Treatment Applications

This section addresses how the concepts of adventure therapy are implemented in treatment. The material in this text is primarily focused on describing what is specific to adventure therapy (AT). It is expected that currently accepted best practices in mental health will be observed and implemented in adventure therapy programs, and as such, are not specifically addressed in this document. Practitioners are encouraged to consider ways that traditional clinical theory and method inform an AT process.

In all treatment contexts, the following guidelines of AT apply:

  • Client safety, physical and emotional, is always in the forefront of practitioner considerations. Practitioners also attend to their own safety (Gass, 1993; Priest & Gass, 1999; Lung, Stauffer, Alvarez, 2008).
  • The practitioner is expected to explore and continually educate him or herself about relevant theoretical or systemic perspectives on human growth, development, and change; and to develop an ever-expanding knowledge base that informs their practice of adventure therapy (Newes, 2000; Berman & Davis-Berman, 1994; Gass, 1993).
  • Clients are invited to actively engage in experiential activities that serve as a primary catalyst for behavior change through the assumed activation of underlying issues and the associated observed behaviors (Newes, 2000; Berman & Davis-Berman, unknown).
  • Clinical observations about client functioning are taken from the current experiential activity occurring in the treatment context.
  • Specific interventions are chosen after a thorough assessment of client needs and treatment context. This includes an identification of the problem(s) to be addressed (Berman & Davis-Berman, unknown; Lung, Stauffer & Alvarez, 2008).
  • Individual treatment plans are developed that identify client issues, goals, and interventions clearly. Interventions are intentionally designed to address identified issues and documented appropriately (Berman & Davis-Berman, 1994; Berman & Davis-Berman, unknown; Lung, Stauffer & Alvarez, 2008; Newes, 2000; Russell, 2003; Russell & Phillips-Miller, 2002; Russell, 2001; Russell, 2000).
  • Issues that unfold during the process of the activity are the primary focus of each treatment intervention. The practitioner is expected to maintain the flexibility to deal with spontaneous issues that arise in the moment (Newes, 2000; Lung, Stauffer & Alvarez, 2008), and to continually remain aware of ways in which behaviors initiated during the activity are representative of client functioning in other areas. While the emphasis remains in the here-and-now, opportunities to help clients recognize these parallels should be created; either at a later point in the activity or in follow-up sessions.
  • Adventure therapists are expected to be involved in a process of self-assessment and awareness during the delivery of services, as well as professional supervision to help navigate the therapeutic situations that arise during adventure therapy interventions (Lung, Stauffer & Alvarez, 2008).
  • Any organization or partnering agency that is involved in client care should be educated and informed about the process of AT to support effective AT application.
  • Adventure-based practice can be used as a primary treatment modality or used as an adjunct to other mental health interventions grounded in accepted counseling practice theories and modalities. For more information about integration of mental health theories and adventure therapy, the reader is referred to the Theory section.

The Treatment Applications section identifies the environmental and interpersonal contexts in which adventure therapy is applied, how the adventure therapist implements assessment and intervention methods, and unique issues existing within AT. The material is contained in the sections outlined below:

Environmental Contexts are explored in this section to help the reader understand the venues through which AT may be used. These settings include schools, outpatient, inpatient, residential, and wilderness settings.

Interpersonal Contexts are explored in this section including individual, group, and family applications of adventure therapy. This section discusses interpersonal context as an important consideration for treatment.

Assessment is explored in terms of how it guides effective practice, enhances facilitation, and is implemented using adventure tools and techniques.

Intervention-Treatment Outcomes describes treatment outcomes that are commonly sought through adventure interventions.

Intervention-Facilitation Skills are examined in relation to the development of the therapeutic process. The primary focus of this section is to articulate how practitioners work intentionally to achieve the most effective treatment results.

  • Therapeutic alliance
  • Matching interventions to enhance the therapeutic intent
  • Therapeutic environment
  • Treatment skills
  • Processing

Intervention-Adventure Activities are described by the types listed below. The primary focus of this section is to identify intended treatment outcomes and practitioner guidelines for using these activities in a treatment context.

  • Cooperative activities
  • Initiative activities
  • Trust activities
  • High constructed element activities
  • Service Learning
  • Solo
  • High adventure and Natural Environment activities
  • Expeditions