The Adventure-Based Recreation Therapy major at USF seeks to prepare students who are interested in helping others develop into their full potential through the use of outdoor experiences.

Students graduating from this major can find themselves working in a field such as Adventure Therapy or Wilderness Therapy. Adventure Therapy seeks to gives outdoor recreation opportunities to individuals with disabilities. This can include adaptive skiing, adaptive canoeing, adaptive rock climbing, and much more. The goal is to provide unique experiences that help the individuals to develop not only great physical freedom but also make social and mental improvements. Wilderness Therapy differs in its approach to development, focusing on the use of the outdoors to help treat at-risk or substance dependent youth and adults. Careers focus on providing outdoor experiences that develop a great sense of personal understanding in the participants.

This major provides a three-pronged approach. A third of the coursework helps the student to develop a level of comfort and skill building in the outdoors while gaining important leadership experience in a wilderness setting. Aanother third of the coursework trains the student in recreational therapy and, once an internship is completed, allows the student to sit for the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist exam. The final third of the coursework is rooted in substance abuse counseling, preparing the student to help individuals through any emotional/mental challenges they may face.


The University of St. Francis is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (, a regional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.


“This major includes courses that support the skills necessary for careers in fields such as therapeutic adventure and wilderness therapy. It provides students with the skills needed to lead outdoor experiences, the psychology skills and theory necessary to fundamentally understand client issues, and a recreational therapy background to help them work with populations with disabilities.”

-Dr. Jerome Gabriel, Ed.D.

What Can You Do With This Degree?

The Midwest region of the U.S. is home to a large number of wilderness therapy and therapeutic adventure programs. There are programs in Chicago, such as Adaptive Adventures, and programs in nearby Wisconsin, such as New Vision Wilderness and Northwest Passage Child and Adolescent Center.

The USF Recreation & Sport Management Program has produced a number of interns and professionals who are already employed in the wilderness therapy and therapeutic adventure fields, including programs like Evoke Wilderness Therapy (Oregon and Utah), Open Sky Wilderness Therapy (Colorado), and through a strategic partnership with the National Sport Center for the Disabled (Colorado).

Grow Through Real-World Experience

Adventure-Based Recreation Therapy students are required to complete a 12-14 week internship at the conclusion of the degree with an appropriate agency. Examples could include National Sport Center for the Disabled, Evoke Wilderness Therapy, Wilderness Inquiry, or New Vision Wilderness Therapy.

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