Clinical Social Work Journal

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 226–235 | Cite as

Into the Wilderness—A Case Study: The Psychodynamics of Adolescent Depression and the Need for a Holistic Intervention

  • Christine Lynn NortonEmail author
Original Paper


Adolescent depression has become epidemic in the United States, with statistics showing that one in five adolescents may suffer from depression (Brent and Birmaher in N Engl J Med 347(9), 2002). This article examines adolescent depression from a psychodynamic perspective, and identifies the psychodynamics of adolescent depression as the affective correlates that stem from unresolved developmental conflicts, issues of separation/individuation, the search for identity and the development of the true self. This article presents wilderness therapy as a holistic intervention which can be used to address the intrapsychic, developmental and relational factors that give rise to adolescent depression. Wilderness therapy is a modality of mental health treatment that takes place outdoors and utilizes challenge and adventure, group work and other structured clinical interventions. A clinical case study presents wilderness therapy as an effective intervention for adolescent depression that can promote positive self-image and enhanced coping skills, and discusses limitations and implications for social work practice.


Adolescent depression Wilderness therapy Psychodynamic theory Ego psychology Object relations Case study 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social WorkTexas State University-San MarcosSan MarcosUSA

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