52 MONITOR ON PSYCHOLOGY • SEPTEMBER 2013
Bandoroff, who heads Peak Experience, a wilderness therapy
training and practice firm in Ashland, Ore.
Looking to the future
These programs aren’t perfect, those involved admit. For one
thing, they’re expensive, costing from $20,000 to $30,000
for two months. As such, they tend to be available only to
wealthier clients, since insurance doesn’t pay for anything
but discrete therapy sessions in the wilderness, and publicly
funded programs generally dried up with the 2008 recession.
For another, the quality of these programs remains variable.
While many programs are reputable state-licensed programs
with top-notch therapists, others have more questionable
credentials, Erkis says. Because so much time is spent
outdoors without parental supervision, ethical, safety and
health issues may also arise, so it behooves parents to find
well-vetted programs, Erkis says. Finally, follow-up is a
problem with some programs, though good programs make
sure clients receive recommendations for additional care or
placement if needed.
That said, research is starting to show that some of these
programs can be effective. A 2010 Journal of Therapeutic
Schools and Programs article by Ellen Behrens, PhD, and
colleagues, for instance, examined several large-scale, multi-center longitudinal studies and found that youth in these
programs improved significantly in mood and behavior
during treatment, and that those improvements continued
when they returned home. Meanwhile, in six years of tracking
participants and parents over a number of programs, Second
Nature researchers found significant improvements in the
youngsters’ overall motivation, life skills, interpersonal
relationships, hope, self-confidence and emotional control
both at graduation and at six-month follow-ups. Importantly,
parents perceived those differences, too.
For Bandoroff, there is no doubt that the combination
of being in a beautiful natural setting and working on your
issues with highly trained professionals is a winning one that
more psychologists should consider exploring.
“You get spoiled for life when you see how quickly change
can occur,” he says. n
Tori DeAngelis is a writer in Syracuse, N. Y.
A S S E S S M E N T S
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2O. Place cold cuts on bread
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