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What Are the Different Wilderness Therapy Jobs?

By Bethany Keene
Updated Feb 12, 2024
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People in wilderness therapy jobs are, largely, not licensed psychologists, though many may have a bachelor's or even master's degrees in psychology. Instead, they are people who have a combined love and extensive knowledge of the outdoors, as well as a desire to work with and help other people. Because most wilderness therapy programs require participants to live in residence, the most common positions are counselors and leaders who will live with and plan the programs with the participants every step of the way. Field guides and instructors are also common wilderness therapy jobs, as these people will teach participants field skills for activities like camping, hiking, or boating.

Most wilderness therapy programs are intended for older kids and teens who are at-risk, or who have gotten in trouble. They are not the same thing as a boot camp, but are sometimes also referred to as adventure therapy. In general, they put teens in a group setting and teach them outdoor and wilderness skills. This may be simple things like hiking and camping, or more advanced such as rock climbing or activities designed to build trust, like ropes courses. Each program might be slightly different, and as a result may require employees with certain skills.

Generally, wilderness therapy jobs are offered to people who have a college degree in a related field, from psychology to a specific certification in adventure therapy. Program managers might be required to be licensed psychologists, but the rest of the employees may or may not have such a degree. Counselors, mentors, and group leaders or directors are some of the most common wilderness therapy jobs, and these involve living on the property with the participants, fostering positive relationships, and planning the programs that will happen each day. It is important for these people to be able to professional and maintain control in situations as well, since the kids will often be difficult to work with.

The other most common types of wilderness therapy jobs are field guides and field instructors. These people typically have backgrounds in environmental education and wilderness survival skills, and will take the program participants on actual trips and wilderness outings to teach outdoor and survival skills. Aside from these people who directly interact with the program participants, people who assist in day to day operations might also work in wilderness therapy programs, such as people who act as office administrators, property maintenance, or cleaners.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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