Find the top schools where you can get the latest training to begin your wilderness therapy. These eight programs offer a range of skills where you can earn a certificate or degree in the field.
Wilderness therapy programs span a wide range, but the highest quality programs are staffed by credentialed professionals. If you want to stand out from the competition and work at a program that can truly help turn lives around, then you will need to start your career by participating in a wilderness therapy training program.
Below, we go over some of the best options for earning a wilderness therapy degree or certification. We are also including some programs for “adventure therapy,” as the overlap between the two is strong.
What to Consider When Choosing a Wilderness Therapy Training Program
Since a number of institutions and organizations offer training in this space, you should select a program according to your individual needs. Below are a few things to think about as you are comparing programs.
Your Current Education Level
Quite a few wilderness therapy training programs require you to have a bachelor’s degree in order to apply. There are also some that may require you to be earning a master’s degree at the same institution simultaneously. Consider your academic history and goals when choosing a program.
Accreditation and/or Reputation
Strongly consider taking a course from an accredited university or college. You may find other organizations offering courses as well. If you go through any of them, thoroughly investigate their backgrounds and reputations first. Independent professional organizations that offer certificates will usually require that you complete your coursework at accredited colleges.
Time and Cost
There is a pretty wide range when it comes to credit hours required and costs from program to program. You will need to pick a program that fits within your scheduling and budgetary constraints.
Check out the full list of classes for each program you are thinking about taking. Make sure that you will be learning the specific types of skills you will need to work in your preferred environments and provide therapeutic support through methods that appeal to you.
For example, there are several types of wilderness therapeutic approaches. You may choose to specialize in a specific area of healing such as trauma or grief. Or rather than becoming a licensed therapist, you could instead look for a program that focuses on teaching survival skills or follows the nomadic approach to healing.
Top Wilderness Therapy Training Programs
1. Wilderness Therapy Certificate from the University of Maine
- Cost: Tuition and expenses at the University of Maine
- Length: 27-30 credits
- Prerequisites: None listed
- Website: The University of Maine at Machias
This program offered by the University of Maine combines courses in psychology, sociology, outdoor recreation, and leadership, providing the balanced education you need to change lives for the better through wilderness therapy. By taking this course, you also can become a certified Wilderness First Responder.
Here is the course structure in full. You will see that it includes classes in psychology, mental health systems, outdoor recreation, community experience, outdoor leadership, backcountry expedition skills, first responder techniques, and more. Most of the courses are required, and then you have some elective options to satisfy the remaining credit hour requirements.
2. Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy Concentration from Naropa University
- Cost: Naropa tuition and expenses
- Length: 60 credits, 3 years
- Prerequisites: Master of Arts from Naropa (you must be working toward one at the same time)
- Website: Naropa University Wilderness Courses
If you are looking for a course from a university that brings a spiritual dimension to wilderness therapy, you might think about this Naropa program. Along with incorporating psychology into the coursework, this concentration also integrates meditation and a Buddhist outlook.
Just keep in mind that this is a concentration that is part of a Master of Arts degree, so you need to commit to earning the MA if you want the concentration.
Visit their website for a detailed list of degree requirements and specific classes.
3. Adventure-Based Counseling Certificate – Prescott College
- Cost: Prescott College tuition and expenses
- Length: Five 3-credit courses and four workshops
- Prerequisites: A master’s degree in the mental health field
- Website: Prescott College
Do you have a mental health-related master’s degree? If so, you can take a relatively short track toward certification in adventure therapy by signing up for this program at Prescott College.
Alternately, if you do not have a mental health degree, you might still qualify. Prescott broadly lists “some background in either mental health or outdoor/experiential education.” So, you may want to contact the college for additional details if you believe you could be eligible.
4. BA in Adventure-Based Recreation Therapy from the University of St. Francis
- Cost: University of St. Francis tuition and expenses
- Length: 71 credit hours
- Prerequisites: High school degree or GED
- Website: University of St. Francis
The University of St. Francis offers a bachelor’s degree in “Adventure-Based Recreation Therapy.” Once you conclude the coursework, you will not only earn your BA, but you will also be able to apply for the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist certification.
The classes you take will cover topics like outdoor leadership, adventure sports, psychology, chemical dependency, anatomy and more. This will give you the broad spectrum of training you need to work with adolescents with psychological and substance abuse issues.
You can read a full list of courses required to earn this degree here.
5. AEE Certified Clinical Adventure Therapist Credential (CCAT)
- Cost: $150 application fee if you are a member, $200 if you are not, $60/a year to maintain
- Length: 75 hours of instruction
- Prerequisites: To apply for this credential, you must be a licensed mental health practitioner. You will need a master’s degree or higher.
- Website: The Association for Experiential Education
This is actually a certificate you can earn from the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) rather than a specific training program. But it provides you with the ability to take a flexible approach to your education and credentialing.
To apply for the certificate, you must have a minimum of 75 hours of “adventure therapy specific instruction.” Courses from higher education institutions or“other professional development training” are eligible. A third of the hours can take place online.
6. Wilderness Therapy Specialist Certificate from Red Rocks Community College
- Cost: Red Rocks Community College tuition and expenses
- Length: 31 credit hours
- Prerequisites: None mentioned
- Website: Red Rocks Community College
You can view the full list of classes and credit hours required for this program here.
7. Therapeutic Outdoor Programs Certificate from Indiana University
- Cost: Admission and expenses at Indiana University
- Length: 24 credits
- Prerequisites: You will need a bachelor’s degree and a GPA of 2.5 or higher to apply for this program.
- Website: Indiana University
For students with a bachelor’s degree, a Certificate in Therapeutic Outdoor Programs (TOP) from the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies at Indiana University can open professional doors. The curriculum covers outdoor leadership, adventure facilitation, therapeutic techniques, and more.
You may apply for this program if you are already working toward a graduate degree from Indiana University. But you are also welcome to apply if you are not.
8. Wilderness Therapy Certificate from Southwestern Community College
- Cost: Southwestern Community College tuition and fees
- Length: 16 credit hours
- Prerequisites: High school degree or GED
- Website: Southwestern Community College
This program allows you to quickly earn a certificate in Wilderness Therapy by taking courses on First Responder techniques, therapeutic models, primitive living skills, and more. Unlike a lot of the other colleges on this list, the institution does not require a bachelor’s degree.
This link provides the list of courses and credits to earn the Wilderness Therapy Certificate. Click on the tab with that name to view them. The other certificates listed on this page may interest you as well.
Become a Certified Wilderness Therapist Now
You have now had a chance to explore a wide range of wilderness therapy training programs offered through reputable organizations and institutions.
If you are ready to earn your wilderness therapy certification or degree now, click any of the links in this post to apply.