Theses Doctoral

The queers are here: LGBTQ+ young adults’ mental health outcomes in wilderness therapy

Motulsky, Wei Norton

Wilderness therapy is an emerging treatment modality that integrates nature with evidence-based therapeutic treatments (Russell, 2001). A growing body of literature continues to support its effectiveness with adolescents and young adults (Bowen & Neill, 2013; Curtis et al., 2018; Hoag et al., 2013); however, little research has been conducted on the experiences of its LGBTQIAP+ (“queer”) participants. Such an absence is noteworthy because the percentage of queer wilderness therapy students might be as high as 18% (Wright et al., 2017) and given that queer individuals experience minority stress (Meyer, 2003), which is correlated with negative psychological outcomes (Baams et al., 2015; Mereish et al., 2019; Tebbe & Moradi, 2016). This dissertation fills the gap in the literature by using pre-existing data collected by the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council (OBHC) and the National Association for Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) to examine the mental health outcomes of young adult (ages 18-25) wilderness therapy students using the Outcomes Questionnaire 45.2 (OQ 45.2; Lambert & Burlingame, 1996). With a sample of 379 queer and non-queer wilderness therapy graduates, this study found that queer young adults’ intake OQ 45.2 scores were statistically similar to those of straight young adults. It was also found that queer young adults’ OQ 45.2 discharge scores were statistically significantly lower than their intake scores, indicating a reduction in psychological distress. This dissertation also examined preliminary post-wilderness therapy data, interpreted all results as they relate to clinical work and research, and concluded by offering next steps for treating queer young adults enrolled in wilderness therapy programs.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Counseling Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Brewster, Melanie Elyse
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 14, 2022