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A Therapeutic Taskscape: The Relationship Between Troubled Youth, Wilderness Therapy, and a Vermont Landscape

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03/29/2006

The goal of wilderness therapy programs for 'troubled' youth is to make young people into productive, law-abiding citizens. Such programs mobilize spaces in 'nature' as well as outdoor activities to produce identity and behavioral change. The practice of wilderness therapy, then, presents a paradox: How does 'nature' help to civilize anti-social youth?

To pursue this question, and to better understand nature's role in therapy, Cheryl Morse Dunkley conducted ethnographic research at Camp E-Wen-Akee, a therapeutic camping program in Benson, Vt. Camp E-Wen-Akee has provided residential outdoor behavioral health care to adjudicated youth from Vermont and New Hampshire since the 1970s. Over time the camp has developed a unique landscape, one that might be referred to as a therapeutic taskscape.

In this seminar Dr. Dunkley describes how Camp E-Wen-Akee staff members draw on architecture, the Vermont landscape, and outdoor activities to create an environment that both disciplines young people's behaviors and elicits therapeutic moments. This research provides perspective on the relationship between landscape and therapy, as well as the relationship between Vermont's troubled youth and their perceived place in society.

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