Trails Carolina

About Trails Carolina

What do we do?
Trails Carolina is a licensed therapy program in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. We focus on helping young people between the ages of 10 and 17 who are having trouble with their mental or behavioral health, their use of technology, their relationships with other people, their sense of who they are, or their academic performance.

Through different environments and therapeutic experiences, our program is meant to help young people overcome problems and reach their full potential. At Trails, students move through a setting for wilderness therapy, go to residential base camps, and then go back into the wilderness.

This cycle is like school and home because it changes the students' social and physical environments in a way that is similar to school and home. This approach teaches students to be strong so they can keep making positive changes after they graduate.

At Trails, our staff works with each child and their family to make a unique treatment plan. Trauma-informed licensed therapists, an expert wilderness team, certified teachers, and special activities staff all work together to help your child achieve whole-person health.

Whom do we work for?

At Trails, we help all kids and teens ages 10 to 17. Age, gender identity, and clinical niche are used to divide each group. By figuring out what their peer groups are, students can practice building healthy relationships with people their own age. This helps make the change back to regular classrooms easier.

Families usually come to us when their child is having problems with their mental health or behavior, such as anxiety, depression, problems with attachment, technology addiction, drug use, or stress in family or school settings.

Many of our students have problems inside that show up on the outside. Isolation, acting out, and being aggressive are all bad habits that we try to help our students work through and get rid of.

When someone we care about is having mental or behavioral health problems, it makes us feel even worse. The dedicated family therapist at Trails gives families the tools they need to reinforce therapeutic lessons and get better along with their kids. Our staff wants to help your family talk to each other better and get back together.

How do we help?

Trails Carolina gives students a chance to see the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and get away from all the noise and stress of their everyday lives. We have set up our program facilities in a way that is therapeutic and based on research.

Our unique mix of outposts in the wilderness and base camps with living quarters helps students learn to be flexible and strong. When students do well in all of these areas, their sense of self-worth grows. Trails' transitional environments give each person a safe place to try out new skills without worrying about failing.

During their time at Trails, students will go through a programming rotation two and a half to three times. This includes a two-week backpacking trip, a week at Winding Gap, our academic and horse-focused base camp, and a week at Sky Valley, our mind-body base camp.

With the help of licensed therapists and caring field staff, we ask students to try new things with courage and hope. Through this process, students are able to set up healthy habits that they can carry back home with them to share with their friends, community, and family.

For real success, we need to do more than just make sure every child does well. Because of this, Trails Carolina has a full system to help families heal and learn the skills they need to help their children grow in a good way after they graduate.

Trails offers families weekly coaching calls, a parent skills workshop, weekly calls with your child's main therapist, and weekly zoom classes to learn the grounding meditation and yoga techniques we teach all of our students.

Family involvement not only helps a person's treatment work better, but it also sets the stage for changes that will last. Relationship repair is important for family members to stay close and trust each other.

We focus on the clinical benefits of transitional care, so we have a three-day family and student program in the middle of a student's stay and a four-day family integration opportunity called Common Ground at the end. With the help of our staff and this resource, families can practice skills and get back together after the program is over.

Clinical Methodology

Trails focus on building healthy relationships, finding personal strengths, and learning transferable skills like self-awareness, positive communication, conflict resolution, self-advocacy, and coping skills. These therapeutic lessons are built into the everyday lives of young people.

Our strength-based, trauma-informed therapy helps students through gradual change and support. This method has been shown to work.

In this new model of wilderness therapy, we help students grow by combining the clinically proven benefits of spending time in nature with structured home bases where they can practice their new skills. As students learn to deal with the challenges that come with expeditions, their confidence grows and their views change.

By bringing together experts from different fields, programming can adapt to each person's skills and way of learning to give them the best care possible.

Academic Approach

During their academic rotation, students go to classes where they use the skills and tools they learned in the wilderness in a setting that is similar to life after Trails. Often, problems at school are signs of problems with mental health or behavior.

