Therapeutic interventions for young people in Essex

ContactJo Roberts, Chief Executive
Telephone01245 443073
AddressTrinity House, Whitbread Business Centre, Whitbread Farm Lane, Chatham Green, Chelmsford, Essex, CM3 3FE

Out ThereThe Wilderness Foundation deliver three different therapeutic interventions for young people, many of whom have mental health  and behavioural issues, in the heart of the Essex wilderness.

Our One to One Bespoke work is with a range of ages, TurnAround works for a year with 16+, and the Out There Academy with 13 – 15 year olds. We are considering working with a younger client group at the moment.

We work with a family therapist, an NLP master practitioner, and our youth worker delivering our programme as much as possible in nature and the outdoors.

Our work uses the therapeutic space of being outdoors, metaphorical work and practical skills all derived from nature.

The Wilderness Foundation has a beautiful 400 acre site from which we work the woodland and farmland.


We believe that young people have individual needs, particularly those with mental health/social/behavioural issues – and need to be worked with in small groups or on their own to help them develop. This can be achieved in a social group context backing the process up so their social skills develop. We believe that services are so restricted with funding that large numbers of young people are processed in a similar way and this individuation is lost.

We work with a majority of young people across the above age spectrum with sexuality, drug, behaviour, family and social issues that they do not have the self esteem, tools, confidence and support to deal with.

The change introduced and how this was done

We have grown the programmes organically over time. TurnAround started in 2007 and then the concept of Out There working with younger people came about as a result of consultation with services, and the Bespoke work was simply commissioned and is growing.

We then raised funding against each programme and continue to do so.


TurnAround costs £70,000 to run each year. It requires administrative support and a facilitator for a minimum of a year. Skills are confidence working with a very difficult group of young people who display a range of problems, most of them with some form of mental health diagnosis. The main skill is to work intuitively to the needs of the individual and small group, be comfortable working in the outdoors/indoors, be very loving and kind but with extremely tight boundaries and a focus on safety.

Out There requires similar skills. We employ a project coordinator/facilitator and a support worker. The project is Lottery Funded and runs on a budget of approximately £40,000 per year.

Bespoke work is same above but WITH one of the staff allocated to a child. We charge between £200 and £300 per day for this service.


We conduct extensive research with Essex University as well as our own soft outcomes evaluation. We conduct research into changes of mood, self esteem, hopefulness, mindfulness, and connections to nature.

We have excellent outcomes published in a range of reports which are available. All demonstrate a significant increase in self esteem. Mood, hopefulness are also positive change elements.

Download Executive summary of TurnAround outcomes
Published by Dr Carly Wood, Research Officer, School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex.


Challenges are around funding and finding the right people to bring onto the team to extend our work with. We need a particular kind of person who understands and really enjoys this age group, but can also be immensely strong in holding the space and not be intimidated by some of the behaviours that can emerge.

Our other continual challenge is funding for TurnAround, and that we will need continuation funding for Out There which is an oversubscribed project for schools.

We use mentors on a regular basis to help support the upkeep of relationships with the young people and the challenge is finding good enough mentors as there seems to be a huge amount of competition out there in our district.

We definitely need better joined up collaboration in some cases with other services and professionals.

We still struggle to know how best to refer to CAMHS and others when we see a particular problem and we find that when drug use is involved we have very little access to other therapeutic support.

Future plans

We wish to replicate the TurnAround model elsewhere and are actively seeking partners to do this with. For example we are hoping to deliver a similar project, supported by Harlow College, in partnership with another charity.

Out There would be a tremendous project for repeat funding and again is a model that could perhaps be replicated elsewhere.

Key learning points

  • To love what one does and to feel that to work with these challenging young people is a privilege.
  • Consistency in all staff so no young person is let down.
  • Strong staff team to hold the process in a safe way.
  • Lots of pre planning, lots of patience.
  • Be prepared to be in for the longer haul as behaviour change is not a quick fix.