Outdoor Behavioral Health Center Receives Grants for Wilderness Therapy
Why This Study Needs to Be Done
Substance abuse disorders and mental health disorders are increasingly common in the United States. Finding a provider and paying for treatment are huge hurdles that families face. Parents and healthcare providers often have to find innovative treatment options that don't involve inpatient hospitalizations for their children. The university's researchers hope that the grant funding for the controlled randomized study will help them find out how effective wilderness therapy is and what types of benefits the teenagers get from it. They want to know if it is more cost-effective than other forms of therapy and how long the benefits of the therapy last.
About the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Center
Michael Gass is a professor of outdoor education at the University of New Hampshire. He's also the director of the university's Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Center. He and his research team will conduct the first clinical trial in the world to compare treatment and outcomes for adolescents who have anxiety, depression or a substance abuse disorder. The researchers will randomize at least 100 adolescents into study groups. Half will get cognitive behavioral therapy in their own community. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the standard of care for anxiety, depression and substance abuse disorders. The other half will be placed into a wilderness therapy program. Both groups will be routinely monitored every two weeks in order to ensure vigilance with the treatment plan. The researchers will track the children's progress at specific intervals. The randomization of children into study groups will take into consideration their family income, race, age, ethnicity and other factors. The study will look at which of those variables may also have an effect on the success of treatment.
What Outdoor Behavioral Therapy Is
Outdoor behavioral therapy is an intervention that involves outdoor or wilderness experiences. Some of the types of experiences may include hiking or traveling through undeveloped areas. The outings are co-led by mental health professionals and wilderness professionals. The treatment includes living in a group situation and attending group therapy sessions. Participants also have access to individual counseling services. It can be a challenge to find this kind of a program because most insurance plans won't pay for it. Without insurance coverage, outdoor behavioral therapy is cost-prohibitive. If the researchers at the University of New Hampshire can prove the therapy's effectiveness, it is possible that insurers would start to cover it. The study participants will have access to the therapy group they get assigned to, and they and their families won't receive a bill. The grant funds will pay for the cost of therapy as well as for the study of the data collected from the participants.
How the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Center Grant Will Be Administered
The grant for the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Center is from a grouping of family foundations. The funds will be distributed over a three-year period. During the study period, the researchers will work with eight outdoor behavioral therapy centers in the United States. All of the centers have already committed resources for the randomized study. Participants in the study will have their transportation paid for, so they won't incur any costs for their therapy. The locations that are participating include Elements Wilderness Program in Utah, the Anasazi Foundation in Arizona, the Open Sky Wilderness Therapy Center in Colorado and the New Vision Wilderness in Oregon, Wisconsin and Georgia. The other three participating centers are Evoke Cascades in Oregon, Evoke Therapy in Utah and RedCliff Ascent in Utah.
Who Is Likely to Benefit from Wilderness Therapy
Wilderness therapy is often a last-resort type of care for teenagers who don't respond to other types of mental health treatment. Youth who act out or who do not fit in well with their peers on a social level would be a good fit. Teens who are academically struggling may also benefit from wilderness therapy services.