The basis of my program, “Therapeutic Adventure Programming” is activity based counseling for at-risk populations. A large part of my program incorporates adventure education, as I would like to take at-risk populations on outdoor expeditions. I have also incorporated psychology and social work for a well-rounded wilderness therapy experience. I would like to operate an outdoor rehab program for recovering drug addicts, or at-risk youth who have been exposed to addiction.
For my applied project “The Body Project: A Body Acceptance Program” I facilitated group sessions surrounding the promotion of body positivity and body acceptance through peer leadership, helping people resist sociocultural pressures to conform or pursue society’s idea of mainstream beauty. This project is important to me for many reasons. Promoting and advocating for women’s health is something that benefits everyone. Our patriarchal society perpetuates the idea that a woman’s worth starts, and often stops, at face value. In our society it is dangerous to be female. Girls of all ages pursue the thin ideal despite the negative consequences. At age 16 I went on a 30 day cocaine bender. I lost 30lbs within one month over summer break. I thought I looked great and my female classmates were all asking me for advice on how to lose weight quickly. I was malnourished and ridden with psychosis but receiving compliments from my peers. I had gained a newfound popularity and was getting praised for my new look. That summer was only the beginning of my relationship with drugs and self-destruction. I was flaunting the heroin-chic look not able to see the obvious foreshadowing of my year-later love affair with heroin. This directly relates to the therapeutic aspect of my major. Many young people begin experimenting with substances in order to lose weight or to feel more outgoing and less self-conscious. Improving self-esteem, building relationships within the community, and promoting awareness of what the media is potentially doing to our subconscious has the ability to improve mental health, making our community less susceptible to harmful influences. This program has contributed to my education in many ways, but particularly in how I interact with others. The intimate setting of the Body Acceptance Program on a college campus promotes a subculture of a safe environment where participants can open up emotionally. I learned that many of my peers felt the same pressures from the media, society, and even their loved ones. I learned that the environment of a therapeutic setting matters, and that I had the greatest takeaways after the sessions where I listened more than I spoke. I learned that I have the ability to make a difference, even if the impact is temporary. If I continue to work at making an impact eventually it may turn into something on a macro level.
My RA topic “Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH) Program Models and Their Therapeutic Effect on At-Risk Youth” describes and dissect the four models (base camp, continuous flow, residential, contained) OBH programs use, and the research that proves their effectiveness. This project contributed to my education because I would like to pursue a career in Wilderness Therapy and sifting through over twenty articles relating to the topic gave me a greater understanding of the field. Different models produce different long-term effects depending on the population involved. I was able to research a variety of programs across the nation, which gave me sense of the type of business I would like to work with.
My applied project, research articles, and interdisciplinary major have all added to my knowledge of the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare field and my place within it. They have impacted my education in that I have better equipped to work with at-risk populations in an outdoor setting. I have the knowledge and resources I need to help others. This experience has also made me realize I would like to continue on with higher education. In order to provide any type of professional counseling with addicts or other at-risk populations I will need to earn my LADC (Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor) certificate, as well as go to graduate school for Clinical Mental Health Counseling to eventually become a licensed counselor. To gain some experience in the field I will be fulfilling my remaining 11 credits over this summer through an internship with CADY (Community for an Alcohol and Drug Free Youth). I am really looking forward to being a part of their team, working with children in the community, and learning more about myself and the field through this experience. Having been warned that wilderness therapy takes a toll physically and mentally, I believe if I can continue to develop effective stress management and self-care skills, I have a chance at helping those I can relate to. Plymouth State University has given me the ability to be the type of person who once helped me, and that was the goal I had in mind when transferring here three years ago. This program has been the key to my success academically and professionally. I am the most motivated when enrolled in classes I feel passionately about, and succeeding academically has opened doors professionally. I even met the director of CADY at an addiction conference held on campus. I feel fortunate to have had Plymouth State University providing the resources necessary to make my dream a reality. The integration of these disciplines has prepared me for the unique field I strive to be a part of!