John Willson, executive director of SOAR, explains how outdoor adventure camps differ from wilderness therapy

BALSAM, NC, June 05, 2024 /24-7PressRelease/ — Outdoor adventure programs offer a growth experience for youth and young adults distinctly different from wilderness therapy programs, although people sometimes confuse the two, says John Willson, executive director of SOAR.

SOAR was founded more than 45 years ago by an adult with learning disabilities who believed that focusing on an individual’s strengths, rather than deficits, was critical in ensuring success. Over the years the nonprofit organization has adapted its programs for the specific needs of youth with ADHD and other learning disabilities. Based on core values including respect and ethical conduct, SOAR offers summer camps, a year-round boarding school, and a gap year program for young adults.

Differences between adventure-based youth programs and wilderness therapy include:

• Adventure camps promote independence, teamwork, and self-growth by stretching participants’ comfort zones through a “challenge by choice” model that participants sign up for voluntarily.
• Wilderness therapy typically uses remote wilderness settings to isolate participants, often not of their free will, with the expectation they complete each of the components of the program before transitioning out.
• Wilderness therapy programs have clear therapeutic objectives and goals, requiring a more structured and therapeutic approach and oversight in an outdoor setting.
• Adventure camp programs such as SOAR do not involve therapy. Instead they incorporate life-skill development into their courses through a wide range of outdoor activities designed to foster camaraderie, resilience, and a love for nature.

“By understanding the differences between these two types of outdoor experiences, parents can make informed decisions that align with their child’s needs and aspirations, ensuring a summer filled with unforgettable adventures and meaningful growth opportunities,” Willson says.

About: John Willson, MS, LRT/CTRS, is Executive Director for SOAR, the world’s premier adventure program serving youth with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and LD (Learning Disabilities). SOAR’s outdoor adventure-based programs provide academic instruction, experiential education, and life skills development for youth and young adults ages 8-25. SOAR stands for Success-Oriented, Achievements Realized. With a passion for fostering resilience and nurturing strengths in neurodiverse communities, John is a respected advocate among those who serve individuals with learning differences and attention challenges. Learn more at

Online press kit:

For more information or interview requests, contact Executive Publicist Michelle Tennant Nicholson at [email protected] or 828-749-3200.

For the original version of this press release, please visit here