Best Practices Position Statement

At OBHC Programs, we embark on a journey of continuous improvement, driven by a commitment to providing a transformative outdoor behavioral health experience for individuals and families. Our practices are not just rooted in dedication but are substantiated by research, ensuring that every aspect of our programs aligns with the latest findings in the field.

Prioritizing Physical Safety:

Our emphasis on safety is not merely a claim but a proven commitment. Research by Gass and Javorski (2013) over a decade demonstrates that OBHC programs exhibit statistically superior safety records compared to mainstream after-school sports. We prioritize safety by annually refining our practices based on reported incidents, ensuring a secure and nurturing environment.

Fostering a Healthy Environment:

Our programs go beyond traditional approaches. Backed by evidence-based practices, we cultivate a healthy environment through a balanced diet, risk reduction policies, and trauma-informed, LGBTQ+ friendly practices. Our dedication to the well-being of participants is informed by research, guaranteeing the effectiveness of our treatment modalities.

Providing Individualized Treatment:

Understanding that each individual is unique, our treatment plans are carefully tailored. Drawing from research in psychotherapy (Kazdin & Blase, 2011), our client-centered approach ensures that treatment plans fit within program components and acknowledge diverse capabilities. Age, cognitive abilities, and diagnoses are taken into account, providing a personalized and accommodating approach.

Delivering Robust Clinical Services:

Our commitment to positive change is manifested through cutting-edge modalities in individual and group therapy. Research by Norcross and Wampold (2011) validates the importance of evidence-based therapy relationships, reinforcing our focus on fostering a supportive therapeutic environment led by a qualified and compassionate staff.

Promoting Family Involvement:

Recognizing the impact of active parental participation, we commit to treating the whole family. Empirical support from Diamond, Russon, and Levy (2016) emphasizes the significance of attachment-based family therapy. Our programs ensure numerous

touchpoints for therapeutic contact, family processing, and parent-specific coaching, amplifying the healing process.

Commitment to Continuous Improvement:

Our dedication to continuous improvement is not just a philosophy but a structured approach. Research by McHugh and Barlow (2012) underscores the importance of dissemination and implementation of psychological treatments for ongoing enhancement. Engaging in peer mentorship and upholding high standards, we actively participate in outcome-based research, feedback, accreditation, and best practices sharing.

Creating a Supervised Milieu:

Understanding the impact of peer environments on well-being, our programs prioritize a supervised and healthy peer environment. Research by Pellegrini and Smith (1998) highlights the significance of physical activity play in child development, and we integrate these insights into our programs, encouraging open sharing and fostering a sense of belonging.

Harnessing The Power of the Outdoors:

Incorporating an integrated experiential approach, we highlight the power of the outdoors for self-efficacy, peak experiences, and mindfulness. Research by Bratman, Hamilton, and Daily (2012) emphasizes the positive impacts of nature experience on cognitive function and mental health, informing our immersive outdoor experiences and “digital detox” practices.

Embracing a Humanistic Approach:

Our view of adolescents as inherently good, supported to determine their values and beliefs, is inspired by the humanistic approach championed by Carl Rogers (1961). This philosophy, coupled with the physical and emotional safety provided by our treatment staff, creates an environment where individuals can relax and engage in the therapeutic process.

Developing Soft Skills and Navigating Safe Relapses:

Drawing from Linehan’s work (1993), adolescents in our programs learn and practice soft skills, including effective coping, communication, emotional regulation, and mindfulness. Research by Bettmann, Martinez Gutierrez, Esrig, Blumenthal, and Mills (Accepted) further guides our approach, emphasizing the appropriateness and benefits of exploring new patterns and behaviors in a safe wilderness therapy setting.

In essence, our narrative is not just a promise but a reflection of our unwavering commitment supported by research. At OBHC Programs, we continually evolve, driven by a dedication to excellence and a genuine desire to make a positive impact on the lives of those we serve.

References – Physical Safety:

1. Gass, M., & Javorski, S. (2013). “10-year incident monitoring trends in Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare: Lessons learned and future directions.” Journal of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, 6, 113-129.

