Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management

Committee Chair/Advisor

McGuire, Dr. Francis

Committee Member

Bixler , Dr. Robert

Committee Member

Cory , Dr. Lynne

Committee Member

Voelkl , Dr. Judi


The fields of Therapeutic Recreation, Criminal Justice, and Psychology currently use wilderness therapy techniques in the treatment of adolescents experiencing difficult life transitions. While literature exists that reports on the effectiveness of Wilderness Therapy techniques in addressing the issues that adolescents' face, there is a lack of understanding regarding exactly why these programs work. One theme that has been minimally addressed in the literature is the role that the 'wilderness' plays in these therapeutic techniques. People's perceptions of the wilderness environment vary due to experience and exposure. These varying perceptions could play a role in the effectiveness of these techniques for each individual person.
The purpose of this study is to explore professionals' perceptions of the relationship between adjudicated and at-risk adolescents' previous experience with the wilderness or other natural areas and wilderness program efficacy. This will be addressed through measures of the professionals' perceptions of youths displayed levels of fear, discomfort, and disgust while in wilderness programs. This information will be collected through surveys that used closed-ended, Likert-like response sets, as well as an open-ended question.
The results of this study showed that the majority of professionals felt that youth would react differently to the natural environment based on their previous experience and exposure to it. Participants reported that these different reactions play a role in youth experiencing a state of disequilibrium, a necessary part of the Wilderness Therapy facilitation process.



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