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Mental health outcomes of peer-led therapeutic adventure for military veterans

APA Citation:

Bettmann, J.E., Anderson, I., Makouske, J., & Hanley, A. (2022). Mental health outcomes of peer-led therapeutic adventure for military veterans. Journal of Experiential Education, 45(3), 295-315. https://doi.org/10.1177/10538259211049535

Abstract Created by REACH:

Longitudinal data were used to examine whether a brief (i.e., three-day, two-night), therapeutic, peer-led camping trip with the Sierra Club’s Military Outdoors program reduced mental health symptoms (i.e., stress, depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD], alcohol misuse, and suicidality) among Veterans (N = 56). Veterans reported on their mental health symptoms at 5 points: pre-trip, post-trip (i.e., immediately following the trip), and at 1-, 6-, and 12-month follow-ups. In general, compared to pre-trip symptomatology, Veterans’ mental health symptoms decreased immediately following the trip. However, few sustained effects were observed over time (i.e., at 6- and 12-month follow-ups).


Mental health
Substance use

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:


Subject Affiliation:



Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Quantitative Study
Longitudinal Study


Bettmann, Joanna Ellen, Anderson, Ileana, Makouske, Joe, Hanley, Adam


Background: Skepticism of therapy and stigma are significant barriers for veterans with mental health issues. Therapeutic adventure shows promise in addressing veterans’ mental health needs while circumventing the stigma many veterans face in initiating treatment. Purpose: Given the small group model of therapeutic adventure programs, such programs may be ideal to provide social support for veterans and reduce mental health symptomology. The present study investigated: can a brief peer-led therapeutic adventure program modify veterans’ mental health symptoms? Methodology/Approach: The study's sample included 56 participants attending one Sierra Club Military Outdoors trip lasting at least three days and two nights and involving camping. Participants completed study measurements assessing depression, anxiety, stress, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms, substance misuse symptoms, and suicidality at pre-trip, post-trip, one-month post trip, six-months post trip, and 12-months post trip. Six-month and 12-month post-trip data was collected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings/Conclusions: Results indicated significant reduction in mental health symptomology from pre-trip to post-trip, but showed few longer-term changes in mental health symptomology. Implications: The present study's findings are consistent with research suggesting improvements in overall psychological well-being immediately following a nature-based intervention and suggest the need for on-going, community-based interventions to support optimally military veterans’ mental health.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:


Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

University of Utah, Salt Lake City, JEB
University of Utah, Salt Lake City, IA
Westminster College, Salt Lake City, JM
University of Utah, Salt Lake City, AH


therapeutic adventure, outdoor, nature exposure

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


Sierra Club (grant number 10050256)

REACH Newsletter:

  December 2022

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