Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies Program

Committee Chair

Neva Hassanein

Commitee Members

Darrell Stolle, Tom Roy


agricultural therapy, at-risk youth, horticultural therapy, restorative justice, wilderness therapy, youth harvest


University of Montana


In the mid-1990s, juvenile courts began establishing youth drug courts that blended the principles of restorative justice and the philosophy of therapeutic jurisprudence in an attempt to process juvenile drug offenders in a way that emphasizes rehabilitation of the offenders and restoration to the community. Over recent decades, wilderness therapy programs and horticultural therapy programs have become popular as alternative approaches for treating adjudicated and/or “at-risk” youth. The Youth Harvest program, which operates in conjunction with the Missoula Youth Drug Court, is a unique, therapeutic program that blends the goals of National Drug Courts and the principles of restorative justice with elements of both wilderness therapy programs and horticultural therapy programs. Through qualitative research, I have explored the goals and characteristics of Youth Harvest. The study, which began in the summer of 2008 and concluded in December of 2009, included in-depth interviews with program managers and program participants, a photovoice project, and participant observation of the program’s operation. By way of these research methods, I have determined that Youth Harvest is an experiential therapeutic program that offers benefits to its primary participants and to wider community members alike. I have identified the goals and intentions of the program as well as the individual “therapeutic factors” that, altogether, create the experience in which the therapy is embedded. I have concluded that Youth Harvest can serve as a valuable example of a unique way of trying to reach and serve adolescents in need. Due to the limited size of the study group (five adults, four adolescent participants), this research project was intended only to determine the goals and intentions of the program, from the perspective of its adult coordinators, to establish an understanding of what the Youth Harvest experience entails, and to provide a profile of several youths’ responses to participation in the program. It is exploratory in nature and offers recommendations for improvement within the program, as well as ideas for future research.



© Copyright 2009 Rachel Christine O'Brien