Enhancing Family Communication: Examining the Impact of a Therapeutic Wilderness Program for Struggling Teens and Parents
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Every year approximately 130 families participate in Intercept, a program for struggling teens and their families at the Voyageur Outward Bound School, because they are concerned about the loss of trust, poor communication, and/or other high-risk behaviors they are experiencing with their children. Though families hope for improvements in family functioning, little research has been done on the impact of this type of program on the parent/child relationship or how families function once they leave the program. This phenomenological study collected qualitative data from nine families to determine what positive relationship outcomes emerged between parent(s) and their adolescent child post-program, as well as what aspects of the program curriculum were helpful in improving the parent/child relationship. Results showed that communication among family members improved as a result of participation in the Outward Bound program, and families reported utilizing new skills they had learned, including the use of time-outs, improved listening, and other assertive communication tools. Families reported that the parent/child conference at the end of the program was the most helpful aspect of the Intercept curriculum for improving the parent/child relationship. Implications for family therapy include support for therapeutic wilderness programs as a viable intervention for families of high-risk teens struggling with communication.
KeywordsTherapeutic wilderness program Family functioning Communication Family therapy
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