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The Attributes of Effective Field Staff in Wilderness Programs: Changing Youths’ Perspectives of Being “Cool”

Stacy Taniguchi, Mark Widmer, Mathew Duerden, Christijan Draper


This qualitative study examines the perceived influence of field staff on youth participating in a wilderness therapy program. The program, called Camp WILD, was designed for disadvantaged youth who were at risk of academic and social failure. Thirty-five youth who had completed a 2-week program were asked to take part in the study. Structured interviews focusing on the benefits of participation were conducted with each participant. Interview content was examined for counselor-based factors that made the experience beneficial for the participants. Constant comparison analysis of results revealed eight key counselor attributes: (a) ambitious, (b) service oriented, (c) hard working, (d) possessed identified goals, (e) interest in others, (f) unselfish with their time, (g) fun loving, and (h) a sense of perceived freedom to accomplish whatever they wanted to do. Findings suggest important implications for therapeutic recreation practitioners in all settings. These implications are discussed.


Wilderness Therapy, Camp Field Staff, Therapeutic Recreation, Youth Development

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