Family Therapy in Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare: Current Practices and Future Possibilities

Contemporary Family TherapyPublished in the Journal of Contemporary Family Therapy, an article about the role of family therapy in wilderness therapy.  Troy really enjoyed writing with Dr. Widmer on this project.  It shows the forward thinking and role that Legacy shows in helping shape the conversation about treatment in experiential treatment settings.


This paper highlights the role of the family in the treatment of youth who attend Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH) programs. It discusses the history of OBH, provides a critical overview of the research on the impact of OBH programs on family functioning, and discusses the importance of increased intentional integration of family therapy into OBH settings. To show this integration, this study presents a case study that highlights the role of the family, as well as the home family therapist throughout the phase of OBH treatment. Areas for future research are provided as well as suggestions for the increased utilization of adventure activities with families.


Outdoor behavioral healthcare Wilderness therapy Adventure therapy Family therapy

Our Older Teen Program has a New Name; Legacy Protégé

In order to help differentiate its young adult program from its adolescent program, Legacy Outdoor Adventures has named its adolescent program Legacy Protégé. Beginning in the fall of 2012, Legacy Protégé has been treating 16-17 year old boys who are dealing with substance abuse and co-occurring mental health issues, using the same basic model that has proven to be effective with our young adult clients. The model includes a weekly therapeutic adventure integrated into the profound wilderness experience, the application of Motivational Interviewing techniques to invite clients to identify and address their ambivalence, daily practice and mastery of self-awareness skills, and both a substance abuse counselor and a therapist working individually with each client.
The Legacy team selected the name Protégé, which refers to one who is guided down a path by a wise, experienced mentor, because it accurately reflects the Legacy practice of assigning a seasoned, caring mentor from the guide team to walk beside and guide each protégé. Research and observation suggest that the therapeutic alliance between mentor and mentee is a powerful change agent in guiding young people over the threshold to responsible adulthood.

Nature and Recovery

Ray Barlow, our program/admissions director collaborated on this article that appeared in Psychology Today.  In this article Ray shares the following about his personal experience with nature and recovery:

Ray Barlow, LSAC is the Co-Founder/Program Director of Legacy Outdoors Adventures wilderness program in Loa, Utah that specializes in treating teens age 16-17 and young adults. The following interview with Ray illuminates the magic of nature and how lives can be transformed from this connection:

1. What are the healing qualities of exposure to nature that you have observed in your work with clients who have addictions?

There is a healing power in nature that cannot be measures nor explained, yet it is very real. Time in the wilderness seems to have a healing effect on even the deepest wounds. It is no coincidence that most of the spiritual leaders and teachers throughout time have gone to the wilderness to find healing and purpose in preparation for their life’s work. One of the gifts of the wilderness is the way it gives us an honest look at ourselves, our gifts, talents, weaknesses, character defects and our true potential are all made obvious. It is this honest look at ourselves that allows us to find love and acceptance for who we are and a vision of who we can become.

2. What are the benefits of wilderness programs for client’s recovery?

Wilderness programs help a client’s recovery by restoring their self-confidence and self-efficacy. They begin to believe once again that they can be successful in life. Simply put, the experience helps them to recapture hope in their lives.

3. Are there ways that you would suggest those in recovery integrate nature into their lives when living at home?

The use of a journal to record the wilderness experience can be a powerful tool to help one connect with that experience and the lessons learned. Meditation can also be a powerful way to connect with the wilderness even if there is very little wilderness available to someone. It is also important to plan and schedule opportunities to reconnect with nature, evaluate progress, and direction.

4. What personally lead you into the field of wilderness treatment?

As a young man struggling with the loss of my parents and dealing with my own addictions, anger and fear. I retreated to the wilderness in search of relief from the pain of life and answers to my deepest questions. Through a powerful experience that cannot be fully explained or measures I found purpose and direction in my life. I came to understand that I had gifts to give and that I could overcome my weaknesses and find joy in life. I now have the blessing and responsibility to help give others the same opportunity.

Read the full text by following link to Psychology Today.