An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the Transformative Factors in Wilderness-Based Therapeutic Programs
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The objective of this study was to explore what elements of the wilderness-based therapeutic model are found to be most transformative for adolescent participants. A qualitative inquiry was used in the form of an Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis with a former program participant to determine how they might have experienced the wilderness-based therapy program as transformative. The method involved synthesizing emerging themes found in current literature with the themes that emerged during the semi-structured interview. Seven themes related to transformation emerged in the literature review: trusting relationship with staff, co-creating community, nature as a therapeutic environment, challenge in new experiences, and the transfer of learning, locus of control and self-efficacy, meaningful separation, systems approach (family and follow-up). An additional seven themes emerged from the interview: enigmatic, urban versus outdoor environment and endless exploration, time, being ‘real‘ and ‘goofy,‘ role modeling, community of care as witnesses and togetherness. Based on these themes, three areas to promote transformation in wilderness-based therapeutic programs were revealed: the quality of inter-personal relationships, program facilitation, and personalized relationship with nature.