Study supports effectiveness of wilderness-based therapy programs

Here’s the press release from Circles Recovery Center:

Outcomes Research Study Reveals Strong Effectiveness of Wilderness-Based Therapy Programs For Young Adults Struggling With Substance Abuse and Dependence

Four Circles Recovery Center is raising the bar in treatment by better understanding their
treatment population, improving the quality of programming

HORSESHOE, N.C. (July 22, 2013) – Four Circles Recovery Center, a state of the art wilderness-based addictions, substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders treatment program, in cooperation with the Center for Research, Assessment, and Treatment Efficacy (“CReATE”) and the Intervention Sciences Laboratory at the University of Arkansas, recently announced long-awaited results of one of the most comprehensive treatment outcomes studies of its kind. Results of the multi-year, longitudinal study strongly support the use of wilderness-based interventions, such as those practiced at Four Circles Recovery Center, in treating young adults with substance use disorders and comorbid psychopathology. One year post-treatment data shows that approximately 92 percent of participants reported persistent improvements in symptoms of substance abuse and dependence, while indicating that they acquired the necessary skills to better manage wellness and recovery.

Given the significant economic, emotional and health impact of substance use disorders, the study was conducted to advance understanding of the effectiveness of outdoor behavioral healthcare (also known as wilderness therapy) in vulnerable populations, particularly among young adults with substance abuse and/or dependency.

“With the dramatic rise in substance abuse and dependency over the past few decades, there is a dire need for more research in this field, especially among young adults who have a heightened risk associated with substance experimentation, and who are typically less motivated and committed to recovery,” said Jack Kline, MS, LPC, LCAS, LPCS, CCS, Executive Director of Four Circles Recovery Center. “We are pleased to be able to offer a deeper look into this population to better understand their needs for an effective and sustained recovery.”

The prospective, IRB (Institutional Review Board) approved, multi-site clinical study sampled young adults from three treatment sites: two wilderness-based treatment programs and one treatment-as-usual inpatient program. The study assessed participants at five time-points over the duration of the study including admission to treatment, mid-point of treatment, treatment graduation, three months after graduation, and 12 months after graduation. The study design included multiple validated self-report instruments, standardized interviews with trained staff, and extensive evaluation of the frequency and severity of substance abuse.

Results show significant symptom remission across multiple life domains. Improved symptoms include those associated with substance abuse and dependency, including but not limited to impairment in relationships and overall functioning, negative consequences, cravings, and maladaptive coping – all secondary to substance use. Symptoms of co-occurring disorders also improved markedly, including depression, anxiety, panic disorder, suicidality, and sleep disruption. Positive indices increased as well, including quality of life and healthy interpersonal functioning. During the longitudinal phase of the study, 71% of study participants reported persistent and positive treatment effects three months after graduation; one year following program completion, 62% of participants maintained treatment gains, successfully managing their recovery.

“These outcomes represent the continued hard work, persistence, and effort of many, many people,” said Sarah (Salli) Lewis, Ph.D., Principal Investigator and Director of the Research Division of CReATE. “With these data, the available evidence on the effectiveness of wilderness therapy is accumulating. This is a very positive step for the scientific and the treatment communities alike. The empirical evidence for a wilderness-based model of therapeutic services has lagged historically behind the popularity of these programs. As we gain greater and more rigorous scientific data, we make critical advances in closing the gap between science and practice.”

These data are in the process of being submitted for peer review and publication in professional journals.

About Four Circles Recovery Center
Four Circles Recovery Center is an innovative, state of the art addictions, substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders treatment program for young adults ages 18 to 28 that combines a traditional counseling setting with a series of wilderness expeditions. Four Circles employs the most effective, cutting-edge clinical modalities from highly skilled masters and doctorate level professionals, with an underlying traditional 12-Step philosophy to create the foundation for sustained recovery.

Four Circles Recovery Center is a program of CRC Health Group, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive network of specialized behavioral health and addiction services. CRC offers the largest array of personalized treatment options, allowing individuals, families, and professionals to choose the most appropriate treatment setting for their behavioral, addiction, weight management and therapeutic education needs. CRC is committed to making its services widely and easily available, while maintaining a passion for delivering advanced treatment. Since 1995, CRC programs have helped individuals and families reclaim and enrich their lives.


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