Adolescent wilderness therapy: The relationship of client outcomes to reasons for referral, motivation for change, and clinical measures

Nevin J. Harper, Will Dobud, Doug Magnuson

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Abstract

Outdoor behavioral healthcare is a specific model and industry utilizing wilderness therapy (WT), a residential treatment approach comprised of outdoor travel and living for youth experiencing mental health, substance use, and behavioral concerns. We present data from 6417 participants about reasons for referral, admission, and discharge scores from the Youth-Outcome Questionnaire (Y-OQ), youth interest and commitment to treatment, reliable change scores, and the relationship between these variables. One-third of youth entered WT with sub-clinical scores, varying levels of client motivation and voluntariness in relation to clinical outcomes, a diverse range of presenting problems without clear indication of specialized treatment planning, and differing responses to treatment by referral reason. Identifying those not responding to WT and those at risk of deterioration from the time of admission requires further investigation to improve client outcomes for this treatment modality. Recommendations include placing increased importance on accurate and thorough screening and assessment, utilizing baseline and routine outcome monitoring, reducing coercion, and considering specialized intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-394
Number of pages13
JournalYouth
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

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