Trails Carolina, a therapeutic wilderness program aimed at helping struggling adolescents, has garnered both acclaim and criticism. In recent times, allegations and controversies have emerged surrounding the program’s practices and effectiveness. This article delves into the Trails Carolina investigation, providing an in-depth look at the program, the allegations, and addressing frequently asked questions.

The Trails Carolina Program


Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program based in North Carolina, USA. Founded in 2008, it is designed to provide support and therapeutic intervention for adolescents facing a range of emotional and behavioral challenges.


The program employs a holistic approach that combines outdoor adventure experiences with clinical therapy. Participants engage in activities such as hiking, camping, and wilderness survival, all under the guidance of experienced staff members. These experiences are intertwined with individual and group therapy sessions, creating an immersive therapeutic environment.


Trails Carolina is accredited by industry-recognized organizations, including the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Industry Council (OBHIC) and the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP). These accreditations attest to the program’s adherence to industry standards and best practices.

The Controversies


  1. Safety Concerns: Some former participants and their families have raised concerns about the safety measures in place during wilderness activities. Reports of accidents, injuries, and perceived inadequate supervision have been cited.
  2. Ethical Practices: Critics have questioned the ethics of employing wilderness experiences as a form of therapy. They argue that the approach may be coercive or punitive rather than genuinely therapeutic.
  3. Transparency and Communication: Allegations of poor communication between the program and families have been made. Some families claim to have experienced difficulties in obtaining information about their child’s progress and well-being.
  4. Effectiveness and Long-term Outcomes: There is a debate about the long-term effectiveness of wilderness therapy programs like Trails Carolina. Some critics argue that the benefits gained in the wilderness may not always translate into sustained improvements once participants return to their regular environments.

Program’s Response

Trails Carolina has responded to these allegations by emphasizing their commitment to safety, ethical practices, and open communication. They assert that they continually strive to improve their program based on feedback from families and participants.

Investigative Process

External Review

In response to the emerging controversies, Trails Carolina has initiated an independent external review. This review, conducted by a panel of experts in the fields of therapy, outdoor education, and child psychology, aims to assess the program’s practices, safety protocols, and overall effectiveness.

Key Focus Areas

The investigation will focus on the following areas:

  1. Safety Protocols: Reviewing the measures in place to ensure the well-being and physical safety of participants during wilderness activities.
  2. Therapeutic Efficacy: Evaluating the effectiveness of the therapeutic interventions employed within the program and their impact on participants’ long-term well-being.
  3. Communication and Transparency: Assessing the program’s communication practices and the extent to which families are kept informed about their child’s progress.


1. Is Trails Carolina a licensed and accredited program?

Yes, Trails Carolina is accredited by reputable organizations in the field of therapeutic wilderness programs, including OBHIC and NATSAP.

2. What is the age range of participants in the program?

Trails Carolina serves adolescents between the ages of 10 and 17 who are facing emotional and behavioral challenges.

3. How long does a typical program at Trails Carolina last?

Program durations can vary, but on average, participants spend around 8-12 weeks in the wilderness program.

4. What happens after the wilderness program?

Upon completion of the wilderness phase, participants often transition to a therapeutic boarding school, residential treatment center, or return home with ongoing support.

5. How can families stay updated on their child’s progress?

Trails Carolina provides regular updates through phone calls, written communications, and secure online platforms. They also encourage families to reach out with any questions or concerns.


The Trails Carolina investigation is a pivotal step in addressing concerns and ensuring the program’s adherence to the highest standards of safety and therapeutic efficacy. As the results of the external review become available, it is hoped that they will provide clarity and guidance for the program’s future development and its continued mission to help struggling adolescents.

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18 thoughts on “Trails Carolina “Investigation””
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