Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Lance Peterson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Mari Ann Graham, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Danyelle Fisher


Social Work


The purpose of this study was to examine current literature on wilderness therapy in order to identify any consistent themes. Ten studies were located and key data was identified on theoretical foundations, therapy components, populations being served, as well as outcomes. Results identified six theoretical foundations of wilderness therapy: Systems Theory/Family Systems, Eclectic Framework, Attachment Theory and Family Systems Theory, Group Therapy Theory, Motivation to Change Theory and Psychodynamic Theory. Numerous consistent themes were identified within wilderness therapy components, in addition to several independent components. Wilderness therapy was identified as a treatment modality for a wide range of populations and identified client problems, but most often the client was identified as at risk youth. Six studies included data on program outcomes, which identified positive benefits of wilderness therapy including positive client change, better family and client functioning and a sustained decrease in problematic behavior. Since this study was exploratory in nature, future research should aim at duplication of this study as well as utilizing additional case studies to gain a better understanding of the use of theoretical foundations and components of wilderness therapy.

Included in

Social Work Commons