A cairn is a pile of stones or rocks, often used as a trail marker, landmark, or memorial. We use cairns in the field to mark where the group is so we can find it when we go to the field. Wilderness participants also look forward to cairns, as they mark where camp is and represent the end of a hike. On a solo, the cairn represents where staff will come to deliver water, food, or other needs while the young man or woman is reflecting and considering things. Over the course of a stay in Wilderness Therapy, the young person will see and build many cairns which represent a variety of things: starting and ending points, art in general, part of a sculpture of some kind, something done in group while they listen to others, and steps along the journey of their experience. In many ways, research in outdoor behavioral healthcare is like cairns, marking the way, representing steps as we investigate and evaluate this innovative therapeutic intervention.
Many of the young people we work with identify the solo experience as one of the more significant interventions during their time in the wilderness. This opportunity often creates some apprehension for the young person as they anticipate the challenge and consider how they will handle this alone time without people or things as distractions. The wilderness represents a break from a person’s lifestyle, and the solo is an additional step away from the daily group therapeutic process to focus further on one’s self. During their time away from group they have the opportunity to sit with themselves in nature, to consider their sense of self in relation to the natural world, consider further their relationships with family and other loved ones, at times do some reading and writing and engage in some meditation and reflection. We find that this experience tends to facilitate growth and development in the treatment and personal awareness with the young adults and adolescents in the program.
ADHD or ADD and their symptoms have become so pervasive in the common vernacular that many feel like they can spot it and diagnose it! You may have heard people say things like, “I am having an ADHD moment” or “I am so ADD!” as they express frustration or humor at a behavioral misstep in their lives. Difficulty sitting still, paying attention, or being impulsive occurs for many of us. Our culture has become oriented to always being entertained as we often retreat to mobile phones or social media ‘fixes’ to soothe ourselves. However, for a number of children and adults, these difficulties are significant enough to interfere with their daily functioning (e.g., at school, work, or home, and in social situations) and require intervention of some sort.
Research indicates that adopted adolescents are at higher risk in areas including school achievement and problems, substance use, psychological well-being, physical health, fighting, and lying to parents.While adoptees account for 2% of the child population in the US. (US Census, 2000), they account for roughly 18% of Second Nature’s recent outcome study sample. This difference in percentage calls attention to this population and the need to better understand their treatment needs and investigate how wilderness treatment addresses these needs.
Matt Hoag, PhD, Katie Massey, MSW and Sean Roberts, MS present the major evolutions in Wilderness Therapy clients’ complexity and meeting the new challenges with sophisticated clinical intervention at Symposium on Experiential Education Research (SEER) conference Oct 31 – Nov 2.
Irvin Yalom1 identified eleven factors that contribute to healthy functioning in group therapy, which therapists may use to facilitate meaningful and effective interventions. Application of these factors to the Wilderness Therapy experience allows clinicians to both understand Wilderness Therapy on a more sophisticated level and to design interventions that serve to highlight or develop any of the factors.