A BOOK REVIEW ON WILDERNESS & TEEN HEALING
AT THE SKY
Troubled Teens & the Promise of the Wild
by: Gary Ferguson
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 who were close to totally 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 work better with the potential
to work better back home or at their next school.
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
considering sending their child with emotional/behavioral problems to a wilderness program, by giving parents real insight upon which
to base their decision.
The book will be valuable to the parent
who has already sent their child through a wilderness experience, giving more depth to their understanding of what their child really
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
who are worrying about how to help young people who are going wrong, by demonstrating there are new approaches that have great promise.
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 can be ordered through Woodbury Reports' Places For Struggling Teens - see
the online store order form.