RATIONALE FOR CERTIFICATION OF THE NATIONAL WILDERNESS COUNSELOR

NATWC Certification Board Steve Cockerham, Secretary Outdoor residential treatment programs that serve youth and their families who are having troubles have emerged as powerful resources for transforming circumstances of potential loss in the juvenile justice/mental health systems into instances of success and turnaround. A substantial body of research exists and is being conducted that verifies the effectiveness of outdoor therapeutic programming. Conducting therapy in the natural environment adds features like challenge and adventure that facilitate significant personal growth and youth leadership. The idea of certification for wilderness counseling has been argued and contemplated for a number of years within the fields of adventure therapy, wilderness programming, and experiential education. The historical headlong rush for labeled qualifications has been seen as an affront to authenticity and experientially gained expertise, the acquisition of degrees a specialization at best and an accouterment essentially. An intensive discussion and extended period of time for argument and reflection have been necessary and naturally appreciated in the context of integrity and process of the group -the practitioners and their constituents. A majority now exists that a standard of training, ethical behavior, and education should characterize the counselor who works with youth benefiting from outdoor therapeutic programming. As a relatively new model for assisting youth and families, incidents of mortal events can shock an uninformed public, inciting reaction in a rush to find the culprit. When a death has occurred at a particular program, some reports have indicted the entire industry. Since risk management studies have revealed wilderness programming about as safe as gym class, such accusations are very unfair. No one wants accidents or incidents to occur and all want quality and competence to be at the highest. But since these comments are publicized in media, the time has come to answer the question of training, education, and competence with a specific and recognized attainment. These attacks sensationalize events and often make conclusions about wilderness programs based on these incidents. Although some articles do take a broader perspective and acknowledge the many successes, some popular magazines question this type of program and conclude that they should not be utilized. Quite commonly, the articles confuse wilderness programs with boot camp programs, failing to acknowledge that these are two different approaches that work for two different kinds of problem circumstances. Some of the deaths have occurred in programs that offer questionable training and permit poorly trained and qualified staff to deal with overwhelming issues. Sadly, this occurs in every industry, especially in times of poor funding for social services, and certainly is a risk in many activities no one would ever ban such as boating, skiing, football, driving. The National Association of Therapeutic Wilderness Camps emerged in the early 90’s to offer training, research, and support for outdoor therapeutic programming, eventually collaborating on a professional development program for counselors. The counselor recognition program was created and has served as the basis for the requirements of certification. Many individuals have contributed ideas about the competencies and qualifications of wilderness counselors, which evolved into a way to recognize counselors who have reached succeeding levels of accomplishment. Years of writing and revision along with comment periods

Approval or reply indicating needed documentation will follow NATWC processing. national examination. wilderness counselors must demonstrate the ability to perform a number of advanced skills that are commonly employed in therapeutic . Certification for national wilderness counselors encompasses the highest features of professional qualifications by incorporating peer review. III. intern/residency requirements. religion. The competencies as listed for certification will undergo regular review to maintain best practices. The list of skills and competencies consists of a checklist that permits the determination of accomplishments. race. Public notice thru the NATWC journal will alert constituents to make comment in verbal or written form.and further refinement have produced the series of skills and competencies recognized as appropriate for three levels of certification. A standing committee designated by the Board determines operating procedures with full Board oversight. In addition. Successive levels of certification add to its capacity for guiding professional development and enhancing recognized competency. political identity. ADMINISTRATIVE DECLARATIONS I. Concurrently. physical disability. National Wilderness Counselor Certification is constructed on a three-tiered basis with initial certification as a national wilderness counselor. Recognition for that exemplary performance is explicitly stated with a concurrent expectation of suitable reference and documentation of knowledge and expertise. Documentation of achievement including transcripts from regionally accredited colleges and universities is completed and forwarded to the certification committee of NATWC for examination. The National Association of Therapeutic Wilderness Camps is sponsoring the certification of wilderness counselors in collaboration with East Tennessee State University. The procedure for obtaining certification is modeled after other forms of certifying individuals based on a combination of educational attainment and demonstrable skills. NATWC embraces the learning enabled from advanced study. sexual orientation. college. requiring the achievement of skills and competencies detailed in the listing for designation to one of three levels of certification. and graduate school. then later upgrades accompanying achievement of additional degree and competency requirements for senior and master wilderness counselor. NATWC believes in equal access to recognition of qualification for certification in wilderness counseling regardless of sex. Wilderness counselors are recognized for their achievements in high school. The authority to administer National Wilderness Counselor Certification resides with the Board of Directors of the National Association of Therapeutic Wilderness Camping. national or geographic origin. II. and performance assessment. acknowledging a level of certification that demands certain kinds of degrees. veteran status. degree accomplishments. or socioeconomic status. IV. A developmental approach to certification has been designed to validate the intensive training provided by quality wilderness and adventure programs as well as incorporate the benefit of bachelor and graduate degrees. Individuals desiring to meet certification requirements can demonstrate achievement thru a qualifying score on a national exam and then personally to a person authorized in the procedures for certification.

