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Program: Wild Warriors
Demographic: Disadvantaged and ‘at risk’ teenage girls
Objective: Outdoor therapy program aimed to address mental health issues
Schedule: 6 weekend events per annum
Wild Warriors is targeted to assist ‘at risk’ young girls with mental health issues, such as anxiety disorder and abuse (e.g. self-harm) through outdoor experience-based therapy. Many of them are less responsive to traditional psychotherapeutic interventions (e.g. indoor counselling sessions) but respond to outdoor experience-based therapy programs, which Wild Warriors provides. Wild Warriors exposes ‘at risk’ young girls to the rich environment in the Northern Rivers (and engages them in activities whilst exploring the Northern Rivers) to improve their mental wellbeing.
Outdoor or ‘wilderness’ therapy
Outdoor therapy uses experiential learning activities in outdoor environments for assessment and intervention at an individual and group level, in order to effect psychological and/or behavioural therapeutic change. Wild Warriors empowers participants by providing activities that involve real obstacles which, although often appearing to be impossible to overcome, are attainable. Outdoor therapies have been shown to provide positive outcomes in youth dealing with mental health disorders.
Our Program and Facilitators
The Wild Warriors program is led by Esther Page and Catherine Hardman. Esther has studied and worked in Special Education and Youth Social Work, and uses these skills to facilitate a fun, supportive and safe environment on the excursions.
Esther and Catherine take groups of 8-13 girls at a time to locations in Byron Bay and surrounds, such as lakes and glow worm caves. The girls are directed to disconnect from social media and switch off their phones during the program and the facilitators lead the girls through basic breathing and meditation exercises, encouraging them to be aware of their surroundings and themselves. The various activities include team-work challenges, exploring the surrounds in small groups, collecting leaves and other items, or a walk to an unknown location. During these activities, facilitators will aim to form deeper connections with the girls and engage in meaningful discussions about their lives.
Through Wild Warriors, girls are encouraged to be authentic and develop fun and meaningful interactions with others in a safe atmosphere that may not have been available to them in their lives before. The activities on Wild Warriors excursions also help to improve the mental wellbeing of vulnerable or at-risk young girls by utilising the calming benefits of nature on the body, mind and soul.
The girls that come on these trips, due to various factors, are often isolated and have difficulties connecting with others. Although staff have usually built some connection with them through our interactions at the Clubhouse, the Wild Warriors program enables the girls to be much more open and engaged, resulting in stronger connections with staff at the Clubhouse. These moments in nature provide a rare opportunity for the girls and the facilitators to connect away from the distractions of technology and the pressures of regular life.
Through the outdoor activities, the girls are far more willing to talk about their mental health and other related difficulties. In addition, being in nature has a calming effect and a noticeable impact on girls we know to struggle with anxiety, both at the location and even afterwards as the breathing and meditation techniques can be practised at any time. Furthermore, the activities allow the girls to build skills in interpersonal communication, problem solving, team work, strategic thinking, and perseverance. The behavioural techniques and mental health promoted by Wild Warriors also helps prevent exposure to unhealthy or high risk behaviours in adolescence or adulthood, including substance abuse.