Nature and adventure, based program for the well-being of at-risk adolescents - Pediatric Research Foundation
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The research project, based on close collaboration between researchers at the Université de Sherbrooke and partners at CISSS-de-la-Montérégie-Centre, aims to document the effects of the HORIZON program, a nature and adventure-based intervention developed at CISSS-de-la-Montérégie-Centre.

The program aims to better meet the needs of at-risk youth who do not respond well to traditional therapy. Nature and adventure-based psychotherapeutic interventions provide an innovative and promising clinical avenue, given the documented benefits. Nature and adventure-based therapy takes an interdisciplinary approach, combining psychology, psychoeducation, health and education.

HORIZON builds on the strengths-based theoretical approach (Weick et al., 1989), the self-determination theory (Ryan and Deci, 2000) and the experiential learning model of adventure programming (Priest and Grass, 2017).


The project is innovative and distinctive in that:

  • it examines an original intervention approach that differs from traditional mental health services for adolescents
  • it provides an anchor for interdisciplinary research, bringing together researchers from different disciplines (social work, education and medicine) and collaborators working in the field, in keeping with the interdisciplinary nature of the program.
  • by design, it gives young people a voice.


  • Increase self-esteem and sense of competence
  • Improve the ability to manage emotions, particularly anxiety
  • Promote the development of social skills


The project is based on a mixed methods research design (quantitative and qualitative data). Project participants will be 40 young people aged 13 to 17 receiving treatment at the CISSS de la Montérégie-Centre (or in the Montérégie-Ouest or Montérégie-Est sectors), divided into 4 cohorts. Each cohort will be drawn from a separate program.

To assess effects on well-being and general functioning, the Youth Outcome Questionnaire (Y-OQ) will be completed by the young people and their parents (at 3 time points: pre, post and follow-up). Participants will complete 3 other questionnaires at the same 3 times points: Beck 3 Anxiety Inventory (BAI), Self-Efficacy Questionnaire for Children (SEQC); and Social Skills Improvement System (SSIC). Semi-structured one-on-one interviews with the youth and their practitioners will allow us to explore different aspects in greater depth. Each participant’s personal goals will be objectivized with help from the practitioners.

Finally, the skills acquired in the preparatory workshops and their generalizability, i.e., incorporation into daily life, will be assessed by means of a journal filled out weekly by the participants and group interviews by cohort. A designated person will complete observation grids as a means of collecting implementation data (e.g., attendance, unforeseen events, etc.) over the course of the 3 intervention components.


Problems linked to mental health are becoming increasingly prevalent among adolescents, and there is a critical need for support and prevention.

A pilot project carried out in summer 2022 (Lagueux et al., 2023) indicates that HORIZON is more likely to engage young people. A number of reviews have also highlighted positive effects associated with outdoor interventions with young people in the short and long term, including effects on general well-being (e.g., Harper, 2009), self-esteem (e.g., Norton, 2008), feelings of self-efficacy (e.g., Behrens, 2008) and social skills (Goldenberg and Pronsolino, 2008).

From a social and economic standpoint, HORIZON could bolster the mental health services available to teenagers in difficulty across Quebec. Because the program unfolds outdoors in a natural setting, it has the potential to raise participants’ awareness of certain environmental issues.


This funding will support the creation of a discussion forum where the team of researchers and stakeholders from the CISSS-de-la-Montérégie will discuss and make decisions for improving practices and the continuity and coordination of services.

The support will also strengthen the research team’s position when applying for broader financial support to objectivize the effectiveness of the program through its future development (e.g., new target groups, other implementation methods, etc.), as well as the implementation challenges encountered.


Principal researcher

  • Fabienne Lagueux, Ph.D. Chercheure principale, Université de Sherbrooke Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines (Psychologie de l’enfance et adolescence)


  • CISSS-de-la-Montérégie-Centre : Monsieur Richard Deschamps, TS, MA, MAP Président-directeur général ; Madame Josée Rivard Directrice du programme jeunesse
  • Danyka Therriault, Faculté d’éducation (Psychoéducation)
  • Jean-Philippe Ayotte-Beaudet, Faculté d’éducation (Enseignement au préscolaire et primaire)
  • Jessica Rassy, Faculté de médecine et des sciences de la santé (École de sciences infirmières)
  • Marie-Ève Langelier, Faculté de médecine et des sciences de la santé
  • Véronique Parent, Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines (Psychologie de l’enfance et adolescence)

Research Center

  • Centre de recherche du CHU de Sherbrooke

Funded year


Project category

  • Neurodevelopment and mental health