Wilderness Therapy

Wilderness therapy, sometimes known as outdoor behavioral healthcare, is an experiential, adventure-based therapeutic treatment style that takes place in a wilderness setting. Wilderness therapy is typically targeted at adolescents and young adults and uses expeditions into the wilderness as a way to address behavioral issues or mental health problems. Wilderness therapy is used in both individual and group settings and its primary goal is usually behavior modification and/or self-improvement. Participants develop communication skills, self-confidence, learn how to work in groups and how to rely on their own knowledge and strengths. Think this approach might be right for you (or a young person in your care)? Reach out to one of TherapyDen’s wilderness therapy experts today.

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Meet the specialists

Whether online or in person, Flower has a wealth of guided exercises for how to connect through nature in a healing way.

— Lori Flower, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Boulder, CO

Nature is a great mirror for humans, since we too are nature. It is spiritual by nature and teaches us how to live abundantly and in alignment with ourselves. Nature doesn't need humans to survive but we most definitely need nature. Everything is alive and well in nature so we have a lot to gain from being in relationship with all the elements of nature. If life feels out of balance nature can help you restore the love that felt lost.

— Robert Watterson, Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate in Black Hawk, CO

I worked in this field and saw positive results for children as well as families.

— Russell Murray, Counselor in Asheville, NC

Retreats are my favorite unique delivery system for therapy. It's intensive, accelerated, focused on providing all the safe and soft places for a person to dig their deepest to connect with their inner most wounded inner child and hurt places. When you include unplugging, solitude, forest bathing, mother nature supported, gentleness of all that is natural and organic - including delicious nurturing food prepared for you with love and a hot tub under the stars for starters.

— Diane Adams, Clinical Social Worker in Alberton, MT

I worked as a field guide at a wilderness therapy program for adolescents struggling with a variety of mental health and behavioral issues. In my years working in the field, I rose through the ranks to become a Master Field Instructor, all the while developing a passion for the therapeutic benefits of nature therapy with adolescent boys and eventually working as a therapist at the same program.

— Josh Gorelick, Addictions Counselor in Charlotte, NC

I am still very much deep in learning and always will be in this field. It is important for my clients that they have a general idea of where they come from, what came on the land before them, and what is there now. I want them to have these things in mind when we are out on the land so that they can orient themselves and learn from the rich history, bio-life, and experience that they have during our sessions.

— Ariella Hubbard, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern in Golden, CO

My research in graduate school focused on the healing powers of being outdoors. I have an extensive background in working in Wilderness Education and have seen the impact of being outside on the mental health of clients and for myself. Wilderness Therapy is one of many modalities that increases our time and experiences in the out of doors which has been shown to have positive impacts on a variety of both Mental health and Physical health conditions.

— Marie Graven, Counselor in Swannanoa, NC

I wrote my dissertation on wilderness therapy with youth at risk. I believe strongly in nature as a healing modality. I try to incorporate that into the work I do with all my clients.

— Rami Vissell, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Aptos, CA

Research is now piling up supporting what those of us who have loved the outdoors for centuries already knew: that time in nature helps calm and regulate our nervous system. I incorporate simple nature-based exercises and wilderness therapy into my work with clients in a way that supports nervous system regulation, calms stress hormones, and boosts focus/concentration and mood. This looks differently for each client, but could be as simple as holding a session outdoors or going for a walk.

— Becky Howie, Licensed Professional Counselor in Boulder, CO