Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Wilderness Therapy as a Treatment Modality for At-Risk Youth: A Primer for Mental Health Counselors

Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Wilderness Therapy as a Treatment Modality for At-Risk Youth: A Primer for Mental Health Counselors

Article excerpt

Many mental health counselors identify adolescent clients as the most "difficult" clients with which to work because it is a challenge to engage them in the counseling experience (Church, 1994; Hanna et al., 1999; Gil, 1996). At-risk youth tend to be ill equipped to engage in traditional counseling interventions, which require them to be verbal and to disclose thoughts and feelings (Hanna et al., 1999; Davis-Berman & Berman, 1994). Wilderness therapy, a specialized approach within adventure-based counseling (Fletcher & Hinkle, 2002), provides an alternative treatment modality that maximizes the client's tendency to spontaneously self-disclose in environments outside the counseling office (Hanna et al.). This article provides an overview of wilderness therapy as a treatment modality and identifies the associated therapeutic factors in an effort to inform mental health counselors.

**********

Adolescents in the 21st century encounter risks and demands that seem to be more prevalent and more complicated than adolescent experiences over the last 100 years (Hamburg, 1993; Santrock, 1995). Adolescents are often portrayed as experiencing crises and turmoil resulting in stress and conflict. However, a more realistic view suggests that adolescence is a period of transition in which physical, emotional, and cognitive changes spark challenges and growth (Santrock). The central task of adolescence is identity development, and inadequate attainment of this task results in identity confusion (Erikson, 1968).

Normal adolescent development is confounded by situational variables such as high divorce rates, high adolescent pregnancy rates, increased mobility of families, lack of supervision and support from adults, and high rates of adolescent drug use (Santrock, 1995). At-risk youth are adolescents who are particularly susceptible to high-risk behaviors such as pregnancy, emotional problems, substance use, academic problems, behavioral problems, and delinquency. These at-risk behaviors impact the adolescent's ability to successfully negotiate the changes and challenges of adolescence and to develop into a productive, healthy adult (Santrock).

Many mental health counselors identify adolescent clients as the most "difficult" clients with which to work because it is a challenge to engage them in the counseling experience (Church, 1994; Hanna et al., 1999; Gil, 1996). Hanna et al. (1999) encourage mental health counselors working with adolescents to "get out of the office" as much as possible. At-risk youth tend to be ill equipped to engage in traditional counseling interventions which require them to be verbal and to disclose thoughts and feelings (Davis-Berman & Berman, 1994). At-risk youth may not have learned appropriate communication in their families, and they may rely on displacement as a defense mechanism in counseling. Wilderness therapy provides an alternative treatment modality that maximizes the client's tendency to spontaneously self-disclose in environments outside the counseling office (Hanna et al.). Wilderness therapy is a specialized modality within adventure-based counseling (Fletcher & Hinkle, 2002). This article introduces wilderness therapy as a treatment modality within the field of mental health counseling and identifies the therapeutic factors associated with it.

WILDERNESS THERAPY AS A TREATMENT MODALITY

Wilderness therapy, as a treatment modality, developed in response to increased demands for rehabilitation programs for at-risk youth in the 1950s and 1960s (Kelly & Baer, 1968) and is largely based on the Outward Bound model formed by Kurt Hahn (Bandoroff &Scherer, 1994). Wilderness therapy can be defined as using traditional counseling techniques in an outdoor setting that incorporates adventure-based activities (Davis-Berman & Berman, 1994). Wilderness therapy is one approach to adventure-based counseling, a counseling intervention that is gaining professional recognition (Fletcher & Hinkle, 2002). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.