The scene is post World War II, a different world than today in many ways, but the same world none the less. The place was East Texas. The man, a professional with several degrees in higher education, yet an outdoorsman with the patience of Job, and a knowledge and deep respect for all living things, especially the boys that were campers at Camp Woodland Springs.
Campbell Loughmiller was hired by the Dallas Salesmanship Club to run a camp for underprivileged children in the Dallas area during the summer and on weekends. The magic that occurred by accident, as well as by Campbell's purposeful design, soon led to the first long term Therapeutic Wilderness Camp.
If time is the ultimate test, some 60 years later, through trial and tribulation, Therapeutic Wilderness Camping still exists and is utilized by a variety of organizations and agencies throughout the United States and internationally, to serve special needs groups and their families. Indeed, some programming evolution has transpired since Campbell Loughmiller first authored "Wilderness Road"
and the subsequent "Kids in Trouble,"
two priceless gems that address the rationale, mission and story of Therapeutic Wilderness Camping.
In the 1980's, the nation was swirling with need for therapeutic programs and schools to effectively serve the burgeoning swell of youngsters getting caught up in a society's push to have them "grow up" before their time. Many new programs evolved from that original, successful first camp in Texas.
Outdoor programming milieu developed regionally to suit the local environment, whether woodlands or high desert. Philosophies varied, based on personal experiences of the staff empowered to develop those programs; adventure based programs like Outward Bound, as well as short and long term base camps were created and modeled after the original Camp Woodland Springs. Many short term trekking style programs with a therapeutic component came into being.
Programming also evolved based on funding streams and private pay; for profit programs emerged along side non profits providing services to juvenile justice and youth and family agencies. As with any growing industry, there were growing pains. Recruitment and training of staff willing to endure the challenges of nature, and troubled and troubling adolescents, became a dire but often misplaced need. Most programs were successful; however, some were not.
It was with this setting that the National Association of Therapeutic Wilderness Camps (NATWC) was founded in the early 1990's. NATWC's first Annual Training conference was held at Black Mountain, NC, in May of 1994. Since then NATWC has worked to solidify the field, raise public awareness about the effectiveness of outdoor therapeutic treatment with troubled youth, promote high standards of care and provide training opportunities for those in the field.
Throughout the years, NATWC's Annual Conferences have brought together outdoor treatment and education professionals for three days of renewal and celebration. Conference goers have networked with Grover Loughmiller, psychologist and son of Campbell; William Glasser, of Reality Therapy and Choice Theory
; Dr Tom Smith of the Raccoon Institute and Raccoon Circles
; Gary Ferguson, author of Shouting at The Sky
; Dr. Keith Russell, outdoor treatment's research guru and professor at the University of Minnesota; Dr. Lee Gillis, Georgia College; Dr Scott Bandoroff, Clinical First Responder
; and a plethora of outdoor professionals who have presented clinical and outdoor skill workshops.
NATWC has worked to raise the industry standards, by participating with the Council on Accreditation (COA) in drafting the original Therapeutic Wilderness Camping standards. Those original standards were labeled MM, but were updated to the S28 standards available today.
NATWC also created the National Board Certification in Wilderness Counseling
, the only nationally recognized certification specifically for counselors in the field of wilderness therapy. It is a primary mission of NATWC to provide both the standards for best practices among wilderness counselors and recognition they deserve as professionals in a challenging and effective field.
NATWC has historically been an all volunteer organization to assist in keeping the cost of membership low. Recently, however, NATWC appointed a part time Executive Director to assist in keeping up with the emerging demands and various inquiries of the National Association. Rick McClintock, recently retired Director of Pressley Ridge at Ohiopyle, an outdoor treatment and education program in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania, assumed the charge. Known by many as "Tick", his nickname is derived from his 29 years of experience as a wilderness counselor and nightly readings to his campers of Rudyard Kipling stories, especially the Mongoose and Cobra story, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
. Kids loved the moralistic stories where animals were personified.
Tick has had the past pleasure of mentoring with Campbell Loughmiller himself, and spent many days taking a "ramble with Campbell". Campbell's positive presence and message of the worth of a boy has guided Tick down many a trail. Tick has also had the unique experience of working with the Ministry of Justice of Portugal to open Portugal's first Therapeutic Wilderness Camp at the Villa De Fernando. Tick's wife, Sandy, is the Administrative Coordinator for NATWC.
The NATWC Board has recently been expanded. Current members include: Board Chair, Linda Tatsapaugh of the Talisman Programs
in North Carolina; Vice Chair, Reginald Jackson of Timber Ridge Treatment Center
in North Carolina; Secretary, Deb Hibbard of New Horizons for Young Women
in Maine; Treasurer, Shep Young, corporate member from Dry Box
in Florida; Mike Angstadt of Twin Cedars Youth Services, Corporate Sponsor and liaison to the Council on Accreditation
; Jason Brode of Diakon Youth Center
in Pennsylvania; Steve Cockerham at East Tennessee State University
and the editor of The Journal of Therapeutic Wilderness Camping
; Emily Darnell, corporate member from Diamond Brand
in North Carolina; Holly Hunter, corporate member from SafePassage Adolescent Services
in Georgia; Meghan McIntosh of Three Springs
in Alabama; Eric Morlino of Stone Mountain School
in North Carolina; and Angie Senic of Eckerd Youth Alternatives
in West Virginia.
NOTE: Several NATWC board seats still are open due to recent retirements.
The NATWC name changed in 2006 to The National Association of Therapeutic Wilderness Camping to dispel the perception that only a camp could be a member. Many organizations with an array of services to special needs groups, but using some element of outdoor programming, have voiced their support for a national organization that has kept membership and conference costs affordable and prioritizes the training, recognition and celebration of the direct care Wilderness Teacher Counselor.
Get acquainted with current NATWC priorities including: the 15th annual conference at Jekyll Island, GA, September 21-23, 2008; the christening of the new website at www.natwc.org
; the impact of the Journal of Therapeutic Wilderness Camping; the value of personal credentialing through the National Board Certification in Wilderness Counseling
; perspectives on Representative George Miller's Committee on Education and Labor hearings on Residential Child Care and more industry news in upcoming publications.
About the Author:
Rick McClintock is the Executive Director and Membership Chairman for the National Association of Therapeutic Wilderness Camping. For more information, you can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 724-329-1098 or by mail at 264 Brown Hill Road, Markleysburg, PA 15459.