Student safety and comfort is paramount at North Georgia wilderness therapy program

CLAYTON, GA, February 23, 2024 /24-7PressRelease/ — Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia, Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness is an outdoor therapeutic treatment program providing holistic, individualized treatment for adolescents, young adults, and their families.

Recognizing gaps in existing nature-based programming, Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness identified key elements that it believed could enhance the success of students and families embarking on their wilderness treatment and beyond. While these concepts were novel at the time, they have since become integral to many therapeutic wilderness programs today.

Blue Ridge founder and owner, Dan McDougal, explains that “After its inception, Blue Ridge wilderness aimed to address the lack of personalized experiences for adolescents and young adults in wilderness programs. We recognized the need for individualized therapeutic approaches, so we set out to tailor each student’s experience to their unique needs and background and pioneered a path towards personalized and family-centric treatment.”

Blue Ridge also addressed a disconnect between field and clinical teams within wilderness therapy. Dan continues, “We understand that alignment between these departments is crucial, so we prioritize collaboration, ensuring that field teams and therapists work in tandem to reinforce clinical objectives and utilize resources effectively to support each student’s treatment goals.”

A significant departure from conventional practices was Blue Ridge’s emphasis on providing a higher level of care and nurturing to clients. This shift in approach, while initially met with skepticism, aimed to complement the challenges of the wilderness experience, fostering resilience, self-efficacy, and confidence in students. Through attentive support and compassion, Blue Ridge staff endeavored to create a safe environment where clients could focus on their therapeutic journey.

McDougal concludes, “We believe that each individual is inherently lovable, worthy and powerful. Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness is a place where students can safely experience discovery, transformation and compassion. Our goal in treating each client is to provide them the resources necessary for them to evaluate and live within their values and, ultimately, to thrive within themselves and their family unit.”

Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness Licensing, Accreditation & Safety Protocols

Blue Ridge implements comprehensive internal risk management protocols, meets state licensing requirements and participates in regular accreditation evaluations. The program adheres to strict standards set by governing bodies and accrediting agencies. These organizations have stringent requirements for initial accreditation, permit and membership, as well as ongoing expectations for maintaining them.

Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness Executive Director, Danielle Hava, describes the strict licensing and accreditation process to which Blue Ridge adheres: “Blue Ridge is licensed by the Department of Human Services (DHS) in the state of Georgia as an Outdoor Child Caring program. The program is permitted by the National Forest Service (USFS), and holds academic accreditation from Cognia. We are also a member of the National Association for Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) as well as the Association for Experiential Education (AEE).”

Each of these organizations has its own set of requirements and expectations for the initial licensing and subsequent maintenance of each accreditation, permit, & membership process.

Hava continues, “We have a truly exceptional team who upholds the rigorous standards set forth by these organizations on a daily basis while delivering the most impactful and clinically integrated wilderness therapy experience possible.”

Staff Experience & Qualifications:

Each Blue Ridge staff member undergoes a thorough vetting process during which each individual’s resume, references, and educational background are considered in conjunction with an assessment of their performance and capabilities throughout a training excursion up to 8 days. Each staff member also passes a criminal federal background check and drug screen before ever interfacing with students.

Each field instructor team consists of at least one senior staff and at least one certified Wilderness First Responder (WFR). Each week, staff receive at least 3 hours of continued training from outdoor leaders and clinicians. Each staff undergoes a required (Aegis) de-escalation training to receive a certification that is refreshed every 3 months. Staff participate in additional trainings as they are available.

Upon hire, new field instructors are placed in teams with a licensed therapist as well as more senior staff, who closely monitor them and ensure adherence to all safety protocols. This probationary period for new employees is considered an ‘internship’ period, and typically lasts for a minimum of three shifts (totaling around 360 work hours). The program follows strict (3:1) student-staff ratio protocols which ensure that staff are never alone with students and that students may receive the highest possible level of care.

Clinical Assessments & Medical Care:

Every student is assessed by a Medical Doctor upon arrival before being cleared to enter into the program. A licensed Psychiatrist and Clinical Psychologist also perform initial assessments within the first two weeks of each new student’s arrival to review and collect additional information. In addition to frequent in-field visits from our Medical Coordinator and Nurse team, each individual’s health and wellbeing is closely monitored throughout each day.

Field instructors provide First-Aid to students whenever necessary in addition to 2-3 daily wellness checks which include, but are not limited to, inspection of the hands, feet and face. Staff support students in meeting nutrition and hydration requirements of at least 2.5 bowls of food per day and at least 3L of water per day (more on hiking days).

Field Instructors contact our office team at least twice daily to provide updates on the health, needs and safety of each student. Staff are able to immediately contact the nearby Medical team in the case that a student needs a higher level of care or support outside of these two daily calls. The Blue Ridge Medical Coordinator and Medical Director work together to assess and provide extra treatment to individuals if necessary.

Ms. Hava concludes, “Our program has maintained an excellent safety record in its over 20-year history. Prioritizing student safety, health and comfort has allowed Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness to remain deeply committed to providing students and families the best possible therapeutic treatment and care.”

To learn more about how Blue Ridge Therapeutic safely supports individuals and families in crisis, visit or call 888-914-1050 to speak with an Admissions Director today.

Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness is a licensed and accredited outdoor child-caring program that provides mental health treatment from licensed therapists and skilled outdoors professionals. Removed from the distractions of daily home life, students (ages 12-18, and 18-29 in the Emerald Arrow young adult program) engage in early clinical assessment and evidence-based therapeutic approaches to learn communication skills, emotional regulation, healthy habits, and other skills needed to be aware of and act on their values. To learn more about Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness, visit or speak with an admissions counselor by calling (888) 914-1050.

For the original version of this press release, please visit here