• Adjunct Instructor, Psychiatry
  • Faculty Affiliate, Global Change and Sustainability Center
  • Professor, College Of Social Work
  • Adjunct Faculty, Psychiatry

Research Summary

My primary research focuses on the therapeutic outcomes of outdoor and nature-based interventions for a range of populations, including adolescents, young adults, and military veterans. I have also investigated attachment dynamics in in various populations: attachment and mental health in adolescent refugees, attachment shifts among adolescents in a wilderness therapy program, attachment measurement among preschool populations, and attachment processes in psychotherapy with adolescents.


  • B.A., English with Honors, with Minor in Environmental Studies, Dartmouth College. Project: Living what you taught us as truth: The legacy of race and gender in female-authored literature of the civil rights movement.
  • MSW, Graduate School of Social Work, University of Utah
  • Ph.D, Social Work, Smith College School for Social Work. Project: Shifts in attachment relationships: A quantitative study of adolescents in brief residential treatment


Joanna E. Bettmann Schaefer is a Professor at the University of Utah College of Social Work. She received her B.A. with honors from Dartmouth College in 1993, her MSW from the University of Utah in 1999, and her Ph.D from Smith College School for Social Work in 2005. Dr. Schaefer has received numerous honors, including the 2013 Dean’s Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award, the 2011 Psychoanalytic Psychodynamic Research Society Award, a fellowship with the American Psychoanalytic Association in 2006-2007, and the Lawrence Marx Jr. Award of Dartmouth College in 1993.


She has worked as a staff, therapist, director and researcher of wilderness therapy and residential treatment settings for troubled youth since 1994. She has also worked as a clinical social worker in community mental health agencies, the University of Utah Counseling Center, and private practice.


Dr. Schaefer writes and researches on a range of topics, including therapeutic outcomes of outdoor interventions and adolescent attachment. She has published articles in Journal of Child and Family Studies, Research on Social Work PracticeJournal of Counseling Psychology, International Journal of Emergency Mental Health, Journal of Experiential Education, Child and Youth Care Forum, Clinical Social Work Journal, Residential Treatment for Children and Youth, Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, the Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, the Journal of Teaching in Social Work, Smith College Studies in Social Work, and the Journal of Therapeutic Schools and Programs.  She has presented her research nationally and internationally at professional conferences over the last 20 years.