Wilderness Therapy : The TurnAround 2007 Project. Executive Summary
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A wide range of international research has highlighted key health benefits experienced for many people after spending time in the natural environment and a link between nature and health seems to be clearly emerging. Health benefits include reduced stress levels, improved mood; enhanced psychological wellbeing and improved attention and concentration. Natural places facilitate stress recovery, encourage exercise participation, stimulate development in children and provide opportunities for personal development and sense of purpose in adults. Partaking in physical activity in natural surroundings - “green exercise”- may also have therapeutic properties and collectively, such therapeutic approaches have been referred to as “green care”. Although the area of green care is very diverse, the common linking ethos is the contact with nature, which generates the health, social or educational benefits. Wilderness therapy is an emerging green care intervention which uses a systematic approach to work with adolescents with behavioural problems Although this is not the only cohort that can benefit from the outdoors, wilderness therapy is most often used with youth at risk to help them address any emotional, adjustment, addiction or psychological problems. Wilderness therapy programmes typically provide healthy exercise and diet through hiking and physical activity, individual and group therapy sessions, educational curricula, primitive skills, group-living with peers, opportunities for solo time and reflection leadership training and challenges resulting from ‘back-to basics’ living. The rationale for these interventions involves separating disaffected young people from daily negative influences and placing them in safe outdoor environments. Spending time in a natural setting enables participants to access those aspects of their self that may elude them in more conventional personal development or therapeutic settings.