How Substance Abuse Recovery Skills, Readiness to Change and Symptom Reduction Impact Change Processes in Wilderness Therapy Participants

Abstract

Previous research has demonstrated that wilderness therapy is effective, yet very few studies have attempted to discern quantitative factors responsible for change that occur during wilderness therapy. This study aimed to tease apart specific factors that impact client progress and outcome. A sample of 189 adolescent clients in a wilderness therapy program completed the Youth Outcome Questionnaire Self-Report, the University of Rhode Island Change Assessment (URICA), and the Adolescent Relapse Coping Questionnaire (ARCQ) at pre-treatment, post-treatment, and follow-up intervals. Analysis of the complete data sets of 41 adolescents indicated that client Y-OQ scores improved significantly at post and follow-up assessments. URICA scores were not significantly related to such changes, while the ARCQ subscale of abstinence-focused coping strategies accounted for a significant proportion of the variance in Y-OQ change. These results indicate that clients in wilderness therapy do not necessarily need to want to change in order to do so. Furthermore, helping adolescents in wilderness therapy settings gain abstinence-focused coping strategies may be the most effective tool to improve treatment outcomes.

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Correspondence to Joanna E. Bettmann.

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Bettmann, J.E., Russell, K.C. & Parry, K.J. How Substance Abuse Recovery Skills, Readiness to Change and Symptom Reduction Impact Change Processes in Wilderness Therapy Participants. J Child Fam Stud 22, 1039–1050 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-012-9665-2

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Keywords

  • Wilderness therapy
  • Outdoor behavioral healthcare
  • Adolescent substance abuse
  • Readiness to change
  • Adolescents