Internship hours are acceptable if listed as part of a regionally accredited college transcript with this course title. NATSAP. Applicants for certification must prove their competencies by demonstrating their ability to meet the performance requirements. VI. AEE (Association of Experiential Education). These skills are taught by specially trained professionals who can assess mastery and provide formal acknowledgement of competency attainment. Length of time varies based on level of certification (500 to 2000 hours). This certification contains some requirements that can be achieved thru receiving other specific types of standardized training such as Red Cross First Aid. *Mental impairment sufficient to interfere with duties of employment. and similar professional associations and organizations as well as appropriate licensure for facility operation generally qualify the site for meeting this requirement. or mountaineering. Verifiable personnel records are necessary to validate this requirement. and similar organizations. *Persons without a high school diploma or GED are not eligible for certification. etc. In addition. This is done by examination from a duly designated individual who has already completed the requirements for certification. The job. Educational levels must be verified by official transcript from the regionally accredited college or university where the most recent degree was obtained. Volunteer hours can be computed at half the rate of employed hours and do need documentation from the organization. .00 for processing. not consistently away from actual counseling or teaching. intern. Documents that indicate certification will be sent to successful applicants and records of their accomplishment will be maintained. A national exam must be completed with minimal scores as additional proof of competency. VII. Final receipt of certification requirements necessitates an additional fee of $25. *Conviction of a felony. Organizational memberships in AEE.00. *Internship/training residency must be NATWC Approved. NATWC reserves the right to exclude certification for appropriate reasons. Wilderness First Responder. assessment workshops to authenticate skills can be attended at a number of national and regional conferences such as those planned by NATWC. OBHIC. VIII. Applicants can receive contact information about where to contact persons who can officially determine certification. V. Maintenance of certification is fulfilled by obtaining related training or education each year and paying an annual maintenance fee of $25. Examples include but are not limited to: *Minors under the age of 18 are not eligible for certification. The cost for application is $35.wilderness programming. (Set 9/03 and subject to change) IX. or volunteer position must be one that places the individual in a treatment or educational role. Proof of meeting these requirements must be documented and updated according to the applicable area of expertise.00. Supervision prior to certification is often required in other fields and is an expectation in this process. NATSAP (National Association for Therapeutic Schools and Programs). NOHSE (National Organization of Human Service Education).

time and process are the counselor’s greatest allies. Challenge by choice must surround every decision. The group is the focus of responsibility and activity yet each individual must be guided by what is held to be sacred. Responsible care must negate intervention that can be characterized as damaging and negative. . understanding. the essential belief that people will thrive under conditions of freedom. The most important concern of the wilderness counselor is the health and safety of the participants. The individual certified as a national wilderness counselor fundamentally adheres to a code of ethics based on the natural evolution of humans toward growth and development.X. and love.

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