Monday, June 27, 2011

Kristen Chase - 1990

In 1990 wilderness therapy received unexpected media attention when 16 year old Kristen Chase died at the Challenger wilderness program.

It came as an shock not only for the wilderness industry but also for the general public.

Wilderness therapy program were developed in the early 1970's. At that time the programs looked very much as outdoor program with little focus on punishment but instead they functioned as a kind of time out for the children.

Around the late 1980's Cartisano entered the business and he launced what is recognized as the modern wilderness programs even today. Almost every wilderness program are today very focused on consequences.

But the structure became so strict and involved elements from boot camps that it would take almost marine soldier skills to complete the programs without injury. At that time teenagers began to die in wilderness programs in numbers not seen before inside the industry.

Kristen Chase died at mentioned above at the Challenger wilderness program owned by Cartisano. It made the authorities to wonder whether it was time for regulation of the industry. Some legislation was introduced and for Cartisano and his wilderness program it meant closure. However the legislation faced opposition as wilderness programs meant jobs going to areas with very little industry and high unemployment. The local politicians struggled to prevent too much legislation.

Still the deaths meant that safety measures were introduced and for another decade wilderness therapy were a little industry until the TV-show Brat Camp made parents believe that wilderness therapy can be safe and as result put the lives of teenagers in jeopardy, but that is another story.

Kristen Chase would have been a grown woman today. A woman with her own family and loved ones around her, but this was in such a gruesome way denied her. Instead she became part of the sad legacy that wilderness therapy can be useful if you return to nature. Kristen Chase did return to nature. In fact six feet down in the nature.

May she never be forgotten.


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