AEE Accreditation Program

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Accreditation for:

Adventure & Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Programs

Attaining accredited status through the AEE Accreditation Program is solid evidence of an organization’s commitment to quality and safety, belief in professional standards, and allocation of resources toward continued excellence and improvement. Programs that achieve AEE Accredited status can be confident that they meet or exceed recognized industry standards.

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Why Get Accredited?

Journey to Accreditation: A Quick How-To Guide

What is Accreditation?

AEE accreditation is a process of organizational development that results in the international recognition of a program. Accreditation contributes to the professionalization of the field and the well-being of participants and program personnel worldwide. Accredited organizations often use this status to distinguish themselves from peer organizations and to market their programs to potential clients.

After a rapid increase in the number of experiential programs in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the need for standards of program quality, professional behavior, and appropriate risk management became imperative. In 1994, the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) responded to that need by developing the most comprehensive standards for common practices in the industry, becoming the nation's first recognized accreditation process focusing on experiential adventure programming. Since then, the AEE Accreditation Programs standards-based evaluation process by objective, independent reviewers have become the industry-accepted level of professional evaluation for experiential and adventure programs.

"Being accredited has solidified our status in high quality programming.  The exercise of going through the accreditation process has prepared us for almost everything on the planet.  I have never had more confidence in our programming.  When someone asks me about how to start a company or improve their existing company, I always start with AEE Accreditation because the process thinks of everything you need to be doing for you!  It is in black and white.  The standards are exactly that; this is the standard and you are implored to do better than even standard."  -Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, Accredited by AEE since 1996

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In 2013 the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council invited AEE to jointly embark upon the expansion of AEE’s existing standards to better reflect the field of wilderness therapy’s current practices with a goal of having AEE become an independent accreditor for these types of programs. This resulted in the creation of a set of ethical, risk management, and treatment standards developed by long-standing leaders in Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH), adventure therapy, and wilderness programming, with input from providers, clients, and critical incident feedback. OBH programming can be defined as programs that provide adventure therapy, i.e., mental health therapy using adventure activities as part of their treatment.

Through the AEE Accreditation Program, the public is served by:

  1. a ready identification of quality programs from which to choose.
  2. an objective, independent source of information about those programs.
  3. a clear indication of the standards by which those programs operate.

The profession of experiential education is served through:

  1. a safeguard of the reputation of the field.
  2. elevating the practices of the field.
  3. self-governance.
  4. avenues for continuing education and professional development.

Services to the organizations pursuing AEE accreditation are many and include:

  1. providing leadership within the profession through utilizing accepted industry standards.
  2. improving the quality, performance, and risk management practices of programs with continuing education.
  3. increasing the ability to attract financial and human resources through the recognition of AEE accreditation.
  4. programs that have gone through the AEE Accreditation process have distinguished themselves in the growing field of experiential education. At the time of the accreditation review, programs must document and display compliance with the standards for adventure programs in experiential education. AEE accredits a wide variety of adventure programs and organizations, including wilderness adventure programs, colleges and university outdoor programs, K-12 school programs, outdoor behavioral healthcare, youth programs, and corporate team building and training programs.
  5. attaining accredited status through the AEE Accreditation Program is evidence of an organization's commitment to quality, belief in professional standards, and allocation of resources towards continuous improvement.

Why Get Accredited?

When you achieve AEE Accreditation, you can have confidence that your program meets or exceeds industry standards. Accredited organizations report that this organizational development opportunity helped them evolve many areas of their organization. AEE works continuously with experts in adventure programming and outdoor behavioral healthcare to set the standards for risk management, safety, program success, and sound practices. Please contact the Director of Accreditations & Certifications, Steve Pace, at for more information.

"The AEE Accreditation Process is a journey toward organizational development and improvement.  During this journey, an organization seeking accreditation systematically addresses each accreditation standard and develops methods that fit its unique mission to meet these standards. At the end of the process, an accredited organization can have confidence that their program meets or exceeds the commonly accepted practices of our field. The public is served by being able to identify which programs have gone through this rigorous process facilitated by an objective and independent association." -Steve Pace, AEE Director of Accreditations & Certifications

Who Should Get Accredited?

AEE accredits a wide variety of adventure programs and organizations, including wilderness adventure programs, colleges and university outdoor programs, K-12 school programs, outdoor behavioral healthcare, youth programs, and corporate team building and training programs. See our current list of Accredited programs here

If you've ever wondered if your organization is doing enough, is tight enough, or is safe enough, going through the process will tell you and forces you to fix, change, maintain, etc. all of your practices. It is truly an exercise in making your organization the absolute best it could be.” -Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center

AEE accreditation is an endorsement of the quality of an organization’s programming and risk management systems. However, this endorsement has limits. The site visit confirms that an organization has met, or appears to have met, specific requirements or standards at the time of the site visit. Therefore, AEE accreditation does not guarantee that clients and program personnel will be free from harm, partly due to the inherent risks associated with adventure activities and the environmental contexts in which these activities take place. It is also important to note that these standards are not intended to impose upon an organization or practitioner a legal duty of care that does not otherwise exist in the legal jurisdiction in which the organization operates.