Health and Wellness

Holistic, whole-body wellness

We understand that when our students learn to take care of their “whole self”, they are able to create more sustainable change. For optimal results, we cannot help a student with only one part of their lives (their emotions, or depression, anxiety, etc.) without addressing their physical, nutritional and mental wellness. This is why so many aspects of our program focus on mindfulness, physical activity, and teaching healthy relationships with diet and nutrition.

“Meditation has been a really big part of my path since I was introduced to it while in wilderness. I also make sure to spend some time outside every day. I still have my ups and downs and sometimes they feel like major setbacks; but actually, my downs don’t rule my life anymore. I am a functioning adult and can genuinely share that I’m happy and doing well.”

— BRTW Alum

Health and Wellness Goals

  • Mental Clarity

  • Better Sleep

  • Decreased depression, anxiety and stress

  • Improved emotional resilience and regulation

  • Decreased volatility

  • Reduced physical pain

  • Our approach

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Tools for lasting change

The health and wellness tools we offer our students help them to build a foundational skillset that they can use for life. As students practice health and wellness at Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness, they are better prepared to engage in the clinical, academic, and social components of the program.

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Physical Activity

Students are taught the purpose of physical activity and why it is important for their minds and bodies. Although our groups hike often, the length and time spent hiking varies depending on each group member’s needs. To help students stay active on non-hiking days, students may play games, explore the surrounding nature via day hikes, and participate in exercise “sessions” which are supervised by someone who is able to provide direction on proper form, purpose of the movements, modifications, and motivation.

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Diet and Nutrition

Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness takes nutrition more seriously than many other wilderness programs. In addition to receiving fresh fruits, vegetables and meats at each food resupply, students at BRTW have access to nutrient-dense foods with high nutritional value and containing less sugar or salt than is commonly found in the backpacker’s diet.

When each student arrives at Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness, their dietary restrictions and needs are considered as well as any allergies they may have. Our kitchen staff work diligently to ensure that each student is given the proper amount of daily calories as well as the appropriate foods to supplement dietary needs.

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Mindfulness

Often, students entering our program are experiencing difficulty with emotional regulation, processing their thoughts and reactions, and are unaware of the many ways to reconnect with themselves and their surroundings.

Research suggests that practicing mindfulness for at least 30 minutes a day for as little as eight weeks leads to changes in the prefrontal cortex significant enough to be seen on a functional MRI. This, among its many other benefits, is why students at BRTW practice mindfulness on a daily basis. Our students are taught how to notice their emotions and thoughts, drawing valuable connections between their minds, bodies and their choices.

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Water and Food Intake

Students must meet certain daily food and water intake requirements. Because living in the wilderness setting is physically demanding, students need to remain well hydrated and properly fed throughout the day for their safety. Water and food intake is supervised by staff throughout the day, and discrepancies in food or water consumption are reported to our medical team.

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Health and Wellness Coordinator

The Blue Ridge Health and Wellness Coordinator and certified nutritionist is passionate about all things related to health, diet and overall wellness. The Health and Wellness Coordinator supervises and coordinates the diet of each individual in our program, accounting for all allergies and creatively implementing nutritional and caloric adjustments/replacements as is appropriate for each student. They also visit groups to host lessons about nutrition, lead exercise classes, facilitate moments of mindfulness and meditation, and more.