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Wilderness Therapy

Dr. Keith Russell’s opening sentence in his seminal 1999 dissertation bemoaned the lack of specificity regarding the terms “Wilderness Therapy” and so he compiled the similarities of existing programs into this defining group of characteristics: must include sense of adversity, immersion into an unfamiliar environment, natural peer conflict and problem-solving, parental involvement, individual and group therapy and “primitive living” skills, including bowdrill and hiking. In the decades since, the field of therapeutic interventions has expanded and left his original stipulations behind.

While many of the components remain integral, wilderness therapy no longer only refers to nomadic, backpacking groups, but also incorporates basecamp models, expedition programs that occur on ocean-going sailing ships and recently, adventure therapy programs have emerged inside the umbrella of “wilderness therapy”.  

The Outdoor Behaviorial Health Council has recently developed an accreditation seeking to update the definition Dr. Russell's early attempt. This is an evolving field.

 

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