Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Laura A. Hayden

Second Advisor

Amy L. Cook

Third Advisor

Anne Cangello


In the United States, only one-third of children receive the mental health care that they need, citing attitudinal/evaluative factors as the most common barrier. Sport-based approaches have the potential to address the acceptability and limitations of existing mental health treatments and provide beneficial effects in psychosocial and physical well-being. Additionally, physical activity (PA) interventions can increase treatment engagement and have been found to be highly acceptable by patients. Towards this aim of developing acceptable interventions that increase access to treatment, the APA and has acknowledged the need of providing treatments that are socially valid and acceptable to service users. Social validity provides a method for examining acceptability and attitudinal barriers of an intervention.

Doc Wayne Youth Services (DWYS) is a Boston-based non- profit that provides adjunctive mental health services that integrate physical activity, for youth participants. This study aimed to answer, what is the social validity of Doc Wayne Youth Services, a sport-based therapeutic program for at-risk youth? An initial group of participants from a randomly selected DWYS site was interviewed to develop and refine the interview instrument. A second group of randomly selected participants was chosen from a second, randomly selected DWYS site to participate in the study. An initial sample of 6 interviews was used to develop the codebook, after which assessment of saturation determined no further interviews were required. Interview duration ranged from 10-15 minutes.

A thematic analysis approach was utilized to analyze the interview data. Six participants completed the semi-structured interview. Of the six, 50% identified as male, 50% identified as female, and all participants identified as Latinx. Overall there appeared to be a general positive regard (n=14; n’s denote utterances) and approval of the approach (correct approach, n=10) taken by DWYS staff which included a supportive environment (n=5) and successful establishment of a strong therapeutic alliance (n=5). However, there were a few instances in which the participants did not approve of the approach of the program (incorrect approach, n=6). This was related to not experiencing any long-term effects as a result of their participation, not knowing why they were participating in DWYS, or not feeling understood by staff. Based on the results of the intervention, the author provides recommendations based on the contextual model and previously identified therapeutic factors identified as important for adolescent groups.


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Available for download on Thursday, September 01, 2022