Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Adventure therapy, Post-traumatic stress disorder in adolescence-Treatment, Resilience (Personality trait) in adolescence, Catherine Freer Wilderness Therapy Programs, Wilderness therapy, Trauma, Adolescents, Resilience


This quantitative, quasi-experimental study examined 57 adolescents, ages 13 to 18, who attended the Catherine Freer Wilderness Therapy Program 21-day trek. The program is based in Albany, Oregon. The purpose of this study was to conduct a follow-up to Ganapol's (2008) study in order to further assess the treatment modality, wilderness therapy, through the lens of trauma. More specifically, this study focused on wilderness therapy's potential to act as a transformative experience for adolescents with histories of trauma. For use in this research, the phenomenological term, transformative experience, corresponds to a decrease in trauma symptomatology, an increase in psychological resilience, and an increase in psychosocial functioning. These psychological constructs were measures pre- / post-treatment using Likert-type scales, and the global assessment of functioning scale (GAF) (DSM IV-TR, 2000). Three hypotheses were investigated in this study: 1) Wilderness therapy programs would provide transformative experiences for adolescents with trauma histories. 2) There would be differences in the transformative experiences between adolescents with trauma histories and adolescents without. 3) There would be demographical trends between the groups of individuals with histories of trauma and those without. This study did not find evidence to support the first hypothesis. Evidence, based on significant differences in all three measures, suggests that individuals without trauma histories experienced statistically significant transformative experiences while those with trauma histories did not. It should be noted, however, that participants with histories of trauma were seen to have a significant increase in their psychosocial functioning. Regarding the third hypothesis, 70% of female participants had histories of trauma whereas only 46% of males fit this category. Of additional note, female participants reported greater frequency of sexual abuse (6:1) than male participants. Based on this study's assessment, it can be reasonably concluded that wilderness therapy acts as a transformative experience for those without trauma histories, however, this study suggests that wilderness therapy functions less so as a transformative experience for those with histories of trauma




iv, 91 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass, 2009. Includes bibliographical references (p. 51-58)