Frequently Asked Questions About Wilderness Therapy

YES! While Aspiro has many anecdotal success stories, we also have over 16 years of research so that we KNOW the wilderness adventure therapy model works.

Aspiro has partnered with Dr. Mark Widmer, a tenured professor of therapeutic recreation at Brigham Young University to conduct independent research in the area of Wilderness and Adventure Therapy since 2005.  His research has been published in multiple peer-reviewed academic journals.  Dr. Widmer’s research has shown:

  • 97% of families say they are highly satisfied with their experience with Aspiro.
  • 98% of families say that their therapist was highly competent.
  • 97% of families saw positive emotional growth in their child.
  • 91% of families say their child developed stronger life coping skills at Aspiro.

To learn more about our research and the outcomes you can expect, please download our research brochure.

There are many factors to consider when trying to find help for your child. What are the exact struggles your child is experiencing? How severe are the problem behaviors? Is your child non-responsive to outpatient therapy and other interventions at home? How intensely are your child’s struggles impacting their life and your family?

Take our online self-assessment to see if wilderness therapy is a good fit for your family.

There is a magic that happens when students fully engage in Aspiro’s adventure experiences, guided by expert therapists, and immersed in one of nature’s most stunning locations.  By combining the best elements of wilderness, adventure, and therapy, we can effectively treat a variety of the mental, emotional, and behavioral problems your family may struggle with. Here’s how each element work:

Wilderness – Famed naturalist Edward Abbey said, “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.” Dozens of research studies tell us the benefits of just being in nature. Wilderness relieves stress, restores attention, increases happiness, decreases levels of depression, boosts one’s mood, and improves one’s self-esteem just to name a few.

Adventure – Anyone who has climbed a rock wall, skied through fresh powder, or sped down a mountain on a bike knows how exciting, inspiring, and life-changing adventure can be. Experiencing the magnificence of nature combined with the thrill of adventure will help your child to wake up and discover a passion for life.

At Aspiro, adventure isn’t just fun, it also heals. Your child may go mountain biking, rock climbing, rappelling, alpine skiing, canyoneering, snowshoeing, and / or backpacking. All of these adventure experiences have therapeutic effects while providing  real-time assessment, skill-building opportunities, forging an identity, building resiliency, and improving self-efficacy.

TherapyAspiro’s clinical team pulls from over 240 years of combined experience and a variety of evidence-based treatment modalities to provide your child dynamic and individualized treatment plan.  By infusing wilderness and adventure experiences with sophisticated mental health treatment, Aspiro is able to address some of the truly difficult challenges your child is struggling with.

Adventure Therapy is a type of wilderness therapy program. Wilderness adventure therapy combines the basic elements of a traditional wilderness therapy program with the therapeutic benefits that come from high adventure activities.

Adventure therapy is at the very core of Aspiro’s program.  While other programs may spend a week or two doing adventure activities, at Aspiro your child will experience weekly adventures like mountain biking, rock climbing, rappelling, alpine skiing, canyoneering, snowshoeing, and/or backpacking. All of these adventure experiences have therapeutic effects while providing  real-time assessment, skill-building opportunities, forging an identity, building resiliency, and improving self-efficacy.  To learn more about the differences between adventure and nomadic wilderness therapy programs, read our Parents Guide to Wilderness Therapy Programs.

Our clients come from all over the nation and world, but Aspiro has its base camp in Mt. Pleasant, Utah, and operates all over the state. Utah offers a wide variety of beautiful environments that are perfect for adventure. Whether it is the red rock deserts of southern Utah or the high alpine peaks of the Uinta Mountains in Northern Utah, Aspiro has something for everyone. These novel environments provide a world-class setting for a variety of adventure activities year round including mountain biking in Park City, rock climbing in St. George, backpacking in Lake Powell, canyoneering in the San Rafael Swell, and skiing the greatest snow on earth in the Wasatch Mountains.

Our wilderness program has single-gender groups for teens 13-17 years old and coed groups for young adults 18-28 years old. This design allows us to better individualize each student’s therapeutic experience.

