• Does the program understand that many children and young adults have experienced overwhelming stress and/or trauma?
  • Does the program work to avoid situations that can re-traumatize children, teens and young adults?
  • Does the program have trained trauma therapists on staff?

Many children and young adults with behavioral or developmental needs serious enough to require residential treatment have experienced some form of trauma and/or overwhelming stress.

This can include losing a parent to abandonment, adoption from an international country, death or divorce, being placed in juvenile hall, suffering neglect, physical or sexual abuse, time in a foster care home or orphanage, witnessing violence or being involved or witnessing a serious accident. For some children and young adults, ordinary experiences that would not be traumatic for others can be perceived and reacted to as traumatic. Trauma is an experience of overwhelming fear and powerlessness and those who have suffered trauma are often exquisitely sensitive to situations that they feel they cannot control.

High quality outdoor therapeutic and residential programs recognize this and do everything possible to make children and young adults feel safe and in control. Confrontational therapies, approaches that push children or young adults to discuss traumatic experiences when they aren’t ready to do so or that elicit extreme emotions can re-traumatize these children or young adults.

Other questions to ask:

  • How does the program deal with trauma issues?
  • What does the program do to ensure that children or young adults who have experienced trauma feel safe in therapy?
  • What other trauma-informed practices does the program use?