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News & Views - Feb, 1999 Issue #56 

By: Gary Ferguson, 1999
Book review by: Lon Woodbury 

Gary Ferguson spent three months in the high desert country of Utah last year with what some might call a “rite of passage” for at-risk teens. In this book he writes about how one quality wilderness program, by using the wilderness, relationships and structure (supplemented by doses of therapy) can help at-risk children get back on track by learning the lessons a person must know in order to live a successful life. These lessons include such concepts as the relationship of cause and effect, how honesty helps a person live with themselves and others better, how to make good friendships, and how good it feels to break through self- imposed limits. 

He saw teens from all segments of society come into the program with an attitude and a past. Not necessarily bad kids or those with a mental health disorder, but kids who had been abusing drugs, or flirting with gang activity, or full scale rebellion against their parents or any adult who might tell them ”no”, or teens close to giving up on themselves. 

He watched them start the trek trying their usual manipulation, anger and self-defeating patterns they had been using back home. He observed how those patterns quickly were questioned as unsuccessful in the face of the unforgiving demands of the wilderness and having to learn how to get along with a small group of peers and staff where survival and comfort depended on cooperation and honesty. He tells how the kids then try to change their patterns, struggling with unfamiliar emotions and actions, until they find ways that can work better there and back home. 

The book is really a collection of stories about real kids, with real problems, finding solutions with more promise than their old solutions. It is also a story about how the wilderness, introduced to the children by competent staff, can be a healing tool that for many children, is much more effective than those traditional therapies of once a week counseling or residential treatment centers. 

For anyone who wonders how the wilderness can possibly help at risk teens, this book provides valuable insight. It not only clarifies by examples how the wilderness can be such a powerful healing tool, but more importantly, the author gives the reader the FEEL of a wilderness experience as seen through the eyes of a scared and angry at-risk teen. 

This book will be valuable to the parent needing insight as to what a wilderness program might uniquely accomplish for their child with behavioral/emotional problems. 

The book will be valuable to the parent of a wilderness graduate, giving more depth to their understanding of what their child really experienced. . This book will be valuable to the referring professional looking for something that will reach their youthful clients when standard interventions have not worked. 

This book will be valuable to public leaders by demonstrating there are new approaches that have great promise for young people. 

Now, when someone asks me the question, “Why the wilderness?” I have a ready answer. “Read Gary Ferguson’s book SHOUTING AT THE SKY!”

(This book is available at the Woodbury Reports Online Store ).

Copyright © 1999, 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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