Teachers who are certified and have a lot of experience work closely with therapists to make sure that the curriculum fits each student. Our goal is to meet each person's learning needs and get them interested enough in lessons that they want to learn on their own.

The lessons they learn every day are mostly about their own health, the earth sciences, language arts, and history. Some classes are taught in traditional classrooms, while others are taught in our unique, experience-based science center, where students learn about a variety of animals and science projects through hands-on activities.

The natural science curriculum at Trails gives students who are often misunderstood a chance to connect with animals like amphibians, chickens, fish, insects, reptiles, and opossums that are often misunderstood but are still friends. Students learn to love and care about wildlife through these strange relationships between animals.

Our science classroom is powered by solar panels that were built by students in the past. Science Steve, the resident naturalist, gets students interested in science by having them do projects in the classroom, garden, and with farm animals.

Unique academic programming gets students excited about learning from a new point of view. We teach them to speak up for their education, which gives them a sense of power and self-assurance.

Students can take the credits they earn in our classrooms back to their home districts because the program is accredited. Depending on their age, middle school students can earn up to 2.5 credits and high school students can earn up to 3 credits.

Activities to help with treatment

We encourage students to get out of their comfort zones and believe in their ability to deal with problems.

As clinicians, we know that a well-rounded treatment plan is essential for a change that affects the whole person. Research shows that our bodies store stress and trauma in different ways. Through daily wellness programming at our Sky Valley base camp, students learn about the benefits of this mind-body connection.

Students learn how to breathe in a way that helps them control their emotions and feel more grounded. Also, extra mindfulness activities like yoga classes and meditation help students add to their therapeutic toolboxes.

Through hands-on cooking classes, our culinary team helps students understand how the nutrition curriculum works in the real world. Also, each student makes a personalized self-care plan to help with their reintegration and health in order to help them stay on the right track.

At Trails, we know that every moment in therapy is a chance to grow, heal, and get back in touch with ourselves and the people we care about. We want every student to be successful, and we want to help them do that through real interactions with staff and personalized programming.


Every member of the team works hard to give each student an experience that helps their physical, mental, and emotional health. To get CARF and AEE accreditation, our program went through a tough process. This means that our program meets high standards for student rights, safety, services, and business ethics, and that this has been checked by a third party.

We make sure that everyone on our team is qualified for their job by doing background checks and giving them a lot of training. We have a lot of training for new employees, and the Trails staff has regular in-service training and skill-building workshops.

Our advanced risk management system is used when students go on field trips and when they stay at base camps. Staff members are often trained as Wilderness First Responders and know how to do CPR and First Aid. A doctor is always available for students to talk to.


Trails Carolina worked with the Center for Research, Assessment, and Treatment Efficacy (CReATE) in Asheville, North Carolina, and the Development Science department at the University of Arkansas to create a comprehensive outcomes study to prove that our students' and families' treatments are working. This study was done by an outside group over the course of five years to find out more about the long-term effects of Trails' program.

The ongoing research is collecting important information about mental and behavioral health at admission, graduation, and three and twelve months after leaving Trails.

Some examples of results 12 months after graduation are:

• 86% of students showed signs of anxiety getting better.
• 93% of students with signs of depression got better.
• 98% of students said they thought less about killing themselves.
• 97% of students said their ADHD symptoms got better. • 96% of students said they used less drugs.

The results have been shown to have a huge impact on students' mental and emotional health and academic success. We are proud to share the data that shows how our wilderness therapy program helps people in the long run.


The people in charge of Trails have worked in professional outdoor and therapeutic programs for more than 100 years. Graham Shannonhouse, who started our company, has worked in wilderness therapy for more than 30 years. Each member of our executive team has at least 15 years of professional experience in the outdoors and with programs.

The staff at Trails cares about our students' and their families' growth and mental health. We want to help families who are struggling by giving them skills and hope for a better future.

Trails Carolina was started by a group of people who wanted to help children and families who were having problems with their mental health. Over half of the owners in our larger organization, Family Help & Wellness, are licensed therapists and experienced teachers who are deeply committed to trauma-informed care.

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