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New Perspectives - Aug, 1991 Issue 

Catherine Freer Wilderness Survival School
Albany, Oregon
(503) 967-8722
Director: Robert Cooley, Ph.D

This short-term, wilderness based school has been running for three years, owned by Oregon River Expeditions, Inc. It is a 21 day, outward Bound based approach, and its $3,420 tuition makes it one of the least expensive programs of its type. Director and Founder Rob Cooley, a clinical psychologist, tells me it is licensed as a residential Alcohol and Drug Treatment program which helps a high percentage of clients collect insurance for the tuition, especially Oregon residents.

The following is taken from their literature, "Helping Adolescents Achieve their Potential."

"Our modern society is so complex that our children often are truly unaware that society is based on a underlying fabric of honesty, responsibility, reliability, hard work and mutual cooperation. They see people who fail to adhere to these virtues doing very well for themselves; they have experienced that their own failure to follow these principles may result in short-term gains and that nothing collapses. Society goes on, and the students are not expelled from school (or they are, but fail to see the long-term consequences of that), they do not go hungry or suffer from exposure, they usually do not have to deal with the anger of close comrades who depend on their performance. A not unreasonable conclusion is that one's behavior is unimportant to the larger community, and even has little effect on the course of one's own life.

Living in a small group under natural primitive conditions soon brings a change in perception: if I don't cook I don't eat; if we don't all hike well, we don't get to the next food drop on schedule and go on short rations for a day or two; if we don't attend carefully to demonstrations on edible plants, a constant diet of lentils and rice gets pretty dull; if we don't help each other with camping and setting up shelters, a wet, cold night shivering by the fire may result. And in the outdoors, these consequences are meted out not by some authority figure of questionable motives and fairness, defending an abstract, and to an adolescent, often rather senseless set of social 'rules;' but rather by Nature herself, in her simple, direct, impersonal, unarguable way: pay attention, take care, work hard, cooperate, or suffer cold, heat exhaustion, hunger, a sleepless night.

We believe that extended periods of wilderness living in small groups can be a treatment-enhancing addition for most adolescent programs and will become standard within a few years. Wilderness living provides a naturally healing environment, the physical activity and health that are especially important to adolescents, the best available means to promote self-exploration and self-esteem, and a setting where the meaning of daily work, play and relationships, as well as life's larger spiritual issues, are naturally occurring issues."

Copyright 1991, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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