Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Family, Consumer, and Human Development


W. David Robinson


This qualitative phenomenological study explored the key themes of an adolescent journey during a wilderness adventure therapy program through expressive letter writing to their parents. Ten complete sets of letters (five boys and five girls) totaling over 400 pages were analyzed by four independent coders until saturation of themes were reached. There were five overarching themes that emerged from the data: impact of wilderness experiences, desires for improved relationships, apology and accountability, negative emotions, and positive growth and coping. These themes were presented in the chronological pattern that they appeared in the letters. The findings represent the adolescents’ experiences written in their own words. This research is the first of its kind and has implications for parents and adolescents who are considering this growing treatment modality of wilderness adventure therapy, and for professionals, especially family therapists, who can use the pattern in assessment and as an intervention tool in working with families.