Because safety is our priority:

  • all students in the line of sight at all times. 
  • group dynamics ensure students move as a group and are together 24 hours a day.
  • professionals who are trained to deal with any medical emergency that may come up while on the trail.
  • all of our activities are supported by an emergency response team, local law enforcement, emergency medical services, and medical air helicopter services.
  • all staff are required to have First aid and CPR certifications and teams are supported by Wilderness First Responders and/or EMT while on the trail with your child.
  • Aspiro’s medical team provides individualized and comprehensive care through a face-to-face, in-depth, weekly medical assessment.

With our emphasis on safety, we train our staff in all aspects of risk management and the skills necessary to facilitate all high adventure activities in the safest and most impactful manner. Our outdoor education program Risk Management team regularly reviews and updates procedures while providing training and oversight to ensure your child is in the most capable hands.

A 2012 study found that “the average American adolescent was two times more likely to visit an emergency room than an OBH Council program participant.”  To learn more about our safety and medical procedures, visit our Safety page.

All Aspiro staff

  • are required to pass a Criminal Background Check before employment.
  • receive an initial 80-hour training before moving into student groups.
  • receive weekly intensive one-on-one and group training in high adventure facilitation and risk mitigation.
  • receive ongoing weekly in-service training specific to our itineraries, in addition to updates and refreshers of the current protocol.
  • annually update First Aid and CPR certifications.

At Aspiro, your child will be involved in many exciting outdoor education program adventures. They will learn about themselves through the challenge of rock climbing, mountain biking, canyoneering, skiing, and expedition backpacking. All climbing and canyoneering gear meets or exceeds standards set out by the AMGA (American Mountain Guide Association), UIAA Safety Commission (International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation), the certification body for all mountaineering and climbing equipment and practices.

Mountain bikes and safety equipment are inspected before and after each use; repairs or replacements are made by qualified professionals as needed. When arriving at Aspiro your child will be outfitted with all the clothing and equipment required to make their journey safe, as well as inspiring.

All groups are outfitted with state of the art communication equipment. All group leaders carry cell phones, satellite phones, and SPOT Tracker GPS systems with them at all times. Regardless of their location, whether front or back country, our staff have the tools to get the job done. Along with this equipment, groups call in twice daily to our on-call staff to communicate the location, health, and safety of their group. The risk management team and field leadership team always have contingency plans in place in the event of an emergency. This looks like a team of assigned individuals available and ready to move at any time, day or night, as our Emergency Response Team. 

Each student is equipped with their own personal stove when they arrive at Aspiro. They are required to cook two hot meals a day and drink enough water to stay properly hydrated. Food intake and hydration are meticulously monitored by staff. The Aspiro diet was specifically designed in conjunction with the University of Utah’s Health Department to ensure that our students are not only consuming enough calories for our outdoor education activities but that the calories they are consuming are of high quality. All students receive a weekly health check from our qualified RN or EMT. Most students find that after leaving Aspiro they are healthier and stronger than before their experience.

The average length of stay at Aspiro is 8 -12 weeks. Since the Aspiro program is truly individualized the length of stay is determined by your child’s and family’s progress in coordination with your therapist. 

Yes, Aspiro is accredited by AdvancED and offers high school credits for students who complete academic assignments.  These credits can be transferred to any accredited high school.

While Aspiro is not contracted with any insurance company, we are able to provide you with a superbill that you can use to petition your insurance company for reimbursement. Whether an insurance company will reimburse families for any costs depends upon your individual insurance company and plan. Because insurance reimbursement is never guaranteed, families should be prepared to cover most, if not all, of the cost out of pocket.

Aspiro takes into account the financial burden that privately funded mental health care can place on a family. Aspiro works with partial scholarship sponsors including Sky’s The Limit Fund and the Parker Bounds Johnson Foundation that can assist qualified families. If you’d like more information on how Aspiro works with families to meet the financial obligations for the program, please contact an admissions counselor at (801) 349-2740 and they will work to assess your individual needs.

Aspiro has rolling admissions and provides services year-round. This means that students can be accepted any day of the year. Once the pre-enrollment process is complete, your admissions counselor will coordinate travel arrangements. The entire enrollment process can be completed in as little as 48 – 72 hours.

Aspiro’s admissions team is available to you anytime to answer questions or concerns during your admissions process. This process includes filling out an online application, a brief review by the Aspiro team, and admissions paperwork (legal, medical, and financial agreements).  If you have any questions about the enrollment process please contact an admissions counselor at (801) 349-2740.