Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type





Family Studies

First Advisor

Ronald J. Werner-Wilson


Wilderness therapy is a unique approach to therapy that incorporates nature and experiential learning as a part of the therapeutic process. Wilderness therapy has proven to be a successful means of treatment, but research suggests the importance of family involvement for sustainable change post-wilderness therapy treatment. Wilderness family therapy was created as a result of this research; however, limited research reflects the experience and outcomes of wilderness therapy that includes more intense family involvement. Moreover, research lacks data collected from the therapists within the wilderness family therapy programs. Because the therapist plays an integral role in the success of treatment, it is important to consider the therapist’s experience of providing wilderness therapy, especially wilderness family therapy. The present study used a qualitative phenomenological approach to reach a greater understanding of the experience of wilderness family therapists. Results revealed six major themes that describe this experience including personal background, the role of a wilderness family therapist, positive and affirming experiences, difficult and challenging experiences, advantages of a wilderness family therapy approach, and limitations of a wilderness family therapy approach. Finally, a description was provided that portrays the essence of the experience of a wilderness family therapist.