StepOne for Parents demonstrates that youth intervention program
August 12, 2006
"People who run ineffective wilderness therapy programs for
youth should be on notice. Parents can now evaluate the effectiveness
of a program in a reliable and valid manner." says Michael
Conner, a Psychologist with Mentor Research Institute. "This
will be of tremendous value to consumers and may help less effective
programs get better."
Mentor Research Institute (Mentor) presented the results of its
research project on the efficacy of wilderness therapy programs
to the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs
(NATSAP) at a conference in Bend, Oregon August 11, 2006.
In a three year study, 63% of children, referred to three studied
wilderness therapy programs, were admitted with severe mental health
problems and 43% had complex diagnostic issues. 52% of the children
were potentially suicidal. An estimated 58% were involved in alcohol
or drugs. Nearly 80% were at risk of dropping out of school. Virtually
all the children admitted had significant emotional and behavior
The results of Mentor’s three-year study suggest that wilderness
therapy programs can have a significant positive impact on adolescents.
Nearly 95% of graduates had no significant problems within 30 days
of graduation. At 6 months after completing the programs, 62% had
no significant problems. This significant increase in problems
is a finding people in the wilderness therapy industry refer to
as the "post-wilderness crash". However, by one year
after treatment, most graduates had turned their life around with
82% doing well.
Most important is the significant reduction in the complexity
and severity of problems reported after wilderness therapy. The
risk of suicidal behavior, violence, drug abuse and school drop-out
were each significantly lower. While some of the treated children
still have problems, their chances to live rewarding and successful
lives were greatly improved.
There was also a completely unexpected finding. Many of the graduates
had significant improvement in their ability to pay attention.
Students with severe attention deficits appeared normal 30 days
after graduation. But this did not last and returned to previous
levels by 6 months. More research is necessary to examine the speculation
that spending time in nature has positive benefit on brain functioning.
According to Conner, "Research that demonstrates effective
or ineffective intervention is important when you consider that
the cost of wilderness therapy can be $25,000 – $ 30,000
for seven weeks of treatment. People in the industry believe that "wilderness
therapy" works. Research is important because we don't how
well it works, why it works, how long it lasts and who can benefit
the most. We believe that parent involvement in this research is
essential. This is a very new mode of intervention with human problems.
Initial research findings are not always right and they must be
replicated. What really helps children in a wilderness therapy
program is a complete mystery.”
Aspen Education Group is expected to release the results their
research project on the effectiveness of youth intervention and
education programs. Mentor is looking forward to seeing the results
of Aspen's research. We expect it will be interesting and impressive.
CONSUMER BASED RESEARCH
For nearly 10 years Mentor has been conducting research and developing
tools that parents can use to evaluate the outcome of any behavioral
health treatment or intervention. Mentor's approach is uniquely
different from traditional research process. Using a computer program
called "StepOne" parents can measure the benefit of an
intervention like a wilderness program. StepOne is an Internet-based
computer program that offers behavioral health screening, research
and monitoring. The program is available 24-7 at no charge.
We no longer live in a world where we must rely on or wait years
for research results on the efficacy of treatment and intervention.
With tools created by Mentor, the cost and difficulty in evaluating
the benefit of a program is no longer an obstacle. A traditional
research approach to study treatment outcome can cost several hundred
thousand dollars. Similar research using StepOne can cost a program
less than $10,000.
Mentor’s results appear valid and consistent with industry
experience. Further studies are under way to see if these results
can be replicated.