The Role of Physical Exercise in Wilderness Therapy for Troubled Adolescent Women

Michael C. Caulkins, Dave White, Keith C. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


This study explores the impacts of backpacking as a therapeutic process for troubled adolescent women participating in wilderness therapy. A qualitative case study approach was used to investigate the experience of six adolescent women and three female wilderness instructors at an established wilderness therapy program. Data were collected through participant observation, client psychological profiles, and semi-structured interviews. Research explored the emotional, cognitive, and physical impacts attributed to the backpacking component of the therapeutic process and the relationships between these impacts. Results revealed eight central impacts of backpacking, each of which fell into categories differentiated by dimensions of temporality, intensity, and clarity. A conceptual model captures the flow of the backpacking process and offers insight into this specific therapeutic element of wilderness therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-37
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Experiential Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2006


  • Adolescent Women
  • Backpacking
  • Physical Exercise
  • Wilderness Therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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