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Independent Study Reveals Students and Families Improved At Trails Carolina
Aug 1, 2016, 20:10

Trails Carolina
Lake Toxaway, NC

Independent Study Reveals
Students and Families
Improved At Trails Carolina

Graham Shannonhouse
Executive Director

Trails Carolina began a research initiative in 2015, partnering with the Center for Research, Assessment, and Treatment Efficacy (CReATE, Research Division) and the Arkansas Institute of Developmental Science (ARkids, University of Arkansas). The objective is to conduct a methodologically rigorous, longitudinal study of therapeutic effectiveness; this project represents the first comprehensive investigation of wilderness treatment outcomes, with a specific emphasis on family functioning and improvements. Thus, both the adolescent and their parents participate at 4 data collection intervals throughout the course of the study: admission, graduation, 3-month follow up and 12-month follow up. The battery, completed by youth and their parents, include an array of theoretically-relevant psychological outcome variables, including broad- and narrow-band assessments of psychiatric symptoms, substance use, trauma exposure, mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and affect intensity, as well as issues germane to adoption, school refusal, and family cohesion. Further, parents provide data related to their personal mental health concerns, substance use, and trauma exposure, as well as parenting styles, family functioning, and social support.

Since the study began, Trails Carolina received permission for 78% of all families to participate. Of those enrolled in the outcome study, 70% of students and 79% of their parents have provided baseline (or admission) data. To date, approximately 60% of adolescent study participants and 59% of their parents have successfully completed graduation assessment surveys. Further, approximately 60% of eligible youth and their parents have participated in the 3- and 12-month follow up assessments.

A preliminary look at the data reveals that the average participant is 14.9 years old, with approximately half male and half female participants. Upon admission, youth and their parents report significant problems (in the youth) associated with symptoms of depression, ADHD, disruptive behavior, substance use, and suicidality, as well as academic struggles and aggressive behavior. At graduation, symptoms and problematic behaviors are MUCH improved, based on adolescents' self report and parent reports. In fact, across all domains, scores are in the normal range following treatment, with the exception of youth's self report of substance use disorder symptoms, which although much improved, remains slightly elevated.

Trails Carolina will release comprehensive outcome data, including issues impacting youth's therapeutic improvements and family's overall treatment progress, as those data become available.

Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program based just outside of Asheville, North Carolina that offers a multi-dimensional wilderness therapy model to troubled adolescents, ages 10-17. Trails capitalizes upon the profound effects of a student's wilderness experience, and then combines that experience with strong clinical assessments and therapy.

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