The outcomes of a wilderness experience programme on the resilience and psychological adjustment of South African adolescents.
Wilderness therapy is emerging as a promising approach in helping adolescents (Higgens, 1999), even though many questions about this mode of therapy remain unanswered. Although there is a substantial body of research examining wilderness therapy on a range of different participants, very few studies investigate the effects of these programmes on participants from more traditional (i.e. African or Eastern) cultures and contexts. A number of wilderness experience programmes (WEPs) are currently being run throughout South Africa, targeting various groups. This study aims to examine the outcomes of one such programme on a group of young South Africans. A quantitative, quasi-experimental approach was taken in the research design, data collection and analysis. Data was collected from two nonrandomised groups (an experimental and a control group). The experimental group attended a two-night, three-day WEP, while the control group attended an adjusted school programme. Data collection occurred on three occasions. There was an initial pre-test before the WEP and two post-tests subsequent to it. This study supports some positive outcomes to a WEP. Specifically, there was a significant increase in psychological adjustment and resilience initially after the WEP; however this effect was only sustained at the two month follow-up test for the former. No significant differences were observed in the control group. It is evident from the literature review that there is an immense healing potential in wilderness environments, and that there are apparent benefits to wilderness therapy. The difficulties arise when attempting to investigate, identify and understand these effects.