Competence and Scope of Practice

AT practitioners should have adequate knowledge/training upon which to make sound professional judgments. AT practitioners should also provide services only within the boundaries of competence; based on their education, training, supervision, experience, and practice.

Considerations related to this include:

1. It is essential that practitioners understand the potential limitations of adventure activities. These include:

  • Limitations of practitioner inherent ability
  • Appropriate choice of activity, matched with client assessment/needs.

2. Supervision/Training issues - relevant training and quality supervision are essential elements of competence and crucial aspects of appropriately managing risk.


  • Supervision must be provided at the level required based on the practitioner's training/certification.
  • Supervisors should maintain awareness of whether the practitioner has demonstrated ability to manage risk and safety issues associated with any activity/intervention/setting chosen.
  • Supervisors should remain aware of and be engaged in ongoing efforts at maintaining the knowledge, practice, and skills required for competency; particularly as related to current information, research, legislation, trends, preferred practices, etc..
  • Supervisors should attend to the balance of abilities found in the staff/instructor team. For example, some clients/groups and/or activities require a staff team with demonstrated competence in both technical and therapeutic skills. Issues to consider include whether all staff need to be competent to lead in all areas, or whether it is appropriate for different staff to lead in different areas (e.g., someone who is technically trained to backpack, but not necessarily clinically trained to lead a therapeutic group; vice versa). In that case, supervisors have a responsibility to be certain that co-staff be at least a level of competence to support primary activities. The necessary balance may differ based on factors such as activity, client needs, make-up of the group, staff experience; and supervisors should be aware of these factors.
  • Supervisors should be aware that individual client/ group therapeutic needs are directly related to the levels of supervision, as well as the type.
  • Supervisors should attend to issues of secondary traumatization or vicarious traumatization; efforts should be made to attend to and prioritize the self-care needs of the practitioner (Bunce, 1 IATC).


  • Practitioners should have access to qualified supervision and consultation, particularly in the field. Reasonable efforts should be made to provide resources (e.g., technological, time in schedule) to allow for this, and careful consideration of the rationale should be given to activity/setting choice that does not allow for this.
  • Practitioners should have relevant and adequate training to work with the particular client populations they are engaged with ("soft skills"); based on their specified role (LINK).
  • Practitioners must have demonstrated capability in the technical skills ("hard skills") necessary to facilitate the activities particular to their setting and to function effectively in all environments in which they work; at the level to which they are responsible (i.e., lead staff vs. support staff).
  • In areas or activities where generally recognized standards for training do not yet exist, practitioners must take reasonable steps to ensure the competence of work and promotion of the welfare of participants. (e.g., tree climbing).

Issues for consideration 

1. Issues arise when supervisors are not skilled in the competencies required for activities, but still responsible for the oversight of the practitioner. While recognizably all supervisors may not be competent in all activities found within a program, it is essential that supervisors be aware of the issues that can arise, be able to recognize both problems and practitioner skill in each area, and have resources/support available to address particular issues that arise.

2. How do we define a competent practitioner? Questions to consider might include:

  • "What makes someone a professional?"
  • "How do we know they can do what is needed for this role?"
  • "How does this change based on setting/client need?"
  • "How much dual training (clinical/field) is needed to facilitate therapeutic outcomes?"
  • "Is there a need for some sort of certification?"

           (Johnson & Johnson, Joining Together textbook)

3. Different training protocols across settings lead to differences in service provision and contribute to definitional inconsistencies in the AT field. Is there a need for standardized training protocols? If so, in what areas?

4. Due to safety and risk management issues, the field of AT has largely focused on "hard skills" training. However, given that field/direct care staff are in direct relationship with clients, what degree of clinically-oriented training is necessary in order to effectively work with therapeutic populations?