UMM to offer certificates in growing field of wilderness therapy

A new certificate program at the University of Maine at Machias will combine the outstanding recreation opportunities of the Down East region with coursework in behavioral and community health, says Mark Douglas, an instructor in recreation and tourism management at the university.

With the completion of eight courses and an internship, students may now earn a certificate in wilderness therapy, a behavioral healthcare model in which nature-based education experiences are combined with individual or group counseling. The new certificate will combine elements of two established degree programs at UMM — Psychology and Community Studies and Recreation and Tourism Management. Students will explore psychological and sociological theory, and have outdoor experiential learning opportunities.

The U.S. Department of Labor has projected that demand for recreational therapists will grow 7 percent in the next eight years.

“This is a unique certificate program which provides students with practical knowledge, skills and abilities they’ll need to succeed in the growing field of nature-based therapy,” adds Douglas.

First-year UMM student Patrick Bassett says he witnessed the behavioral health benefits of outdoor recreation firsthand while growing up in Pleasant Point.

“We couldn’t afford to go to Six Flags or Disney World,” he says of his childhood, “but we could go in the woods or on the hiking trails.”

Bassett believes that his peers who spent more time in nature were able to maintain better physical and mental health. The recreation and tourism management major is now pursuing a certificate in wilderness therapy and says he hopes to use the skills he’s learning to help disadvantaged youth.

Several of the required courses for the certificate will be offered on campus this summer and fall, and online. Military veterans may be eligible to obtain credit for prior experience.

For more information on the new certificate program in wilderness therapy, visit the certificate webpage or call 255.1318.