An Exploration into the Experiences of Female Veterans Who Attended Higher Ground Military Programming




Cultural competence, Female veteran, Higher Ground, military program, outdoor recreation, recreational therapy, transformative experience, trauma informed


Female veterans are the fastest growing military group, yet they are largely underrepresented in research (Hawkins & Crowe, 2018a, 2018b; Lundberg et al., 2016). There is a gap in the literature regarding the lived experiences of female veterans. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to understand female veterans’ experiences while participating in Higher Ground’s military program (HGMP), utilizing semi-structured interviews. Qualitative analysis yielded four themes: 1) transformative experiences, 2) empathetic staff, 3) staff connection to the military, and 4) resources after HGMP. The study’s findings highlight the need for trauma-informed care, cultural competency training for practitioners working in programs that serve female veterans, and offering continued resources after the conclusion of a program. Findings also indicate that participants had transformative experiences during the program. Further research is needed to examine programming elements in other outdoor recreational therapy programs to determine their effectiveness as therapeutic tools.Subscribe to TRJ

Author Biographies

Lauren Fleming, Catawba Hospital

Lauren Fleming, MS, CTRS is a CTRS at Catawba Hospital. She graduated from Clemson University with her MS in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management and a concentration of Recreational Therapy.

Anna Johnson, Clemson University

Anna Johnson, MS, CARSS-I is a graduate from Clemson University, where she received both her Bachelor’s and her Master’s in Recreational Therapy. She currently works at Clemson University for the Student-Athlete Development department and plans community outreach opportunities.

Hannah Wells, Clemson University

Hannah Wells, MS, CTRS, CARSS-I is a recreational therapist at The Ranch PA. She is a recent graduate from Clemson University where she studied Recreational Therapy within the Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management department.

Brent L. Hawkins, University of North Carolina, Wilmington

Brent L. Hawkins, PhD, CTRS is an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Recreation Therapy in the School of Health and Applied Human Sciences at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Jasmine Townsend, Clemson University

Jasmine Townsend, Ph.D., CTRS, CARSS-I is an Associate Professor of Recreational Therapy in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at Clemson University. 

Brandi M. Crowe, Clemson University

Brandi M. Crowe, PhD, LRT/CTRS is an Assistant Professor of Recreational Therapy in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at Clemson University.





Qualitative Papers