The Promise of River Running as a Therapeutic Medium for Veterans Coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


  • Daniel Dustin
  • Nathan Bricker
  • Joseph Arave
  • Wendy Wall
  • George Wendt


Combat, ecotherapy, nature, post-traumatic stress disorder, river running, therapeutic recreation, veterans


Among the many costs of war, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is one of the most insidious. Having volunteered to serve their country in combat, all too many soldiers return home dramatically changed for the worse by the horrors of war. Unlike physical wounds that are readily identifiable and treatable, PTSD is less visible and more resistant to conventional therapies. In this article, we discuss therapeutic
recreation’s role in improving the lives of veterans coping with PTSD. More specifically, we focus on the promise of river running as a therapeutic medium for treating PTSD. Based on a collaborative pilot project conducted in the summer of 2010 between the Veterans Administration, the University of Utah’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, and O.A.R.S. (a river rafting company), we identify several areas where therapeutic recreation shows considerable promise in contributing to the healing process. We conclude with a call for an ambitious research agenda to better define the contributory potential of therapeutic recreation in serving combat veterans.