Interview Questions for Consumers, Parents and Professionals

Wilderness Therapy Treatment Programs

A free listing of wilderness programs, consumer protection resources, and 
referral assistance for parents with teenagers and youth at risk who may have 
emotional, psychological, learning, drug and substance abuse, academic and behavioral problems. 
This web site is not funded by any wilderness programs.

 Comprehensive Information: www.WildernessPrograms.Org


When you have finally come to the conclusion that your child needs a wilderness therapy treatment program, you have basically two options. 

Option 1 -  Do It Yourself.  Make a list of each program, contact each program, interview the program, visit the programs that seem appropriate, interview staff and tour their facilities, make personal  contacts in the program, talk to people outside the program who can recommend the program, and then decide on which placement would best meet the family needs. 

Option 2 - Hire A Qualified, Certified or Licensed Professional Consultant.  A qualified consultant will be knowledgeable about programs and will work for you to help you make the best decision. Consultants have experience with programs as well as information about programs that you would not be able to obtain from a program.  Professional consultants have personal contacts in programs and know parents as well as students who have completed programs. 

For those consumers, parents and professionals who would prefer to "Do It Yourself", there are a number of important questions that you will need to have answered in order for you to get the most out of your phone interviews and visit to programs. The following list cannot replace professional consultation when referring a child to a program.

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  1. What is the name and position of the person you are talking with? Where are they physically located? Are they located at the program?

  2. Is the person you are talking with a licensed counselor, medical or mental health professional?

  3. How long has this person worked in this program? What jobs have they had in the program? Have they ever worked as an instructor, guide or therapist?

  4. How long has the program existed? 

  5. Has there ever been an injury or death of student that resulted in a criminal or civil action against the program. If Yes, ask for the name of the newspaper that covered the story. (This is not confidential information because it should be a matter of public record.)

  6. Has the program undergone a change in ownership in the past 2 years? Who owns the program? Ask for information necessary to contact the owners.

  7. Who is the program director? How long have they been there? What is their experience? Are they licensed?

  8. Is the program licensed or accredited and with what organization or agency? What is the contact information for that organization or agency?

  9. Is there a licensed professional in your program who will be directly responsible for your child's safety and well-being? Who is specifically and ultimately responsible for your child?

  10. Is the program co-ed? How are boys and girls supervised?

  11. What is the staff to student ratio?

  12. How may students have graduated or completed your program?

  13. How many students graduate each month? When are graduations normally?

  14. Who is responsible and supervises the various departments in the program? What are their qualifications and are they licensed?

  15. Who supervises the program's therapists/counselors? Is the supervisor licensed at the appropriate level?

  16. What type of students are accepted in the program?

  • drug and alcohol problems?

  • psychiatric medications?

  • criminal background?

  • violence or assault?

  • sexual assault or rape?

  1. Can they provide you with a written copy summarizing the program's policies and procedures? Insist on a written copy of anything they tell you before you admit your child.

  2. What are the qualifications of the field staff?

  • college education

  • trained in CPR and first aide?

  • training as a wilderness first responder?

  • trained in search and rescue?

  • crisis intervention?

  • licensed as a mental health professional?

  1. How are new staff trained before they start working with students?

  2. How much experience do staff need to have before they assume a lead, senior staff or supervisory leadership role?

  3. Are new staff background checks completed and verified before the staff starts work?

  4. Are all the counselors and therapists licensed in the state they are working? Can they send you a copy of the assigned therapist license and the means to contact their licensing agency?

  5. What are the qualifications for the counselor and therapist your child will be working with?

  6. Is there a licensed psychologist who works with staff and students in the program?

  7. Is there a consulting psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner who consults with the program? Or a physician experienced with psychiatric medications?

  8. Is there a nurse on staff who can consult with staff or see students in the field if necessary?

  9. Who is responsible for dispensing and monitoring medications?

  10. Are medical policies and procedures under the direction of a licensed medical health care provider who is on staff or is at least affiliated with your program?

  11. Will they give you a copy of the medical procedures in the case of injury, illness or other health problems?

  12. Is there a handout that describes the emergency procedures that are followed in the event of accident or serious injury?

  13. How much and how often do students receive professional counseling or  therapy? 

  14. Are the counselors and therapist's required to follow the ethical standards required under their license?

  15. Do they have a handout that describes the program's therapeutic model for supervising, educating and counseling students?

  16. Is there a handout that describes the program's educational and written requirements that students must complete as part of their program?

  17. Does the program have an educational component and is the educational program fully accredited with transferable credits? How are credits achieved?

  18. How do they handle students with learning disabilities?

  19. Ask them to describe the psychological and social structure of program?

  20. Ask why do students change within the program structure they provide?

  21. What recreational opportunities are provided? When and how often?

  22. What is the minimum length of stay in the program?

  23. What is the average length of stay for a student?

  24. What is the longest stay?

  25. Is there some estimate of how long a child like yours will need to be in the program to succeed?

  26. How many of the graduates go home and how many go to other programs? Why?

  27. How can you communicate with your child if your need to? Under what circumstances?

  28. What support services or trainings do they offer parents?

  29. What  involvement is necessary from parents?

  30. How do they handle misbehavior? Runaways? Combative behavior?

  31. What is the programs philosophy on medication and the use of medications in the program?

  32. How is communication handled between incoming and outgoing staff members?

  33. What educational services do they offer for students with unique learning styles?

  34. What is the minimum level of experience for a staff person in order to lead a group, be a head instructor or senior guide?

  35. How does the program keep their staff from "burning out"?

  36. Who is directly responsible to monitor the behavior of staff and their interactions with students?

  37. Who is ultimately responsible for your child's health, safety and well-being and what is their experience and qualifications? 

  38. Has the program had any complaints filled by parents with public authorities that were sustained?

  39. Has the program's permit, license or accreditation been suspended or revoked?