Garretson, Bethany, Class of 2014 – (Keene Valley, NY United States)

Practicum Summary:

Genograms to Resources: Wilderness therapy and family dyanmics of at-risk youth

Bethany’s research practicum examines family dynamics of male at-risk adolescents in a New York wilderness therapy program through the creation of genograms. A genogram is created with simple symbols representing gender and lines to illustrate family relationships, which are color-coded with a provided key. In her study, Bethany uses her personal experience as a wilderness therapy guide to interview clients about their family situations, although she changed the names of clients to protect their confidentiality. From the genograms created by participants and follow-up interviews, she found that the overarching characteristics of adolescents considered “at-risk” include the absence of a father figure, a weakened family structure, learning disabilities such as ADHD, lack of self-confidence, academic troubles, overcompensation by mothers, and drug use. The absence of a father in an adolescent’s daily life is often caused by overworking, divorce, and death. Additionally, Bethany found that adopted children often struggle in understanding their situation, and in return develop unproductive coping habits. In order to improve the effectiveness of wilderness therapy programs in the United States, Bethany suggests eliminating unwilling escort services, taking on a more holistic family healing approach, and allowing participants to come to their program on their own, as a mutual decision between the parent and child.