A Checklist Of Warning Signs That A
Wilderness Program May Be Unsafe Or Dangerous
By: Michael Conner, Psy.D
Mentor Research Institute:
May 21, 2014
Psychological trauma, physical injuries or
death of children in programs are invariably the result of trauma, abuse,
negligence and/or accidents. The following is a checklist of factors that
are necessary to insure that a wilderness program is safe.
The risk decreases as more of the following are
The program is
licensed or regulated by a state agency that is empowered to monitor,
inspect and investigate complaints.
Staff who are
responsible for the health and well-being of children are screened,
trained or certified as competent to provide services within the
standards of practice of related intervention programs.
therapeutic activities were developed by or approved by a licensed
psychologist who is qualified in
behavioral health and safety.
The safety and
well-being of your child is the direct responsibility of a qualified
and licensed medical or mental health professional.
The following is list of risk factors. The
risk of harm increases with each factor that is present.
does not tell you the names of the people who own the program or who
has responsibility for the activities within the program.
the program is based on punishment that includes depravation, verbal
threats and aggression, physical restraint and corporal punishment.
There are no
licensed mental health professionals directly involved and in frequent
contact with children.
The owners and
individuals responsible for program decisions are not the people who
are responsible for the safety and well-being of children.
admission of children in the program is not supervised and the direct responsibility
of a licensed and qualified mental health professional.
cost to operate the program is less than $200 per day.
admits children on medications for psychiatric conditions without a
screening and treatment plan provided by a qualified mental health
uses physical force and restraint for behavior that is not an
immediate danger to self or others.
For a more detailed description and
discussion see, "Finding
Safe and Effective Wilderness Therapy Treatment Programs."
Michael G. Conner