“There is Always Progress to Be Made”: Reflective Narratives on Outdoor Therapeutic Recreation for Mental Health Support


  • Jaylyn Leighton University of Waterloo
  • Kimberly J. Lopez
  • Corey W. Johnson




dual diagnosis, mental health support, narrative inquiry, outdoor experiential therapy, psychotherapy, therapeutic recreation


Due to the marginalizing effects of mental illness, the stories of individuals in early recovery from various mental health diagnoses are often invalidated. To address this concern, complementary modalities (e.g., massage therapy, naturopathy, arts-based therapy, horticulture therapy) have emerged alongside the fields of therapeutic recreation, psychotherapy, and outdoor-based practices. Less is known about how social/community approaches to practice are used within in-patient care settings to complement more traditional modalities (i.e., cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), talk-based therapy, trauma exposure therapy, pharmaceutical medication etc.). The current research project aimed to understand individuals’ experiences and reflections of engaging in an outdoor experiential workshop while seeking in-patient care for post-traumatic stress disorder and substance-use disorder. Narrative inquiry was the methodological approach we used to illuminate the voice in the cracks (Jackson & Mazzei, 2005), voices that are often left out of dominant medical discourses, to be heard. Focus groups and in-depth semi-structured narrative life-experience interviews were used to story individuals’ reflections of early recovery while participating in an outdoor experiential workshop beyond the conventional boundaries and structures of medicine-focused in-patient care.Subscribe to TRJ

Author Biography

Jaylyn Leighton, University of Waterloo

Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies. Ph.D candidate





Qualitative Papers