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Posted October 22, 2002 


Study Shows Adolescents Doing Well One Year After Wilderness Treatment

[Contact: Keith Russell, Asst. Prof., U. of Idaho, Coll. of Natural Resources, Leader, Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Research Cooperative, (208) 885-2269, keithr@uidaho.edu, or Sue McMurray, CNR Communications, (208) 885-6673, suem@uidaho.eduStudy. Technical Report 28 available for $10: U of I,Wilderness Research Center (208) 885-7911, wrc@uidaho.edu ]

A follow-up study released by the University of Idaho’s Wilderness Research Center reports clients who received treatment in seven participating Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH) programs continued to improve one year after treatment. Treatment averaged 45 days in length in seven state-licensed wilderness programs in Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and Oregon.

“We wanted to examine client well-being after treatment to address the question asked at the conclusion of our last report: To what degree will clients maintain identified outcomes at follow-up periods?” said Keith Russell, author and principal investigator in the study. “This is especially critical because most research in this area has found mixed results that often point to a fading of outcomes at one-year follow-up periods because adolescents return to environments that often perpetuate dysfunctional behavior.”

Outcomes were assessed using the Youth Outcome Questionnaire (Y-OQ) that asked adolescents and their parents to assess psychological, emotional, and behavioral well-being at admission, discharge, and 12 months after treatment. High Y-OQ scores (greater than 85) indicate severe problems in adolescents’ lives, and low scores (46 or lower) indicate a normal range of functioning. Clients self-reported a score of 38.61 at 12 months after treatment, which was 9 points lower than the score of 47.25 reported at discharge from treatment. Though the parents’ scores were higher by almost 10 points, their scores were also not significantly different from those reported at discharge (44.94 at discharge and 48.67 at 12 months). Both scores were near or below the score of 46 identified as representing a normal range of adolescent functioning. The results suggested that clients had maintained their outcomes and based on client self-report, had continued to improve after treatment.

Clients self-reported significant improvement in the behavioral dysfunction content area of the Y-OQ, suggesting improvement in organizing tasks, completing assignments in school, and learning how to handle frustration in appropriate ways. Both parents and clients also noted a deterioration in the interpersonal relations content area of the Y-OQ, despite a reported significant improvement in this area found at discharge from treatment. This assesses a client’s relationships with parents and other adults, as well as interaction with friends, aggressiveness, arguing, and defiance. “I think this shows that OBH treatment is effective in addressing presenting behavioral problems, but may need to further identify ways to help clients maintain recently developed interpersonal skills that are continually tested in post-treatment environments,” said Russell.