Military Behavioral Health
Mountain Wilderness, Combat Veterans, Psychological Health
The purpose of this quasi-experimental pilot study was to evaluate the efficacy of a 3.5day outdoor wilderness program (Huts for Vets, HFV) for reducing psychological distress, PTSD symptoms, and improving positive mood states. It was hypothesized that participation in the HFV program would predict improvements in psychosocial well-being in addition to reductions in PTSD symptomatology relative to a waiting-list control group. Participants included 51 adult veterans diagnosed with PTSD and/or some other combat-related disability (Mage = 36.8, SD = 8.19). The experimental group (n=32) participated in the HFV program, which included hiking and group discussions. Data collection via psychosocial scale administration took place two weeks prior to the HFV trip, on the last day of the trip, and at a 6-week follow-up. Participants in the control group (n=19) underwent the psychosocial assessments on the same schedule, however, they did not participate in the outdoor program. Results indicated significant and sustained reductions in depression, anxiety, somatic stress, negative affect, and PTSD symptoms among program participants, alongside acute improvements in positive moods, relative to the control group. The current findings suggest that therapeutic recreation offers promising benefits as a complementary intervention for combat veterans.
Vella, Elizabeth J. PhD; Lyman, Taylor; and Lovering, Taylor, "Pilot Study: The Effects of a Mountain Wilderness Experience on Combat Veteran Psychosocial Wellness" (2023). Faculty Publications. 102.