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Stories from the Field: Mental Health and the Outdoors

Jun 29, 2021

This episode examines research studies regarding transporting teens to wilderness therapy programs with Dr. Christine Norton, a research scientist at the OBH Center at UNH. Transporting unwilling participants to wilderness therapy programs has been referred to as "escorting," "gooning," as well as "legal kidnapping" and is one of the more controversial aspects of the field. Dr. Norton reviews transport research studies, how the research can help inform practice, and changes she is seeing in the field regarding this practice.


Dr. Norton's Bio from the OBH Center website: 

Christine Lynn Norton, PhD, LCSW, is a Professor of Social  Work at Texas State University. She received her  Ph.D in Social Work from Loyola University Chicago. She has a Master of Arts in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago, and a Master of Science in Experiential Education from Minnesota State University-Mankato.  She has taught as adjunct faculty at The University of Denver, Prescott College, and Naropa University. Dr. Norton has over 25 years experience working with adolescents and families in a variety of practice settings including community and wilderness-based outdoor behavioral healthcare programs, juvenile justice, youth and family counseling, school social work, and youth mentoring and educational empowerment programs. Her areas of practice and research interest and expertise are in innovative, experiential interventions in child and adolescent mental health; outdoor behavioral healthcare; experiential education and adventure therapy; positive youth development; foster care support in higher education; and international social work. Dr. Norton is a Research Scientist with the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Center and she helped launch Foster Care Alumni Creating Educational Success (FACES) at Texas State. She is the Foster Care Liaison Officer to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and is the founder of the Foster Care Adventure Therapy Network, an international group of programs and practitioners who utilize adventure therapy with current and former foster care youth and young adults. Dr. Norton has over 40 peer-reviewed journal articles, has edited three books, and has authored over ten book chapters. She has secured over $3,179,154 in internal and external research funding as PI and co-investigator, and is a leading social work scholar who has presented her research nationally and internationally. Dr. Norton is active in study abroad and service learning on her campus, and is a Fulbright Scholar, having taught adventure therapy in the Department of Civic Education and Leadership at National Taiwan Normal University from January-June 2017. She also served as a delegate for Women4Peace, a U.S. State Department 100KStrong in the Americas grant, working to bring experiential peacebuilding strategies to rural women and girls in Columbia.

Before becoming a researcher and academic, Dr. Norton worked for Outward Bound (OB) as an instructor and a course director for Intercept, OB's youth-at-risk program. She also worked as a clinical social worker with the Journey program, OMNI Youth Services' outdoor experiential therapy program. She has also been active in the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) for over 20 years.  She has helped to establish best practices in adventure therapy, and served as the Chair of the AEE Therapeutic Adventure Professional Group (TAPG). She is currently on the TAPG Advisory Council, has assisted with AEE/OBH accreditation site visits, is a member of the TAPG Certification Standards Committee, and is also an ActivatEE team member and speaking coach. For her service and research, Dr. Norton received both the 2014 AEE Servant Leader Award, as well as the 2017 AEE Distinguished Researcher of the Year Award. She also served as one of two U.S. delegates to the International Adventure Therapy Conference (IATC) from 2009-2015. In this role, Dr. Norton convene 7IATC in Denver, in partnership with Dr. Christian Itin, and was an Ambassador for 8IATC. Dr. Norton remains active with the international adventure therapy community, engaging in global research partnerships and trainings.