What is Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH)?

The Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council is an association of outdoor therapeutic programs created to enhance the quality of adventure programs and promote research to support the modality.

As defined by the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council, OBH is the prescriptive use of outdoor experiences by licensed mental health professionals to meet the therapeutic needs of clients.

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  • Back-country travel and outdoor living experiences long enough to allow for clinical assessment, establishment of treatment goals, and a reasonable course of treatment not to exceed the productive impact of the experience
  • Active and direct use of clients’ participation and responsibility in their therapeutic process
  • Continuous group-living and regular formal group therapy sessions to foster teamwork and social interactions, which results in an intentional therapeutic community of support and accountability
  • Individual therapy sessions, which are supported by family therapy
  • Adventure experiences utilized to appropriately enhance treatment by fostering the development of eustress (i.e., the positive use of stress) as a beneficial element in the therapeutic experience
  • The use of nature in reality as well as a metaphor within the therapeutic process
  • A strong ethic of care and support throughout the therapeutic experience

At Juniper Canyon and Legacy Treatment Center, Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare is delivered to young adults by experienced professionals. Our staff is trained in therapeutic techniques and interventions, as well as experiential and adventure facilitation. Our licensed clinicians incorporate nature and adventure experiences into individualized treatment designed to meet each client’s needs.

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Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare as Outlined by the OBH Council

  1. Validated through peer-reviewed research. In the past 6 years, there have been over 90 peer-reviewed research articles validating outdoor behavioral healthcare. There has been no peer-reviewed research finding a lack of significance in OBH treatment.
  2. Extensive research database. The National Association for Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) has created a research database to examine the effectiveness of programs addressing behavioral health. Over 9,000 participants of OBH programs are included in this database.
  3. Reimbursement for OBH programming. Claims denial processes have returned over 7 million dollars to families in the past 4 years. This can be calculated as returning payment for 36,000 treatment days.
  4. Seventeen (17) years of stringent risk management procedures. Seventeen (17) years of research data have demonstrated that participation in OBH programs is actually twice as safe as staying at home.
  5. Rigorous quality control mechanisms were established to ensure high caliber treatment processes. The Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council (OBHC) has partnered with the well-established accreditation program of the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) and produced the clinical criteria for OBH programming. This program was established in 1991, and 22 programs are currently accredited.
  6. Recognized by the American Hospital Association (AHA). A Revenue Code was established by the National Uniform Billing Committee (NUMC) of the AHA for funding outdoor/wilderness behavioral healthcare programming. This revenue code went into effect on July, 1, 2017.
  7. Strong alliances with progressive behavioral health care movements. Alliances have been made with organizations such as the Kennedy Forum to advance behavioral health care practices and parity in reimbursement.
  8. The high degree of treatment completion. Treatment completion is a key indicator of positive outcomes.  Clients who complete treatment are more likely to achieve therapeutic success. 93% completion rate for OBH, compared with 42% for treatment as usual.
  9. Demonstration of cost-effectiveness. Given the high rate of treatment completion, OBH can be as little as 25% of the cost of treatment as usual.
  10. Validation through state and federal licensing bodies. Several states (i.e. Utah) have recently revised legislation to align with federal guidelines (i.e. Parity Act, intermediate level of care).