Standards for private organizations

2020 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 7: Program Activities

Program activities are designed to meet individual needs, build on strengths, develop skills, and promote learning through experience.
2020 Edition




Youth who participate in Wilderness and Adventure-based Therapeutic Outdoor Services expand individual capabilities, develop self-confidence and insight, ameliorate symptoms, and improve interpersonal skills and relationships.
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent. 
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or 
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.      
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Procedures for tailoring activities to the abilities of youth
  • Policy on coercion/force
  • Policy on religious and spiritual observances
  • Program curricula
  • Sample daily schedules for the previous six months
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth or families served
  • Review case records
  • Observe group activities


WT 7.01

The organization provides a structured, therapeutic, interdisciplinary program that includes:
  1. an orderly, planned series of activities to help youth develop positive personal and interpersonal skills and behaviors;
  2. therapeutic, developmentally appropriate, experiential activities;
  3. individual, family, and/or group psychotherapy by qualified mental health professionals when indicated in the service plan and as appropriate to the youth’s needs, length of stay, and accessibility to clinical personnel; and
  4. educational services, when applicable.

Fundamental Practice

WT 7.02

The organization tailors activities to the abilities of youth by: 
  1. planning, adjusting, and graduating experiences to a level of difficulty appropriate for the skill level and capacities of youth;
  2. teaching needed skills and techniques progressively;
  3. providing appropriate support and supervision for less-skilled youth; and
  4. pacing group activities according to the capabilities of the least able or fit member of the team.


WT 7.03

The organization prohibits:
  1. the use of coercion or force to induce youth to engage in a specific adventure-based activity; and
  2. deliberately limiting reasonable options or alternatives to participation.


Organizations are not required to obtain pro-formal verbal agreements for each activity and sub-activity, but must take any strong objections from youth seriously, and examine all implications, such as illness or skill level, and offer encouragement to participate, when needed. 


Organizations that make use of “escort services” to transport youth to any of their programs, sites, and facilities must provide: a complete description of the breadth and scope of such services; referral procedures; how the services are certified, licensed, or regulated by governmental authority or overseen by other mechanisms; and how the organization maintains compliance with this standard. The organization must use only services that are appropriately insured.


WT 7.04

Personnel help youth to learn from their experiences and integrate acquired skills into practice by engaging youth in daily debriefing sessions and formal and informal discussions.


Discussions focused on evaluating individual client needs should be recorded in the case record. Discussions regarding group dynamics and environmental concerns should be recorded in a guide or therapist log.


WT 7.05

The program accommodates the religious and spiritual observances of youth to the greatest extent possible given the service setting.
NA Services are not provided in a residential setting.