Healthy Environment:

2. Beets, M. W., & Okely, A. D. (2006). “Understanding and promoting physical activity in the after-school setting.” Journal of School Health, 76(7), 325-331.

3. Finkelstein, D. M., Hill, E. L., & Gortmaker, S. L. (2013). “A cost-effectiveness model of behavioral interventions to promote physical activity in after-school programs.” The Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 36(5), 523-536.

Individualized Treatment:

4. Kazdin, A. E., & Blase, S. L. (2011). “Rebooting psychotherapy research and practice to reduce the burden of mental illness.” Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(1), 21-37.

5. Lambert, M. J., & Barley, D. E. (2001). “Research summary on the therapeutic relationship and psychotherapy outcome.” Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 38(4), 357-361.

Robust Clinical Services:

6. Norcross, J. C., & Wampold, B. E. (2011). “Evidence-based therapy relationships: Research conclusions and clinical practices.” Psychotherapy, 48(1), 98-102.

Family Involvement:

7. Diamond, G., Russon, J., & Levy, S. (2016). “Attachment-based family therapy: A review of the empirical support.” Family Process, 55(3), 595-610.

Continuous Improvement:

8. McHugh, R. K., & Barlow, D. H. (2012). “The dissemination and implementation of psychological treatments for depression in adults: A systematic review.” Behaviour Research and Therapy, 50(9), 607-621.

9. Bickman, L. (2008). “A measurement feedback system (MFS) is necessary to improve mental health outcomes.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 47(10), 1114-1119.

Supervised Milieu:

10. Pellegrini, A. D., & Smith, P. K. (1998). “Physical activity play: The nature and function of a neglected aspect of play.” Child Development, 69(3), 577-598.

The Power of the Outdoors:

11. Bratman, G. N., Hamilton, J. P., & Daily, G. C. (2012). “The impacts of nature experience on human cognitive function and mental health.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1249(1), 118-136.

Humanistic Approach:

12. Rogers, C. R. (1961). “On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy.” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Development of Soft Skills:

13. Linehan, M. M. (1993). “Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder.” Guilford Press.

Safe Relapses and Intervention:

14. Bettmann, J. E., Martinez Gutierrez, N., Esrig, R., Blumenthal, E., & Mills, L. (Accepted). “Who declines and who thrives in adolescent wilderness therapy?” Child and Youth Care Forum.

Today, the OBH Council is made up of 19 member programs, all of which are required to hold outdoor behavioral healthcare accreditation standards through the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) as well as meet other member expectations. We’re committed to implementing treatment approaches that meet and exceed standards of practice in the treatment of mental, behavioral, and relational distress.

In the spirit of evolving practices, members of our Best Practices Committee met to discuss legislation in Oregon and Utah regarding youth transport, and develop a set of recommendations for accreditation standards specific to the use of professional transport. Recommendations for accreditation were provided to Association for Experiential Education (AEE), a third-party accreditor for OBH Council programs. These recommendations are currently in review by the AEE accreditation council for consideration, which will be at the sole discretion of AEE on how these standards will be set for the AEE-OBH Accreditation standards. In the meantime, OBH Council member programs are committed and are held to the following requirements.

Below are member expectations that are in the scope of practice of the OBH Council, as we are not an accrediting organization, but do enforce expectations for all member programs.

OBH Council members must adhere to the following membership expectations relating to professional transportation to OBH programs: 

  • Member programs will conduct a risk assessment during a client’s application process that will determine the least restrictive option of helping clients enter needed treatment.
  • If risk factors indicate that a professional transport would be the safest method, then families would have the option to utilize a third-party professional transport agency that complies with local and federal laws, and adheres to ethical best practices. 
  • Member programs that receive clients via professional transport will have a grievance process and a post-transport debrief process in place to further support the client throughout treatment. 

These expectations demonstrate OBH Council’s commitment to educating, reducing risk, retraumatization and minimizing harm, while increasing options for families as they seek treatment for their loved ones.