Risk in the Wilderness

Parents considering enrolling their child into an outdoor behavioral healthcare program oftentimes are concerned that wilderness living puts their child at more risk than they would be in if they were in a more urban setting. The OBH Council initiated a comparison research project to determine if this assumption was correct; it was not.

Here are some of the statistics from that research:

Outdoor behavioral healthcare programs average injury rates are 1.12 per 1,000 participant days compared with:

  • Backpacking 2.05
  • Downhill Skiing 3.28
  • Football Practice 19.74

Our focus on best practices has resulted in a 25 percent decrease in the number of incidents of injury and illnesses at our member programs despite a nearly three-fold increase in client days. We continue to track this information and our data compilation and analysis is now being done by Dr. Keith Russell at Western Washington University. To learn more: Incident monitoring in outdoor behavioral healthcare programs: A four-year summary of restraint, runaway, injury and illness rates. Journal of Therapeutic Schools and Programs. 1(1), 70-90. Russell, K. C. & Harper, N. (2006).

Citations:

  • Russell, K. C. & Harper, N. (2006). Incident monitoring in outdoor behavioral healthcare programs: A four-year summary of restraint, runaway, injury, and illness rates. Journal of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, 1, 1, 70-90.
  • Russell, K.C. and Hendee, J.C. and Phillips-Miller, D. (2000). How wilderness therapy works: An examination of the wilderness therapy process to treat adolescents with behavioral problems and addictions. In Cole, D., McCool, S. Eds. 2000. Proceedings: Wilderness Science in a Time of Change, Missoula, MT, May, 1999. Proc. RMRS-P-00. Ogden, UT: USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. (Peer Reveiwed). view article
  • Russell, K.C. & Hendee, J.C. (1999). Wilderness therapy as an intervention and treatment for adolescents with behavioral problems. In Watson, A, Aplet, G. and Hendee, J. Eds. 2000. Personal, Societal, and Ecological Values of Wilderness: 6th World Wilderness Congress Proceedings on Research, Management and Allocation Volume II, Proc. RMRS-P-00. Ogden, UT: USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. (Peer Reviewed). view article
  • Russell, K.C. (1999) The theoretical basis, process, and reported outcomes of wilderness therapy as an intervention and treatment for problem behavior in adolescents. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, College of Natural Resources, Moscow, ID 83844-1144. view dissertation

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