Wendy Wei Motulsky

Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Spring 5-13-2015

Major Department or Program

Gender Studies


Suzanne Morrissey


Gender construction and performativity, Foucauldian disciplinary power, and wilderness constructivism are not new objects of academic inquiry and discourse. Yet wilderness therapy, an emerging therapeutic field, remains a largely unexplored topic in gender studies and critical theory. My thesis aims to explore the ways in which wilderness programs harness constructions of gender and the wilderness, as well as subjugating disciplinary practices, for clients’ self-empowerment process. To do so, I use lenses of feminism and eco-feminism. I first define wilderness therapy, a specific type of therapy that takes place in small groups solely in the outdoors, in terms of discourses surrounding gender, power, and the wilderness. By grounding the thesis in these multiple theoretical lenses, as well the websites of Open Sky Wilderness Therapy and Second Nature Wilderness Therapy, the workbook given to students in Open Sky’s adult program (called the Pathway), a first-person narrative I wrote, and interviews with seven graduates of wilderness programs, I examine the contradictions in wilderness therapy to understand how those contradictions influence clients’ self-empowerment. I finish by arguing that wilderness therapy functions as a space of self-empowerment despite problematic treatments of the wilderness, of students’ gender, and of disciplinary power.

Page Count


Subject Headings

Adventure Therapy -- Wilderness Therapy, Empowerment, Ecofeminism -- United States, Therapeutics -- Rehabilitation -- Recreation Therapy, Feminism -- United States -- Sources, Wilderness experience -- Open Sky Wilderness Therapy, Wilderness experience -- Second Nature Wilderness Therapy, Michael Foucault -- Surveiller et punir -- Discipline and Punishment -- Panopticism, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2015 -- Gender Studies

Permanent URL

Document Type

Public Accessible Thesis

Terms of Use

If you have questions about permitted uses of this content, please contact the ARMINDA administrator



Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).