Accreditation for Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Programs

What is Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH) Accreditation?


OBH accreditation is a voluntary credentialing program for outdoor behavioral healthcare providers. The treatment of mental health and substance abuse issues typically involve some form of managed health care. Approaches to managing care for clients require specialized knowledge, specific treatment skills, and prescriptive strategies. The field serving these clients is often identified as behavioral healthcare. Companies serving clients in the coverage and management of mental health and substance abuse care involve more than 100 million Americans (SAMHSA, 2012; Trabin & Freeman, 1995).

In 2013 the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council invited AEE to jointly embark upon the expansion of AEE’s existing standards to better reflect the field of wilderness therapy’s current practices. This resulted in the creation of a detailed set of ethical, risk management, and treatment standards created by longstanding leaders in OBH, adventure therapy, and wilderness programming.  Click here for an overview of the accreditation process.

OBH programming can be defined as the prescriptive use of wilderness experiences by licensed mental health professionals to meet the therapeutic needs of clients. OBH programming consists of:

  • Extended backcountry travel and wilderness living experiences long enough to allow for clinical assessment, establishment of treatment goals, and a reasonable course of treatment not to exceed the productive impact of the experience,
  • Active and direct use of clients’ participation and responsibility in their therapeutic process,
  • Continuous group-living and regular formal group therapy sessions to foster teamwork and social interactions (excluding solo experiences),
  • Individual therapy sessions, which may be supported by the inclusion of family therapy,
  • Adventure experiences utilized to appropriately enhance treatment by fostering the development of eustress (i.e., the positive use of stress) as a beneficial element in the therapeutic experience,
  • The use of nature in reality as well as a metaphor within the therapeutic process, and;
  • A strong ethic of care and support throughout the therapeutic experience.

Why OBH Accreditation?


OBH accreditation provides impartial validation that your program meets or exceeds standards that have been developed exclusively for wilderness therapy.
Accredited OBH programs have demonstrated that they operate above industry standards of ethical care, treatment evaluation, and risk-management practices.

  • OBH accreditation is solid evidence of a program’s commitment to quality and adherence to professional standards
  • Gain valuable insight and perspective from your peers
  • Distinguish your program in a growing field
  • Improve all aspects of your program through rigorous internal and impartial external review
  • Gain additional benefits of being an AEE accredited member.

The newly designed OBH accreditation from AEE represents another milestone in a rapidly evolving field. OBH accreditation will become THE standard by which all future wilderness treatment programs will be measured.

Contact us for further information about the OBH Accreditation application process.

Read testimonials from AEE accredited programs.
Check out the latest research on OBH programs.