School for Social Work
Wilderness therapy is a therapeutic process intended for young people struggling with a variety of mental health concerns. There is limited research about this rapidly growing treatment modality, but what is known is that wilderness therapy seems to be one of the best way to positively effect young people because of the research regarding recidivism rates, symptom reduction and client/parent reports. Specifically within wilderness therapy research, this study looks at the possibility of spirituality as a factor of the wilderness therapy process. Spirituality also seems to be a concept that has crept into therapeutic work at a rate ahead of known research about it. The research states that most Americans encounter spirituality in their lives, but most therapists do not feel prepared to address it. This study attempts to examine both concepts of wilderness therapy and spirituality in a therapeutic process with the question, "Can spirituality be a part of wilderness therapy?" To most appropriately answer this question, the researcher interviewed 12 wilderness therapy staff members who had significant time with the students. The interviews revealed that spirituality is not currently addressed in these programs in any planned, structured way. However, the data reported that spirituality still seems to be a function of wilderness therapy that allows students to grow therapeutically in ways that parallel the goals for these wilderness therapy programs. In turn, it also seems that the structure of the programs, especially working intimately with nature, facilitated opportunities for students to have spiritual experiences and exposure.
Rothwell, Lauren Elizabeth, "Wilderness therapy and spirituality" (2008). Masters Thesis, Smith College, Northampton, MA.