Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness, located in the picturesque Blue Ridge mountains of Georgia and North Carolina, is a beacon of growth and hope for individuals and families seeking outdoor mental health treatment. At the heart of this transformative experience is the Emerald Arrow program, tailored for young adults aged 18-30 and their families. For many, this program offers a refreshing pause in the form of a gap year or gap semester, where they can reconnect with nature, embrace mindfulness practices, and address various mental health challenges.
Anne Wilzbacher, LCMHC, Emerald Arrow's Program Director and Primary Therapist, attests to the life-changing impact of wilderness therapy. She states, "Young adults who come to Blue Ridge are often feeling overwhelmed and stuck in their daily lives. Our clients frequently grapple with issues such as anxiety, depression, substance use, 'failure to launch,' academic struggles in college or university, and difficulty securing and maintaining employment."
As Blue Ridge Wilderness's young adult program marks its 5th anniversary, program alumni have stepped forward to share their stories of transformation since completing wilderness therapy. Abby, who graduated from Emerald Arrow in 2021, shared her profound gratitude, saying, "This program changed my life... I have so much respect for Anne, and I am so grateful for the help I received in Emerald Arrow." She continued, "I graduated from college, and I'm moving to London next month to pursue a career in the music business. That wouldn't have been possible without Anne helping me discover my true self and how to lead a healthy, authentic life."
Another graduate from 2022, Breezy, is currently working as a hiking guide in Switzerland. She reflects on the lasting impact of her experience, stating, "I know that I am strong and capable because of the things I learned at Blue Ridge. This program has given me my very best friends, and I get emotional when I look at my life in the last year... I'm so grateful for where I am."
Anne emphasizes the importance of continued support for students beyond their time in treatment, stating, "Emerald Arrow is committed to creating lasting outcomes for our clients and their families. We do everything we can to foster a thriving and accessible alumni network for our graduates."
Students at Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness and Emerald Arrow often face challenges related to low self-esteem and difficulty navigating social or familial relationships. Sarah, an attendee of Emerald Arrow in 2022, shares her profound appreciation: "Words can't describe how much I miss the program—I think about it every single day. It's crazy to think that one of the darkest times in my life became such a gratifying experience, one where I was able to learn that I'm worth loving."
In the past 5 years, program graduates have transformed into a vibrant alumni network, continually reaching out to each other and Anne to reminisce and celebrate their incredible journeys since leaving the program. The progress and personal growth of these alumni serve as a testament to the profound impact of Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness's Emerald Arrow program, reminding us all of the strength that can be discovered in nature and within ourselves.