Wilderness therapy programs have grown in popularity in recent years as a form of residential treatment for struggling teens and young adults. The basic philosophy is to use outdoor activities and nature-based experiences to help treat issues like addiction, behavior problems, lack of confidence, and mental health challenges. However, If we talk about Trails Carolina Horror stories, some wilderness programs have also faced allegations of abuse, negligence, and mistreatment of participants.
Trails Carolina Wilderness Therapy, located in North Carolina, is one such program that former clients and families claim subjected children to dangerous and traumatic conditions. Let’s look at some of the horror stories shared by survivors of Trails Carolina
What is Wilderness Therapy?
Wilderness therapy is a therapeutic intervention that utilizes outdoor experiential education to promote personal growth and behavioral change. Teens and young adults participating in wilderness therapy programs spend weeks or months living outdoors in remote natural settings
Staff at wilderness therapy programs actively incorporate physical challenges like hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, and ropes courses into treatment. Therapists and counselors conduct individual and group therapy sessions alongside these outdoor activities.
key features and purported benefits of wilderness therapy include:
- Immersing participants in nature to provide fresh perspectives and challenge personal limitations.
- Fostering independence, responsibility, problem-solving skills, and leadership through adventure activities.
- Facilitating emotional processing and catharsis through metaphorical lessons learned in the outdoors.
- Building trust and healthy relationships within a therapeutic community environment.
- We are improving communication, self-esteem, and decision-making outside of a typical life context.
However, critics argue some wilderness programs have little oversight or regulation. Survivors and families have actively reported incidents of abuse, negligence, and questionable treatment approaches at certain wilderness therapy facilities over the years.
Story of Eddie in Trails Carolina Horror Stories
One such tragedy involved 14-year-old Eddie Lloyd Johnston, who was sent to Trails Carolina Wilderness Therapy in September 2008 by his mother, Lyn, seeking to boost his confidence through nature-based activities. However, six days into the program, Eddie began having trouble breathing and died at the hospital.
Lyn says she had no contact with her son in his final days, and the autopsy later revealed bruising on Eddie’s head, back, legs, and internal organs, indicating physical assault. The medical examiner ruled the cause of death a homicide. Lyn received a heartbreaking goodbye letter from Eddie two days after he died, pleading to be removed from the program and describing physical punishment against the facility’s stated policies
The authorities never filed any charges in Eddie’s death. Lyn remains devastated that her son lost his life after being placed in the care of people she thought would help him gain self-assurance in a safe environment. Eddie’s tragic end at such a young age serves as a painful reminder that people should not trust all claims made by wilderness therapy programs
Corey’s Deadly Camping Accident, Trails Carolina Horror stories
Another loss involved 15-year-old Corey, who was sent to Trails Carolina by his parents after being caught smoking marijuana. On the last night of the program, Corey set up his tent alone in the woods as part of a solo wilderness experience. Unfortunately, heavy snowfall that night caused a tree to fall on Corey’s tent, fatally striking him
Corey’s childhood friend Rachel Marie says he didn’t deserve such a severe consequence for a minor indiscretion. She remains bitter that Corey’s parents subjected him to dangerous backcountry conditions at the wilderness therapy program instead of keeping him at home to receive help for his isolated offense of smoking marijuana. His accidental death serves as a reminder of the real risks that can accompany remote wilderness isolation, especially for minors.
Manipulation and Fabricated Abuse Stories
Another former Trails Carolina client recounted the intense psychological manipulation tactics used by some counselors to elicit fabricated stories of sexual abuse. As a 15-year-old marijuana user, he endured months of isolation until agreeing to concoct elaborate lies about his parents.
The trauma of generating such untrue allegations against his family still affects the now-19-year-old student to this day. He warns that programs like Trails Carolina will tell participants anything to make them confess to supposed underlying issues, even if the abuse never indeed occurred. The act of coercing minors into providing false testimony can cause emotional scarring that is serious and should concern us.
Horrific Sanitation and Safety Issues
A 13-year-old girl who attended Trails Carolina revealed nightmarish conditions like sleeping without shelter or notification in trash bags in the woods. Basic needs for hygiene, nutrition, and medical care were allegedly lacking.
She witnessed younger children struggling with the same physically and psychologically demanding routine as older teens. Additionally, severe bug bites, skin conditions, and lack of updates to worried parents typified her experience.
The most disturbing was finding out multiple participants had contracted pinworms due to unsanitary conditions. One girl’s mental anguish even led her to attempt self-harm with rocks in the wilderness. These safety and wellness failures could traumatize any child, let alone one sent for behavioral issues.
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Trails Carolina: A Factory for More Trauma?
One 19-year-old male survivor of Trails Carolina recalled the abuses he witnessed as a minor client between ages 13 and 15. Degrading strip searches, paltry food rations, grueling miles-long hikes, and overnight solos in trash bags still haunt his dreams years later.
Most troubling were girls as young as nine enduring the same extreme regimen without concern for age-appropriate treatment. Constant exhaustion, injuries, sickness, and mental breakdowns were routinely born. Rather than healing, the program only seemed to damage children further.
This young man believes places like Trails Carolina ultimately function as trauma factories by subjecting at-risk youth to inhumane conditions without therapeutic benefit. The experiences of all participants who claim to have endured similar horrors can have significant short and long-term impacts.
Parents Responsbilities to save from Trails Carolina Horror stories
These stories illustrate why parents must thoroughly vet any wilderness therapy program before entrusting their child’s care. Essential factors to research include
- Accreditation and licensing status from established oversight organizations.
- Success rates and outcomes data demonstrating effective therapeutic models.
- Staff training and qualifications in mental healthcare, outdoor skills, and child development.
- Average length of stay and individualized treatment planning tailored for each client.
- Open communication policies allow regular contact and updates during the program.
- Specific safety protocols, nutrition standards, medical support, and emergency response plans.
- Lack of previous negligence lawsuits, abuse allegations, or unsafe/unethical practices reports.
While wilderness therapy aims to help at-risk youth when done right, the above tales show what can happen when unregulated programs prioritize profits over people. Due diligence on the front end may prevent placing a child in harm’s way, seeking the promise of help through nature.
Trails Carolina horror stories shared here represent devastating outcomes and traumatic experiences attributed to Trails Carolina Wilderness Therapy by former participants and their families. More oversight is needed to protect vulnerable youth and ensure all residential teen treatment centers deliver safe, ethical care aligned with best practices in wilderness therapy and behavioral healthcare.
Here are some important questions parents should ask wilderness therapy program staff:
Thoroughly addressing concerns like these directly with program staff can help confirm their stated values and approach align with a child’s specific needs and situation. Parents should be delighted before entrusting their teen’s well-being to any residential program.
Trails Carolina Horror Stories