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Wilderness Therapy

At Mountainwise we work alongside a variety of agencies to deliver the Wilderness Therapy Outdoor Residential element which forms a part of a wider therapeutic framework helping young people and families facing complex difficulties.

Being in nature is enormously therapeutic, and our mission is to share this incredible learning and life enhancing experience with people who have had very little opportunity or experience of being outside of the urban context, or have severe mental health issues. Walking in wild and mountainous areas of the British countryside can have an enormously uplifting effect on mental wellbeing.

Wilderness Therapy is an adventure-based therapy treatment modality for behaviour modification and interpersonal self-improvement, combining experiential education, individual and group therapy in a wilderness settings. It is rooted in ample evidence that being in nature "is effective in facilitating positive characterological change, and in treating character pathology. This is significant for two reasons. First, short-term interventions leading to character change are almost unheard of in the personality literature. Second, personality disorders take a huge emotional and financial toll on individuals, families and society, and they are notoriously difficult to treat". (The Effects of Wilderness Therapy on the Clinical Concerns (on Axes I, II, and IV) of Troubled Adolescents. Jeffrey P. Clark, Leonardo M. Marmol, Robert Cooley, and Kathleen Gathercoal Joumal of Experiential Education 2004, Volume 27, No. 2).


Mountainwise offers a range of bespoke Wilderness Therapy Residentials which can include:

  • Coast and River activities - Coasteering, Canoeing,, Sea Kayaking, Improvised Rafting, Sea Level Traversing and Gorge Scrambling.
  • Mountain activities - Walking, Navigation and Mountain Skills, Bushcraft and Camping.
  • Climbing activities - Indoor and Outdoor Climbing and Abseiling.

We specialise in delivering these outdoor activities to groups in a therapeutic context with partner organisations whose approach includes systemic therapy and holistic approaches for families and young people who are facing challenges in their lives.


wilderness therapy participants in a triptych of images

Out of the City Into the Wild

This is Mountainwise's latest project. Following a successful pilot in 2018, this project takes disadvantaged young people, aged 11-18, and their families, on a series of four Wilderness Therapy weekends. Delivered over 5 months, these are professionally guided weekends of walking, canoeing, navigating and wild camping. They are embedded within an established therapeutic framework with a family therapist present, and provide opportunities for praise, reflection, and feedback. The programme includes one weekend of camping and survival skills with participants' family members to cultivate long-term change in behaviour and mental health, only possible by support from their carers.


Participants are referred by the Tulasi Medical Centre, located in Barking and Dagenham, one of London's most deprived boroughs. Our project targets young people at early stages of exclusion and mental health conditions including: anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Our pilot proved that by intervening before their behaviour escalates into potential exclusion and risk of offending, participants returned to attending school regularly, engaging with their families, and thereby increasing their ability to meet their potential and live full, healthy lives. Noted by his teacher, Callum's attention increased following the pilot:'I've been getting out more, talking to other people more and it's getting better at school. Being able to focus is a lot easier for some reason now, my grades are going up'. Callum, 14


The project includes the opportunity for our existing participants to design the activities for new young people joining the project and to mentor them during the programme.Stepping up to support others in similar situations, and sustaining the support network already established during the pilot, will nurture responsible young leaders as part of this project.


In summer 2019 we worked with our second cohort of young people undertaking a multi-day hike across Dorset, spent two days paddling down the Medway whilst wild camping and signed off with a family bushcraft camp in Essex.  The reaction of the families to abandoning phones and spending two days staring at a campfire was amazing. 

 We will be running further trips in 2020, get in touch to find out more.



Funded by:

woodward trusthedley foundationcommunity fund

Supported by:

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Families Activities Programme

child with climbing ropeMountainwise provides the Families Activities Programme for families with complex difficulties from Families Forward, an intervention team from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, who work holistically to prevent family breakdown and children or young people entering the care system.

The Families Activities Programmes offers systemic intervention through activities where families can re-author who they are and improve family relationships through activities such as climbing, kayaking and camping. This provides a safe space for families to spend quality time together with support to improve their family relationships. 

James, we thank you as always for your continuous support with the Family Activities programme. Your drive, your humour and your expertise make it such a pleasure to work with you in an environment that has assumed risks, and you always make the families and staff feel safe. “

- Espie Whelan, Family Activities Lead Co-ordinator, Families Forward, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea



This award winning video 'Family Time' is a joint project undertaken by the Families Activities Programme and See Change Films in which the participants filmed each other and talked about their experiences. http://www.seechangefilms.org/



Outdoor Explore Programme

Mountainwise provides the Outdoor Explore Programme for disadvantaged young people to enable them to thrive academically, socially and emotionally. This forms a follow-up programme to the unique residential farming experience at Jamie's Farm, which combines farming, family and therapy to try to prevent exclusions from schools and all the negative consequences that that entails.

The Outdoor Explore Programme is an immersive experience run in partnership with Mountainwise where participants will be given the skills and knowledge to be able to get out into the country and continue their connection with the outdoors and to help keep their belief in their own abilities and strengths alive and growing. This will keep alive the sense of purpose and self-belief they gained whilst on the residential at Jamie's Farm.

- Jonty Perchard, Education Manager



Norfolk Walking Therapy Project

Mountainwise worked alongside Discovery Quest to provide the award winning Norfolk Walking Therapy Project, a six-month hiking and camping training programme for people with severe mental health issues. Walking in wild and mountainous areas of the British countryside can have an enormously uplifting effect on mental wellbeing. The programme builds up to a 10 day trip hiking and camping along the West Highland Way in the Scottish highlands. The aim of the project is to increase the confidence of the participants in their own abilities and reduce the isolation they can feel by getting them to take part in walking groups. Ultimately this sense of achievement and increased self esteem can lead to many participants becoming less dependant on medication.

- Paul Lefever

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If you are interested in a bespoke Wilderness Therapy Residential or would like to set up a Wilderness Therapy element in a broader therapeutic context please drop us a line at: info@mountainwise.co.uk



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