About the AEE Certified Clinical Adventure Therapist Credential (CCAT)
As the field of Adventure Therapy progresses forward, evolves and gains popularity, professionals from the wide variety of Adventure Therapy settings have come together to express an interest and a need for greater professionalism in Adventure Therapy. After the tremendous efforts of those involved in creating the Adventure Therapy Best Practices, and the advent of specific certification standards that meet the needs of Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council programs, a growing need for an adventure therapy certification became more and more apparent. The following considerations were a major part of the decision to offer this credential:
Maintaining Flexibility in Training and Approach While Improving Fidelity
The practice of Adventure Therapy is the prescriptive use of adventure experiences provided by mental health professionals, often conducted in natural settings, that kinesthetically engage individuals, families and groups on cognitive, affective, and behavioral levels (Gass, et al, 2020). There are countless nuances, skills, theories, interventions, and approaches that embody Adventure Therapy practice. Therefore, the intentional use of adventure activities in a therapeutic setting requires an advanced level of training and experience.
AEE’s CCAT enhances fidelity in the field by standardizing core competencies for practice and aligning practitioner’s training and experiences with these competencies in order to qualify as a certified clinical adventure therapist. Outlining core competency requirements without prescribing specific training structures, the CCAT allows creativity and exploration within the field to be maintained. The requirements, without prescribing specific training structures, allow creativity and development within the field to be maintained, while still ensuring ethical and effective treatment with clients. If training falls within the core competencies, it is within the standards of this certification.
The core competencies were developed, reviewed, and revised by top researchers and practitioners in the field over a period of three years. As the field of Adventure Therapy grows and benefits from a proliferation of research demonstrating its efficacy with a variety of clients, conditions, and in a variety of adventure therapy settings, certification serves as a strategy to ensure new, research-based strategies are being incorporated into ongoing training and practice. AEE’s Certification Council will ensure that the core competencies are regularly revised to reflect the most recent research and state of effective practice in the field.
Safety & Risk Management
As evidence for the efficacy of Adventure Therapy increases, certification helps maintain high levels of competence in the field. As current trends in North America move towards insurance reimbursement and “evidence-based” labels, the field of Adventure Therapy will benefit from having a clear delineation for who is an experienced, competent practitioner. This can help safeguard high standards of physical and emotional safety, as well as rigorous risk management strategies.
Research conducted on wilderness therapy programs shows that participants in accredited programs had lower rates of injury or accidents than the (already low) rates of non-accredited programs**. While this data is an exciting example of the impacts that professionalization has had on the field of Adventure Therapy, it also serves as an example of how a broader sector of those practicing adventure therapy could benefit from a similar standard that articulate core competencies for effective clinical adventure therapy practice.
*Gass, M. A., Gillis, H. L., Russell, K. C. (2020). Adventure therapy: Theory, research, and practice (2nd ed.). Routledge.
**Javorski, S. E., & Gass, M. A. (2013). 10-Year Incident Monitoring Trends in Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare: Lessons learned and future directions. Journal of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, 112.