Family Bootcamp: an unforgettable weekend for parents and struggling teens

It’s fair to say everyone wishes for a life devoid of problems, struggles and trials. An ideal world for parents would consist of picket fences; happy children and leisurely family vacations.

The harsh reality is that, while happy scenarios like the one above do exist, parenting is chock full of trying circumstances — addiction, abuse, conflicts, bad habits, etc. — that ultimately push parents to the brink. How we deal with life’s difficulties ultimately defines who we are.

Yet, overcoming such obstacles oftentimes requires more than a little help. Enter Therapy Associates, a program founded in 2008 that specializes in the treatment of children, teens and their parents, providing guidance and healing with the problems that families face in today’s society.

“Therapy Associates brings together a team of licensed clinical psychotherapists who have worked with thousands of teens and families throughout the United States,” said co-founder Matt Bulkley.

Bulkley explained that one of the most difficult challenges facing children and parents is video game and pornography addiction, a result of the technology boom that makes viewing adult material a lot easier than ever before.

On top of that, with the advent of cell phones, laptops and gaming consoles, kids are becoming increasingly dependent on technology and thus losing grip on reality.

“Most kids have never experience a single day in their lives unplugged from all technology,” Bulkley said. “They have not developed the ability to manage the demands of life without escape into technology, gaming, etc.”

“Entitlement, technology addiction, lack of frustration tolerance, depression, anxiety, laziness, disrespect to authority, lack of direction, substance use and impatience are all consequences of this trend.”

Bulkley and his Therapy Associates partners devised a solution to help in the battle against technology overload, a unique outdoors adventure known as Family Bootcamp.

Based in St. George, Utah, a locale packed to the brim with amazing scenery and exotic locales, Family Bootcamp provides youth and parents with a life changing, five-day intense, therapeutic wilderness experience in the heart of the high desert, majestic red rocks of the southwest.

“Family Bootcamp differs from traditional wilderness and residential programs because it is short-term — just five days — as opposed to nine to 12 months,” Bulkley said. “It falls in an area missing from traditional treatment. We don't believe in a ‘one-sided’ therapeutic approach ... with the Family Bootcamp — parents are involved too.  So, while the youth are experiencing the wilderness, parents remain in St. George and participate in an intensive two-day ‘Parenting Bootcamp.’

”The cost is vastly different as well — $2,500 as opposed to $50,000 to $100,000 that other facilities would charge.”

During the process, youth will experience a weekend devoid of anything technology related.

“No cell phones, no computers, no TV,” said Kena Frey, LCSW. “Being unplugged from all technology and outside communication provides a strong ‘wake up call moment’ for the youth to focus and take responsibility for the simple day-to-day tasks of their well-being including cooking, caring for their supplies and learning to use only the elements of the desert to live.”

Under the direction of Dr. Dan Sanderson, PhD, parents engage in two days of comprehensive parenting sessions focused on the discovery and disruption of unhealthy family dynamics.

“The wilderness is a wake up call, a time for reflection and a chance for kids and teens to explore who they are as individuals, away from technology, friends and the amenities of modern society,” Sanderson said.

The program takes place over a long weekend — Thursday through Monday — thus minimizing school and work absences. The location affords plenty of recreation for families during their time in St. George, as they can explore Zion’s National Park or golf on one of the many courses located in the area.

“A Family Bootcamp is the ideal intervention for families that are not yet ready to place their teen in a long-term residential treatment program, but are seeking help learning to manage problematic behaviors that are occurring in the home,” Bulkley said. “It is a great substitute for a family weekend/vacation and a highly effective way to combat family problems and find solutions.”   

For more information on Family Bootcamp, including prices, dates and additional resources visit