play a role in differentiating New Visions in a growing behavioral healthcare marketplace, aiding in its expansion and the subsequent interest from larger, investment-driven entities. This examination underscores the complexity of the adolescent wilderness therapy field, where clinical innovation intersects with business interests, leading to significant changes in the availability and approach to adolescent mental health care.

This episode navigates through the nuances of these closures and the broader implications for the changing wilderness therapy landscape, offering a dive into the intersection of financial decisions, clinical practices, and the changing dynamics of adolescent mental health treatment. As the wilderness therapy sector faces this pivotal juncture, White's analysis provides essential insights for professionals, families, and stakeholders, charting the ongoing evolution of treatment modalities in the face of economic and clinical challenges.

Article and podcast episodes talked about in this episode:

Wilderness Therapy Industry's Decline Accelerated by Embark Behavioral Health's Exit

Podcast episode with Steve Sawyer in which we talk about trauma-informed care

Podcast Interview with Drew Hornbeck, Co-founder of New Visions

Podcast Interview with Steve Sawyer, Co-founder of New Visions