Training

AT practitioners need to have well-developed competencies and skill sets to provide quality client care. Training expectations vary considerably to accommodate for the diverse range of processes and activities employed in the application of adventure therapy. Significant training in clinical skills, adventure tools and techniques, and the theoretical and practice work is involved in integrating both clinical and adventure skill sets. These competencies and skill sets include but are not limited to clinical, medical, wilderness/environmental, technical/activity, and interpersonal (working effectively on multi-disciplinary teams, etc.). Which competencies and skill sets are required of an AT practitioner depends greatly on his or her role in the delivery of client services.

While not unique to AT, a typical progression of training involves going through the initial training, participating in periods of observation, engaging in supervised practice, and then achieving competence to practice more independently. Organizations, programs, clinical supervisors and AT practitioners providing AT are accountable for ensuring that training meets industry standards and is completed adequately to provide quality client care. This is true of both clinical and technical skills, as well as aspects of organizational philosophy and mission. It is also important in managing risks associated with providing AT services.

For mental health skills, information about industry standards can be found through professional organizations, governmental standards, professional publications, and universities. For standards related to technical skills used in adventure activities, practitioners can explore professional publications, accreditation standards, and training or certification programs related to the particular activities to be facilitated. In addition to this, attendance at conferences and participation in professional groups provides an important avenue to maintaining current knowledge of best practices in AT.

The various practitioner roles identified require differing types of training. Adventure therapists are trained in mental health practices through graduate coursework in a mental health field and required to attain licensure (or the equivalent in their location) and maintain education through continuing education programs. They are also expected to have some level of training in the integration of their mental health training and adventure therapy. While adventure therapists have the combined clinical and adventure skills, there are clinicians providing AT services who have the mental health training but not the accompanying training in integrating adventure and adventure activities. Paraprofessionals do not have the graduate training but may be trained in a variety of mental health or adventure activities as required by their particular practice settings. To provide adventure therapy, both the clinical and adventure skill sets should be represented in the practitioners on the treatment team. The training required for each role will be dependent on the setting in which the AT practitioner is working.

In addition to considering these skill sets separately, training in the integration of mental health practices and the use of adventure is an important component of the training process. Best practice is to have training that addresses mental health, facilitation of adventure activities/technical skills, and the integration of these in the clinical context. Organizations, practitioners and programs need to consider which licensures and certifications are appropriate for their settings and are in line with industry standards. Where multiple roles exist, some cross-training among specializations in encouraged in order to effectively work together as a treatment team.

There has been debate in the AT field regarding whether or not a certification for AT practitioners should be established. While this debate has continued, graduate and post-graduate programs with a focus on the clinical use of adventure have emerged as well as opportunities to participate in training from experts in the field. University-based and private training resources are available for new and advanced practitioners to meet the best practice standard for training for an AT practitioner. In addition to this, accreditation standards from organizations such as AEE, COA, The Joint Commission and others provide insight into required competencies and adventure therapy publications outline recommended training, competencies and skills (Gass, Gillis, Russell 2012).