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Wilderness therapy helps teens struggling with substance abuse

June 29, 2011
by News release
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Old Fort, N.C. — Research has shown that neurofeedback is an effective adjunctive treatment for substance abuse. After being used for decades in the treatment of ADHD, learning disabilities and other disorders, now this exciting therapy is being offered at Phoenix Outdoor’s wilderness rehab program in North Carolina.

Phoenix Outdoor, a therapeutic wilderness program for teens ages 13-17 who are struggling with substance abuse, as well co-occurring behavioral and mental health issues, utilizes a unique base camp model that combines wilderness expeditions with experiences at base camp.


This program structure gives struggling teens the opportunity to develop new skills in the wilderness and then test those skills in a structured, real-life setting.

Every two weeks during their time at base camp, teens in the wilderness program participate in three 30-minute neurofeedback sessions, for a total of 24 sessions. These sessions are conducted by Phil Ellis, PhD, a psychologist who is board certified in neurofeedback.

Neurofeedback, also called EEG biofeedback, is a training system that promotes changes in brain wave patterns. Using a computer and sensors that detect brain waves, teens view images on a screen that change as their brain waves change.




Much like a video game, teens concentrate their attention on the game and hear or see signals that indicate when their brain is in the target zone. With practice, this process becomes automatic, eliminating the need for ongoing neurofeedback sessions.

“Phoenix Outdoor is one of the first wilderness therapy programs in the country to offer this cutting-edge treatment to teens struggling with drug or alcohol abuse,” said Shawn Farrell, MEd, the wilderness program’s executive director. “So far, the results have been promising.”

After just a few weeks of neurofeedback training, the staff and students at Phoenix Outdoor have observed the following benefits:

  • Improved ability to focus and pay attention
  • Decreased impulsivity
  • Better ability to cope
  • Less anxiety
  • Improved ability to maintain sobriety

“We are fully committed to integrating the latest evidence-based therapies to benefit our students and their families,” said Farrell. “Neurofeedback is one of the many ways that Phoenix Outdoor is staying ahead of the curve in the treatment of adolescent substance abuse.”

For more information, visit www.phoenixoutdoor.com.


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