Indiana University Bloomington
Therapeutic Outdoor Programs

TOP Links

TOP Graduate Certificate Curriculum

Undergraduate TOP Minor Curriculum

TOP Committee & Faculty


Application Form

Related Links 

Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies

Bradford Woods 

National Center on Accessibility

I.O.L.E. Links

I.O.L.E. Home 


Research Connections

International Journal of Wilderness

Bradford Woods Professional Training Series


Therapeutic Outdoor Programs (TOP) is a 16 credit graduate certificate program, and 15 credit undergraduate minor, offered through the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies (RPTS), providing students and therapeutic outdoor professionals with a comprehensive foundation of the theoretical components and practical application of outdoor adventure therapy. The graduate certificate and TOP minor allow interested students to participate in specific classes that will enhance their ability to effectively teach, assess, and facilitate groups with specific needs in a variety of settings.

In the past 20 years, the number of organizations offering therapeutic outdoor programs has greatly increased providing an often unmet need in medical or therapeutic interventions. TOPs can contribute a unique venue towards improved health and quality of life for diverse populations. However, there are few comprehensive training or educational programs currently available in therapeutic outdoor practice. The Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies TOP Certificate, at Indiana University, offers students the opportunity to bridge a unique skill set of the theoretical and experiential not offered through any other program or department on campus.

Students completing the Therapeutic Outdoor Program certificate, or undergraduate minor, will learn a broad range of therapeutic interventions, philosophical and theoretical foundations, as well as opportunities to develop the experiential skills essential to the profession. Students will also enhance their understanding of the current knowledge, practices, and professional standards associated with therapeutic outdoor programs.


Requirements for the certificate: Completed BA/BS degree, with a 2.5 cumulative GPA. An overall 3.0 GPA minimum is required for the TOP Certificate. Students earning lower than a C- (1.7) in any of the TOP Certificate courses must retake the course.

O504: Therapeutic Outdoor Program Instructorship

This course addresses the techniques, knowledge, and procedures used in the instruction and supervision of individuals and groups with specific needs in Therapeutic Outdoor Programming (TOP) environments. Group leadership, program planning for specific needs populations, teaching techniques, and other skills necessary in adventure settings such as client assessment and adaptations are discussed and applied experientially. (3 cr)

O521: Group Processes and Adventure Facilitation

This course investigates the philosophies, theories, and practice of facilitation in adventure education combining critical inquiry and discussion with direct experience. Participants will negotiate and navigate the roles of student, collaborator, facilitator, and instructor through the lens of adventure facilitation. (3 cr)

O520: Principles of Therapeutic Outdoor Programs

This course is designed to provide an examination of the foundational principles regarding the use of outdoor settings and programs as therapeutic interventions in the development and promotion of overall wellness, skill building, and social/behavioral growth for persons or groups with specific needs. (3 cr)

Y561: Advanced Therapeutic Recreation Processes

This course involves in-depth discussion of the application of the recreational therapy (RT) process through individualized assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation. This course also presents the clinical application of the RT process in the therapeutic use of activity to address client needs and build on client strengths, as well as develop knowledge in the application of the TR process within self-identified diagnostic groups. (3 cr)

R695: Practicum in Therapeutic Outdoor Programs

Students work closely with professionals in the TOP field in a mentor relationship in order to advance and apply skills as a practitioner working directly with specific therapeutic groups and TOP programs in a pre-approved setting. (4 cr)


For more information regarding the University TOP Certificate program, please click here.


The TOP minor is offered through the Department of RPTS

Course prescription for a minor in Therapeutic Outdoor Programs - 15 credits (Note: no substitutions allowed)

I. ____ 3 Choose one of:
    SPH-R 210, Inclusion in Recreation, Park and Tourism -OR-
    SPH-Y 277, Foundations of Recreational Therapy, -OR-
    SPH-Y 225, Disability, Function, and Health
II. Complete all of the courses below:
  ____ 3 SPH-O 279, Outdoor Adventure Education
  ____ 3

SPH-O 322, Therapeutic Outdoor Programs Instructional Techniques

  ____ 3 SPH-R 395, Practicum in Therapeutic Outdoor Programs (as approved by the TOP coordinator)
  ____ 3 SPH-O 420, Principles of Therapeutic Outdoor Programs


Alison Voight, Ph.D., CTRS
Dr. Voight is an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of RPTS, and TOP Coordinator. Her background includes clinical processes in RT with psychiatric clients and emotionally disturbed adolescents. She teaches courses in the TOP curriculum, research, and inclusive recreation. Dr. Voight is also a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist.

Alan Ewert, Ph.D.
Dr. Ewert is a Professor, and holds the Patricia and Joel Meier Endowed Chair in Outdoor Leadership in the Dept. of RPTS. His teaching and research interests involve outdoor instructing, leadership, and decision-making. Ewert is also a seasonal lead instructor for Outward Bound.

Shay Dawson, M.A., CTRS
Shay is the Executive Director at Bradford Woods, in Martinsville, Indiana. He has served as the summer camp director for Camp Riley and other specialty camps for individuals with disabilities, lead facilitator for therapeutic outdoor programs, and is an adjunct lecturer in the Dept of RPTS teaching the RT interventions course (Bloomington Campus).

Jennifer Piatt, PhD, CTRS
Dr. Jennifer Piatt, CTRS, is an Assistant Professor at Indiana University with a research focus in the areas of spinal cord injury, community reintegration, and disability specific camps. With over 16 years as a practicing recreational therapist Dr. Piatt has worked with a variety of populations in both acute, long term and community health care settings.

Chuck Dietzen, MD
A pediatric rehabilitation specialist, Dr. Chuck Dietzen is the Founder and President of Timmy Global Health, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit organization founded in 1997 to expand access to healthcare in the developing world, while empowering students and medical professional volunteers to tackle today’s most pressing global health challenges.  Dr. “Chuck” is also the Medical Program Consultant at Bradford Woods.


For more information, contact:
Dr. Alison Voight
Indiana University
1025 E. 7th Street, Room 133
Bloomington, IN 47405
(812) 856-1965


Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies - School of School of Public Health-Bloomington, Indiana University

photo of TOP participants

line of hikers in the forest

students working at challenge course

participant in a wheelchair performing an exercise with others cheering him on

students getting ready to canoe

participant navigating hi rope course

participant sledding with guide

horseback rider

participants listening to instructor about the ropes course