Strength, Spirit, and Healing: Perspectives on Wilderness-Based Programming for Girls

Emily Gaarder, Arizona State University

This paper considers the theoretical perspectives and practical outcomes involving wilderness-based programs for girls. It reflects on three years of personal experience as a counselor for adolescent girls in a wilderness-based correctional program. I discuss various components of wilderness programming, including adventure-based expeditions and solo experiences, and their effect on self-esteem, spiritual growth, body image, and healing from sexual/physical abuse. I also consider how gender, race, and culture influence outdoor/nature experiences. I conclude by outlining the importance of an ecological perspective in social/criminal justice, and suggest that ecofeminist perspectives communicate important connections between the oppression of women and the oppression of nature. More specifically, they may help us understand and interpret the therapeutic value of wilderness experiences for girls.

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Updated 05/20/2006