Hi Everyone. I'm sorry my link didn't transfer. I was using a different server hopefully it will post this time! If it doesn't the website I'm referring to is obhrc.org. A source for research and researchers in Wilderness Therapy, including some we've read- Christine Norton, and Joanna Bettman. There's also a database of articles.
I thought this was interesting and neat to see this program is available. Hopefully we will see more implementation and "green medicine" being prescribed as there is more awareness through programs like this. John F. Kennedy University
A Wilderness Therapy Symposium will take place in Boulder, Colorado September 5th-7th, 2013. Like any health-related gathering there will be a keynote speaker, presentations, workshops and opportunities for industry networking. But unlike other health-related gatherings, this one will have many off-site workshops in the wilderness where practices and ideas are actually tested in person.
One of the things I was surprised to learn is that continuing education credit is available for many different health professionals who choose to attend the symposium including psychologists, counselors, social workers, and nurses from numerous states across the U.S.
This looks like an amazing opportunity for health professionals to gain more first hand experience in Wilderness Therapy practices!
My community has an annual event called Fox Cities Reads. The public libraries of the Fox Cities (Wisconsin) and the University of Wisconsin Fox Valley select an author and title(s) to build a larger sense of community and to promote literacy. Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle by Richard Louv were the selections for this year. Activities for the month-long event included suburban homesteading (community supported agriculture), "the secret life of compost" lecture, bird watching, local bald eagle photographer, Students for Sustainability providing plants for campus or home gardens, nature hikes, geocaching, nature based stories and crafts and organized book discussions.
The event also included presentations by Richard Louv. As a student in Nature Heals: An Introduction to Nature-Based Therapies and to honor Earth Day, I wanted to hear Mr. Louv. It was definitely worth the effort. In an engaging and relaxed manner (and without power point), Mr. Louv well described the benefits of being in nature, referred to the research we have studied in class and urged each of us to act for ourselves and our children for sustainable connections to the natural world.
A core principle he advoctes is "the more high tech we become, the more nature we need." He described the growing reliance in education on electronic technology without balance in the arts and exposure to nature. He advocates for "every dollar spent for the virtual there should be an equal dollar spent for the real (nature)". I think that's a great idea, but it will take a lot of motivated people of all ages to bring that principle to fruition. When it comes to money allocation, its a tough road to travel. Fortunately, we don't have to travel alone and without inspiration.
Initial steps on the road should include reading Richard Louv's books, visiting his website and looking around to see what you could do in your own community. That's where I'm starting.
This organization, Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Research Cooperative, seems to be a clearinghouse of sorts for Wilderness Therapy research. It is put out by the University of New Hampshire. I noticed that two of the organizations that have already been mentioned in other posts--Soltreks and Open Sky- are members of this organization and help report and collect data. They also have links to researchers and publications.
Here is a short (~7min), but interesting interview with Linda Buzzell, co-editor of the book Ecotherapy:Healing with Nature in Mind from Boston radio program Living on Earth. She discusses some of the common issues she has encountered as an ecotherapist, such as ecoanxiety. She also describes what a normal session with an ecotherapist might be like, which was pretty interesting.
Here is an excerpt from an article from the Utne Reader about ecotherapy, Ecotherapy for the Ecosoul, from Larry Robinson, who was also featured in the book Ecotherapy.
Ecopsychology seeks to address the sources of our cultural madness and to reestablish the lost connection with the more-than-human world. Its intention is to reanimate the world, to restore its soul. To do this we must remember that we are not simply imperfect machines but beings in a world that is alive with mystery.
Ecopsychological therapy--instead of dwelling on the questions What do I need? and How can I get it?--asks What is my place in the world? Rather than deriving machinelike standards for optimal functioning, it asks: What human qualities does a healthy ecosystem require? Sustainability is a key concept, in the sense of both how we, as a species, can live sustainably on the earth, and how we, as individuals, can create sustainable lives and relationships. (Robinson, n.d.)
One more article from the Utne:Ecopsychology: Whole Earth Mental Health
Right away, let me say that I was completely sold on this program. I was trying to keep my critical eye, but they passed my first reviews with ease.
This is the program link:
And this is the You Tube documentary (about 7 min) that first caught my attention:
Here's what I like about the program:
- I like the pictures of where and how it takes place - the vibe was good.
- I love that there is an emphasis on clinical practice and research, which made the staff sound focused, knowledgeable, and patient-focused.
- I liked that it was geared towards teens, young adults, and families
- Their mission statement totally hooked me: "At Open Sky, we assist teens, young adults and families struggling with difficult challenges and life circumstances. We provide a life-changing opportunity to discover and create a healthy life that is an intelligent and authentic expression of one's true nature as capable, worthy, honorable people. We invite you to explore our comprehensive website to learn more about the Open Sky experience."
There is a research section that follows students closely for a year after they leave - it is a heck of a system.
I searched for complaints or negative reviews of the program, and only found positive comments. They might also have an amazing marketing team, but I genuinely liked the program. From what I could see, alumni have only positive things to say and the research honestly reflected the findings.
My questions going forward would have to do with going further down the epidemiology path. I would want to see if this program could help think about some of the measurement issues we've talked about earlier this year (like how much "green" is the right amount of green). There are some issues with the Open Sky population, because in a mental health setting, you'll have differences with what people are willing to participate in. Still, I think that this program might be able to lend insight because it has already covered the science proving that the program is having measurable and sustained positive outcomes for alumni. They have an opportunity to go deeper from justifying their existence to engaging with the field in a broader way!
What a program!
While I was looking for information about Wilderness Therapy, I came across The Association for Experiential Education (AEE). This non-profit association provides information about and resources for many experiential based therapy programs, including wilderness therapy ones. This information is provided for practitioners, students, educators, and people looking to have involvement with these programs in some way.
In a few posts last week, I read about the concern for making sure a program is truly wilderness therapy and not boot-camp. Utilizing information provided by this organization can help! The organization provides accreditation for programs and information about programs that have been accredited by them. This provides people with additional information so they can be more confident in the type of program that they or their loved ones will be involved in.
"Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity to the human spirit." - Edward Abbey
I found this video that gives a 7-minute documentary of a Wilderness Therapy program located in Durango, Colorado. In fact, it is the only holistic wilderness therapy program in the country. I thought it was awesome to see OpenSky use whole/organic foods in their natural state. They also use meats that haven't been "contaminated" by hormones and antibiotics. This would be an awesome experience. Field trip anyone? haha :)
Here is an interesting site I found about wilderness therapy in Minnesota. This program is dedicated to children, teens and adults. I have found that many programs cater to those who are in need of guidance, and this seems to be a helpful way in making changes in ones self efficacy. While this is important for those who need the extra help, I think it is crucial to make these trips more widely available for everyone, as a way to unwind and reconnect with nature.