Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 25, Issue 9, pp 2659–2673 | Cite as

A Meta-analysis of Wilderness Therapy Outcomes for Private Pay Clients

  • Joanna E. Bettmann
  • H. L. Gillis
  • Elizabeth A. Speelman
  • Kimber J. Parry
  • Jonathan M. Case
Original Paper


Wilderness therapy is becoming a more widely used intervention for adolescents, but there have not been any meta-analyses focused solely on its clinical effectiveness for private pay clients. This study’s objective was to conduct outcome-based meta-analyses of private-pay wilderness therapy programs, benchmark primary features of this approach, and educate the clinical community as to its effectiveness. The authors conducted a review of all available databases, as well as manual searches. Searches resulted in a meta-analysis based on 36 studies, totaling 2399 participants receiving wilderness therapy. Our meta-analyses found medium effect sizes for all six constructs assessed: self-esteem (g = 0.49), locus of control (g = 0.55), behavioral observations (g = 0.75), personal effectiveness (g = 0.46), clinical measures (g = 0.50) and interpersonal measures (g = 0.54). Subgroup analyses included age of participants, duration of program, open or closed model, presence of a mental health practitioner, and publication year.


Wilderness therapy Therapeutic outcomes Meta-analysis Adolescents Private-pay Outdoor behavioral healthcare 


References marked with an asterisk indicate studies included in the meta-analysis

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joanna E. Bettmann
    • 1
  • H. L. Gillis
    • 2
  • Elizabeth A. Speelman
    • 2
  • Kimber J. Parry
    • 1
  • Jonathan M. Case
    • 1
  1. 1.University of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Georgia CollegeMilledgevilleUSA

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