Application Essay

Wilderness Therapeutic Adventure

Henry Huang

I have titled my program Wilderness Therapeutic Adventure because the goal is to understand and use the influence of nature with psychology in order to help clientele overcome personal struggle and inner conflict. I have created this program so that I may learn how to facilitate nature to address mental, emotional, and social conflict with one’s self and their surroundings. I plan to work in the field of wilderness therapy, hopefully in a nonprofit organization that has some aspect of a residential component. This could be at a residential facility or in the form of multi-day trips. I will be using the term participants to distinguish who is on the trip/ in the program, and clients for those in the program and/ or those who are paying for my services. Clientele could be seeking my services for behavioral therapy, rehabilitation from drug use, treatment with mental disorders, and many more. I have always thought of nature as an equalizer for all people and have since strived to formalize my education in how it can be utilized as such. I have created a program focused on two parts; on one side I am learning how to thrive in the wilderness and facilitate a group’s experience in nature and on the other I am learning about the physiology and psychology of the human brain in various states and forms. From typical brain development to abnormal behavior, I focus on how I can help clients choose what messages and explicit signs they want to portray in order to raise the quality of their life.

            I transferred to Plymouth State this semester as a third year in hopes of continuing my field of study from my previous school through the Interdisciplinary Studies major drawing courses from the established Adventure Education and Psychology majors. I came from being a double Wilderness and Outdoor Therapy and Adventure Education major and a Psychology minor and with the transfer it would be impossible to complete my existing double major in time to graduate, so I took the best from all three fields of study to construct my Interdisciplinary Studies program.

            In my contract I have included the classes I think that best support my career goals. From Adventure Education I focused on the classes that offer skills and methodologies towards group facilitation in the back country. Thus, I am taking AP 4600 Risk Management to learn about how to mitigate and reduce risk while living in the backcountry. AP 2210 Teaching Techniques and AP 3500 Adventure Group Processing are included to learn about how to create an outdoor learning environment and how to best conduct conversations and activities after a learning goal has been experienced. AP 3710 Practical Application of Adventure and AP 3301 Outdoor Leadership Practicum offer opportunities to learn more about what it means to be a facilitator and the different styles of leadership. The courses also include a segment of implementation of the what you have learned, providing a space to practice the newly acquired skills of leading in the outdoors and receiving feedback from your peers and professors about how you can improve your technique and decision making as a leader. These two courses offer the bridge from theoretical leadership to real instructing and guiding. AP 3610 Theories/ Foundations of Ad. Therapy is perfect as it teaches the conceptual basics and historical roots of using group activities and metaphors to provide therapy. AP 3999 Adventure and the Environment Education Program provides information and methods on how to teach about your surroundings in the back country and inspire discussions about our place in the wilderness and our impact on it. From Psychology I have added my QRCO course, PS 3115 Research Methods and Statistics I which will provide a start towards understanding how to read and analyze the research that has and is currently being done in my field. Additionally, I am taking PS 3010 Adolescent Psychology to find specific psychological information about one of the most popular client groups within wilderness therapy, teenagers. I have also included PS 3320 Abnormal Psychology and PS 3340 Personality to learn about the different causes and treatments for psychopathy and investigate the development of behavior. I also wanted to focus on the use of the group dynamic and the sense of community we strive to build while in the back country, and as such added  PS 4330 Community Mental Health to seek how one’s community can help an individual’s mental health as well as the different needs of different populations. Lastly, I have PS 4350 Treatment of Psychological Disorders which fits well as I do hope to help treat my clients, and this class will be an excellent place to start learning about the different treatment methods and how and when to apply them.

            At the expert advice meeting I met with Dr. Katherine Lind who is a faculty member in the Social Work Department, and Dr. Angela Kilb who is an associate professor in Psychology. They both provided me with a lot of good advice. From the Social Work perspective, I should definitely take Community Mental Health as it was a cross between Psychology and Social work and Dr. Lind provided good insight into post-graduation plans, including potential master’s degrees which would strongly support my position within the field. She also suggested I take a couple social work classes if there is room. Although, I couldn’t include them in my contract I would like to take them as electives if there is open room in my schedule that coincides with the class times. She suggested taking Social Work courses titled; Child Maltreatment, and Diversity and Oppression. Which would provide good foundations for some potential populations I may work with. Dr. Kilb directed me to include Community Mental Health and Treatment of Psychological disorders which were not initially included in my contract. I have since added them, and removed Life-span Development, in order to make room. This was partially because I am also taking Adolescent Psychology, which will provide more specific material which can be more relevant to my ideal client population. However, I do plan to take Life-span Development as an elective in the spring of 2020. For Adventure Education, I was able to confirm to take Risk Management to learn about the insurance policies and how to navigate the natural risk that my field assumes. I was also directed to potentially add communication courses and maybe an entrepreneurship course to expand the breadth of my knowledge towards running my own business someday. However, I simply do not have enough time and flexibility to formally include them in my contract, but I may add them to my college curriculum as electives. I will be contacting Dr. Bisson for advice about Adventure Education courses and information about the field. Dr. Kilb will be my contact in the Psychology department regarding psych courses and the place of wilderness therapy in the mental health field.

            My program is a blend of Psychology and Adventure Education courses that focus on the concepts and methodologies of the two respective fields. I have chosen this path because I already know and have some experience in the physical skill set of facilitating and leading various activities. I also am taking some of them as electives and it is easier to be given on-the-job training for the hard skills than inter/ intrapersonal skills. My program is designed to support my growth and relevance to the field of wilderness therapy. They will inform me of both sides of the field and increase my ability to apply for jobs related to the field.

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