Wilderness therapy enhances the social and life skills of ‘at risk' young people who may exhibit problem behaviours, use drugs or have difficulties in school, reducing their chances of experiencing negative life outcomes such as depression, suicide and homelessness.
This is the conclusion of research by Sandy Allen-Craig and Lisa Ronalds which will be presented today, Wednesday 9 September 2009, at the 5th International Adventure Therapy Conference. The event, hosted by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), is taking place from 7-11 September at Pollock Halls, The University of Edinburgh.
The research aimed to evaluate the life effectiveness of participants involved in a wilderness therapy program in order to determine its value as an early treatment intervention for youth ‘at risk' of homelessness and educational disconnection.
Participants took part in a 7-10 day wilderness experience. In addition they completed pre and post-experience questionnaires measuring factors such as time management, communication skills, self-confidence and problem-solving.
It was found that the majority of factors increased from pre to post-test, with the greatest improvements seen in task leadership, time management and social competence. The results suggest that the program provides an appropriate and effective mechanism for enhancing the personal development of participants.
Sandy Allen-Craig said: "Previous research has shown that wilderness therapy helps young people overcome emotional adjustment, addiction and psychological problems. It can also improve self-perceptions and increase social adjustment and reduce the chances of adolescent participants reoffending.
"The results of the current study give support for the use of wilderness therapy as an intervention to help prevent young people prematurely disengaging from family and the education system. Further investigation may now be needed to develop the program further."
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Date: Monday 7 September 2009