So you think your child might not be ready to jump right into college. And although you may be pretty sure about that, you’re less sure about what the next right steps should be. So now what?
Taking a break between high school and college–sometimes called a gap year–is becoming increasingly common. Young adults often struggle with anxiety, isolation, fear of failure, and delayed executive functioning skills. They need therapeutic strategies and time to implement them to be successful during the often difficult transition to young adulthood.
A therapeutic gap year can benefit your child in many ways, including helping them to build confidence, find and explore what they love and are good at, broaden their perspectives, and develop a new appreciation for life–with all its challenges and joys. Studies show that young adults that take a therapeutic gap year graduate from college faster with a higher GPA, gain a greater understanding of what they want to do with their life, develop deeper maturity, are happier in their chosen careers, and enjoy improved mental health. A gap semester can be a great alternative to a wilderness therapy program.
Understanding The Importance Of Choosing The Right Program
When families know that a child is not ready for the rigor and stress of a traditional college experience, a therapeutic gap year for young adults can be a wonderful step in the right direction.
Pure Life Adventure offers a new spin on the old traditional gap year program. In addition to giving your child the space to develop new skills and talents, our team of skilled mental health professionals will work right alongside your child offering strong, research-based, therapeutic support. Our program offers immersive cultural, adventure, and leadership experiences that traditional gap years don’t offer.
When it comes to helping your child, deciding on a gap year might be the easy part. The hard part is finding the right therapeutic gap year program for your child. But before we get into the details of how to choose the best gap year program, we want to reiterate that the goal of any well-chosen gap year program should be personal growth and long-lasting change. Your child should walk away from their chosen program with new confidence, skills, and grit to face unexpected challenges. And come what may, they will be ready for it!
LEARN MORE: The Pure Life Therapeutic Gap Experience
Factors To Consider When Choosing A Therapeutic Gap Year Program
While there are many gap year programs for young adults to choose from, this list of factors to consider will help you evaluate each program based on specific criteria that every well-run gap year therapy program should have.
Program Structure And Approach
Solid gap year programs will offer a structured program with a holistic, integrated approach. This means that your child will experience a variety of different therapy approaches and environments. Look for programs that are highly structured and integrate wellness therapy with outdoor experiential learning and adventure activities. Holistic approaches should include opportunities for fitness, mindfulness, the development of life skills, and cultural immersion. A program that provides a holistic, integrated approach will give young adults a “toolbox” of strategies to use during difficult times and prepare them for the challenges they will face as they conquer college, careers, and beyond.
Accreditation And Credentials
Look for programs that are accredited by professional organizations and have qualified therapists that are licensed and experienced. Great staff is a plus, but you want a program that takes mental health seriously, meaning they have professional staff that is well-trained and licensed to work with youth in a mental health capacity.
A reputable program is well-regarded and respected within its field of industry. When a program is reputable, it will have the following:
Accreditation by a professional organization in their field. Accreditation signifies that the program has undergone a rigorous evaluation process and meets specific standards of quality and integrity.
Experience and a stellar track record: A reputable program usually has a track record of successful outcomes and a history of providing effective services. They may have been operating for a significant period, demonstrating their ability to consistently meet the needs of their participants.
Qualified staff: Reputable programs employ qualified and experienced professionals who have the necessary credentials and expertise in their respective fields. These professionals may include licensed therapists, counselors, educators, or other relevant specialists.
Positive feedback and testimonials: Reputable programs will typically provide prospective families with positive feedback and testimonials from past participants, their families, or referring professionals. These testimonials can provide insights into the program’s effectiveness, quality of care, and overall satisfaction of those who have experienced it. Keep in mind, there will always be a few one star reviews out there—some students aren’t ready for the sort of lasting change that these programs are designed to encourage.
Transparent and Ethical Practices: Reputable programs maintain transparency in their practices and operate ethically. They provide clear information about their services, fees, policies, and procedures, and prioritize the well-being and safety of their participants.
Safety And Risk Management
Nothing should be more important to a mental health gap year program than safety and risk management. Reputable programs will demonstrate a high commitment to participant safety during activities and adventures. Look for solid and transparent emergency protocols; this includes compliance with legal requirements, privacy protection, and maintaining a safe and supportive environment for participants.
Staff-to-Participant Ratio And Qualifications
A successful wellness gap year program will emphasize the importance of adequate staff-to-participant ratios. Your child should get personalized attention and support. Programs that have a skewed staff-to-participant ratio will not have the desired impact nor provide the personalized attention that your young adult needs to be successful. We can’t emphasize this enough–therapists and staff members should be experienced, educated and/or licensed. Your gap year program should also place a heavy emphasis on ongoing training and professional development.
READ MORE: What Is A Gap Year
Location And Environment
Consider the location and environment of the program and how this might impact your experience. A new setting will encourage your young adult to dig to experience personal growth and independence. We may be biased, but we believe there is nothing more healing than nature. One great benefit of a therapeutic gap year with a focus on nature and adventure is it removes a young adult from any toxic or stressful living situations. A two-pronged approach that focuses on adventure combined with effective therapy models will allow a child to learn confidence, how to conquer fear, and deal with other strong emotions through effective and healthy coping strategies that will serve them for many years to come.
Choosing Pure Life’s Gap Year Program
So how does our program compare? We’re glad you asked. We proudly stand behind our incredible therapists that are licensed and experienced in dealing with the unique challenges facing our young adults today. We are a reputable program that is accredited by the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) and a member of the National Associate Of Therapeutic School And Programs (NATSAP).
Pure Life’s three-month Adventure Therapy program holistically integrates adventure activities (surfing, rafting, and backpacking) with cognitive behavioral therapy which helps our students overcome challenges and build a ‘toolbox’ for difficult times. Our staff provides our students with individual and group therapy every week, utilizing a hands-on, strengths-based approach where students quickly learn new and healthy coping strategies, behavioral emotional regulation skills, leadership skills, and life skills that lead to future success.
In addition, we provide students with opportunities for cultural immersion, community service, and nationally recognized adventure certifications. Through this novel, nature-based approach, we prepare young adults for the challenges they will face as they move on toward college, career, and independence.Pure Life’s Adventure program is an ideal choice for a young adult that needs a little more time before jumping into adulthood. Our program is as comprehensive as it is life-changing. If you have a young adult that could benefit from a therapeutic gap year please reach out. We can help!