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


  • Stacy Taniguchi
  • Mark Widmer
  • Mathew Duerden
  • Christijan Draper


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


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.





Research Papers