OBH Research Findings: Impact on Youth Functioning

The most recent research produced by the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Research Cooperative (OBHRC) supports that OBH is effective at improving overall functioning of youth, reducing the use of substances, and engaging resistant clients.

Youth Functioning

OBH research has primarily used the Youth Outcome Questionnaire (YOQ) to measure overall outcome and functioning. The YOQ is a simple but well-studied therapeutic outcome test, and is designed to measure change over time. The overall functioning score on the YOQ reflects the ability to complete tasks and handle frustration, communication with peers and family members, anxiety and depression, somatic symptoms such as headaches and stomach pains, delinquent behavior, and critical items like suicidality and hallucinations.

The first major OBHRC outcome study looked at parent and youth YOQ assessments from 858 participants from seven different OBH Council programs. This foundational study showed that clinically and statistically significant improvements were made during treatment, and that clients maintained these positive results one year after discharge. The researchers interviewed a random selection of these participants two years after leaving their OBH program in which 83% reported to be doing better, 58% said they were doing well or very well, and 81% rated outdoor behavioral healthcare treatment as effective.

Continued research of OBH’s impact on youth well-being has affirmed these findings. Outcomes collected from OBH Council programs participating in the Practice Research Network (PRN) of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) have consistently shown significant improvements for youth. A study with 900 adolescent clients from OBHC programs found that clients had improved in their levels of overall functioning at discharge. These improvements were based on youth and parent reports on the YOQ, with mean decreases large enough to be considered statistically and clinically significant. Most importantly, researchers showed that these changes in well-being remained at 6 and 12 months post-discharge.


Magle-Haberek, N. A., Tucker, A. R., & Gass, M. A. (2012). Effects of program differences with wilderness therapy and residential treatment center (RTC) programs. Residential Treatment for Children & Youth, 29, 202-218.

Norton, Tucker, Russell, Bettman, Gass, & Gillis (2014). Adventure Therapy with Youth. Journal of Experiential Education.

Russell, K. C. (2003). Assessment treatment outcomes in outdoor behavioral healthcare using the Youth Outcome Questionnaire. Child and Youth Care Forum, 32(6), 355-381.

Russell, K. C. (2005). Two years later: A qualitative assessment of youth-well-being and the role of aftercare in outdoor behavioral healthcare treatment. Child & Youth Care Forum, 34 (3), 209-239.

Tucker, A., Zelov, R., & Young, M. (2011). Four years along: Emerging traits of programs in the NATSAP Practice Research Network (PRN). Journal of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, 5(1), 10-28.

Zelov, R., Tucker, A. R., & Javorksi, S. (2013). A new phase for the NATSAP PRN: Post discharge reporting and transition to the network wide utilization of the Y-OQ 2.0. Journal of Therapeutic Schools & Programs, 6(1), 7-19.


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