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Wilderness Therapy Jobs

Wilderness Therapy Jobs

Have you ever noticed how incredible a day spent connecting with nature can make you feel?  If you love spending time outdoors, and are passionate about the healing power of nature you can actually incorporate it into your career.  Wilderness therapy, sometimes referred to as outdoor behavioral healthcare, is a treatment modality that involves therapy, educational sessions, and the participation in outdoor activities all while immersing students in the revitalizing environment of the wilderness.  Within the wilderness therapy field, there are several opportunities to get involved as a staff member and build a career in wilderness therapy.  Working in the wilderness therapy field can range anywhere from being a field instructor, guide, mentor or a certified wilderness therapist.  Learn more about each of these positions in detail, where job opportunities are located, and who makes a good fit for the job.

 

Becoming a Wilderness Therapist

First off, we will start off with discussing the highest and arguably most sought-after role in wilderness therapy, which is becoming an actual wilderness therapist.  Wilderness therapists are responsible for the more clinical aspect of the treatment program, meaning they focus on traditional therapy and therapeutic techniques.  Therapists work on site full-time and are expected to eat and sleep in the wilderness setting along with the other staff and students.  Listed below are the primary responsibilities, qualifications, and benefits of a wilderness therapist.  Keep in mind these may vary by program.  

 

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Clinical intake
  • Case management (may carry a caseload of up to 5 clients at a time)
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Post-clinical trip summaries
  • Completion of daily paperwork
  • Direct care and supervision of clients
  • Weekly planning of group activities

 

Qualifications:

  • Master’s degree (preferably in outdoor behavioral healthcare, psychology, or a related field)
  • 21+ years of age
  • 1+ years of experience working with at-risk youth
  • Certified wilderness first responder 
  • Ability to lift and carry 50+ pounds for extended durations
  • Excellent leadership and communication skills
  • Strong creativity and problem-solving skills
  • Must pass criminal background check 
  • Must hold a valid driver’s license with a clean driving record

 

Salary/Benefits:

  • Competitive wages based on experience (average salaries range between 33k-55k per year)
  • Flexible schedule
  • Health insurance 
  • Performance-based bonuses
  • Included trainings  

 

Becoming a wilderness therapist is not an entry-level position.  This position requires lots of education, training, and previous experience as it works heavily with the therapeutic aspect of these programs.  If you’re looking for more entry level work in the wilderness therapy field, or your goal is to become a wilderness therapist one day, there are a variety of other opportunities that may be of interest to you.  

Wilderness Therapy Field Mentor

Field mentors are a foundational and core part of each student’s experience at the program.  Their job is to create a physically and emotionally safe environment, being sure to properly assess each activity for potential hazards.  Mentors work directly with students during day-to-day activities at the camp.  Goals of wilderness therapy that mentors practice include teaching real-world skills, building community, and embracing the wilderness.  Below are the primary responsibilities, qualifications, and benefits expected of most wilderness therapy programs.

 

Responsibilities: 

  • Ensure students safety physically & mentally
  • Operate on the frontlines involving participation in activities and adventures
  • Implement treatment plans designed by wilderness therapist
  • Coaching and assessment of mentees (students)
  • Help lead activities, daily segments, and facilitate therapeutic groups

 

Qualifications:

  • Certified in First Aid and CPR
  • 20+ years of age
  • Must pass federal criminal background check
  • Must pass pre-employment and random drug screenings 
  • At least a high-school diploma or equivalent 
  • A strong love for wilderness and camping
  • Patience, flexibility, and sense of humor

 

Salary/Benefits:

  • Provided on-going training
  • Compensation of between $165/ day and $215/ day  
  • Eligible for health & dental insurance

Wilderness Therapy Field Instructors

Wilderness field instructors are expected to manage the safety of students while co-facilitating planned adventurous and educational programming.  Similarly, to field mentors, instructors are expected to manage risk and assure the effectiveness of courses, while serving as an educator and role model.  Job responsibilities, qualifications, and benefits of a wilderness field instructor include:

 

Responsibilities: 

  • Teach and facilitate curriculum to students
  • Supervise and manage risks of students during activities
  • Complete proper documentation including pre-trip and post-trip briefs
  • Work with a team to fulfill the needs of each client 
  • Overseeing and managing day-to-day health concerns  

 

Qualifications:

  • 3+ years of experience working with wilderness programs, outdoor education, or residential summer camps
  • Current wilderness first responder certification (WFR)
  • Competency in risk management skills
  • Completion of required trainings 
  • Associates, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in outdoor education, recreation, wilderness leadership, or a related field (preferred)  

 

Salary/Benefits:

  • Daily wage of $170 to $200   
  • Eligibility for employee bonuses and stipends
  • Health and dental insurance
  • Employee assistance program  

Wilderness Therapy Field Guides

A wilderness therapy guide is really expected to take on the adventurous and recreational portion of wilderness therapy.  Guides are professionals in outdoor recreation and using the outdoors as a therapeutic experience.  Guides will become highly experienced in activities such as rock climbing, white water rafting, hiking, backpacking, and more.  Additionally, guides are expected to teach these activities to students in a safety-first manner and teach how to use these activities as healthy coping mechanisms.  Responsibilities, qualifications, and benefits of a wilderness therapy field guide include:

 

Responsibilities:

  • Live and teach comfortably in the wilderness setting for extended periods of time
  • Exercise sound judgment while managing risks and supervising students
  • Work as a team to fulfill specific needs of each student
  • Ability to instruct therapeutic content and processes, including yoga and mediation 
  • Have strong communication and community building skills
  • Serve as a role-model to students

 

Qualifications:

  • 21+ years of age
  • High school diploma or equivalent 
  • Pass annual physical examinations and drug screenings
  • Clear Federal & State criminal background checks
  • Current wilderness first responder (WFR) and CPR certifications

 

Salary/Benefits:

  • Daily wages ranging from $155 to $210
  • Paid time off
  • Health and dental insurance
  • Professional training funding
  • Bonuses
  • 401k & matching contributions 

Where are these opportunities?

If you’re beginning to think you’d make a good fit for a career in the wilderness therapy field, and wondering where these opportunities are located, there are a variety of wilderness therapy programs offered across the country.  Wilderness therapy programs are found anywhere from the mountainous terrain of Utah all the way to Alaska.  Current wilderness therapy programs are also located in North Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Idaho.  Wilderness therapy programs utilize the natural terrain of their location in order to create adventurous outdoor activities and promote immersion into the natural environment. 

Think you’re a good fit?

If you love the outdoors, adventure, recreational activities and more, you could make a great fit for a career in wilderness therapy.  In addition to outdoor skills, wilderness therapists must be effective in intervening and working with at-risk youth.  Experience working with adolescents or pursuing a degree related to psychology or social sciences also makes a great fit for the wilderness therapy field, particularly when working with the clinical aspect of this occupation.  Wilderness therapy has become an increasingly popular form of treatment, as it utilizes a holistic and healthy approach to healing.  Working in wilderness therapy is a challenging yet rewarding career and can help to change the lives of others.

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