Wilderness & Outdoor Therapy Graduate Programs

Feb 28, 2018

This article is designed to provide you with an overview of graduate programs focusing on wilderness and outdoor therapy. Read through to learn about the coursework, length of programs, and application process.

Graduate programs for wilderness and outdoor therapy prepare students to enter the professional world of recreation-based treatment. Keep reading to learn more about the coursework you can expect to take, as well as what you'll need to do to get into a program.

What Do I Need to Know About Wilderness and Outdoor Therapy Graduate Programs?

A master's degree in wilderness and outdoor therapy can be obtained as a Master of Science or a Master of Art, depending on the school and the program in which you choose to enroll. Programs generally take two to three years to complete, and here is some common coursework:

Adventure/Wilderness Therapy

These courses discuss theory and practice around wilderness therapy. Students learn how to use their leadership skills to provide therapeutic relief in an outdoor setting. Typically, these classes involve lecture time as well as practical experiences in the field.

Research Methods and Program Evaluation in Social Work

Most graduate programs in wilderness and outdoor therapy require a research course. Some are focused on wilderness therapy while others are generalized in social work. Students can expect to learn different research methods and how they apply to working in a therapeutic/service role.

Cultural Studies

Wilderness and outdoor therapy programs generally include a course on culture to prepare students for the diversity of patients they will encounter. Graduates will gain exposure to different cultures, social justice, and oppression. These courses also discuss the cultural elements of therapy.

Human Behavior/Development

Students can expect to experience a general overview of human behavior and social development from these courses. They touch on crises, disabilities, wellness, and how these aspects impact behaviors and development of human beings over time. Legal considerations are brought up, as well.


Psychology courses are required in these programs. Specifically, most universities offer an eco-psychology and/or a meditation psychology course to prepare graduates for dealing with patients as an outdoor therapist. Students will learn how to be effective while working with a challenging group/patient.

What You Will Need to Get In

Most graduate schools offering wilderness and outdoor therapy programs require an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, GRE scores, and at least three letters of recommendation to be considered. You should also be prepared to write a personal essay or statement of interest as to why you want to pursue this degree. Undergraduate performance is considered; however, feel free to apply with any degree--most schools don't have a specific bachelor's degree requirement. With this said, some programs require at least two years of experience working in the field of outdoor education.

Wilderness and outdoor therapy is an exciting field if you have a passion for nature and helping others. Be prepared to take practical, unique coursework, and make sure to meet all of the application requirements before you decide to apply to a program.

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