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Teen Boot Camps Don't Work - Do Wilderness Therapy Camps?

First, what is wilderness therapy? This form of treatment intervention for troubled teens is sometimes referred to as Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare or Outdoor Education. The teenager goes through an emotional, behavioral, and therapeutic journey in a wilderness environment.

A study out of the University of Idaho has shown these types of wilderness therapy interventions to be highly effective, even at a 1-year follow-up.

A number of outdoor education programs participated in an independent research study by Keith C. Russell Ph. D., of the University of Idaho's Wilderness Research Center. The study was designed to measure treatment effectiveness in outdoor behavioral healthcare using the Youth Outcome Questionnaire (Y-OQ). The Y-OQ is an industry accepted outcome instrument designed to measure symptom reduction in therapy.

The study was based upon 858 participants, of which 589 were male and 269 were female. Previous treatment history (indicating possible treatment resistance) was: >57% had prior outpatient treatment, >17% had prior inpatient treatment, and >13% had both prior inpatient and outpatient treatment.

The study concluded that participation in outdoor behavioral healthcare resulted in clinically significant reductions in severity of behavioral and emotional symptoms. More than 83% of participants made clinically significant improvement. The average score change for participants as a 51.6 point reduction. A 13-point reduction is considered significant. Almost half (46%) of participants returned to a normal range as a result of treatment. The highest reduction for all age groups based on a parent assessment occurred among 13 year olds.

Study Shows Adolescents Still Doing Well One-Year After Wilderness Treatment.

In a 12-month follow-up study, students reported a score of 38.61. This 9-point reduction from the score of 47.25 reported at discharge suggests that students not only maintained their outcomes, but had continued to improve after treatment.

To evaluate the full report of this independent study, please visit the University of Idaho Wilderness Research Center

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