Cultural Considerations

It essential that practitioners maintain awareness of appropriate cultural considerations for the client groups they are working with. According to the TAPG ethical code, "Professionals respect the fundamental rights, dignity, and worth of all people. Professionals strive to be sensitive to cultural and individual differences, including those due to age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion/spirituality, sexual orientation, ability level/disability, and socioeconomic status."

While not all of these are unique to AT, particular considerations include:

  • Awareness of particular factors regarding culture/ethnicity that may be related to a particular setting/environment (e.g., African Americans from Washington, D.C. going to a wilderness area near a white supremacist community in West Virginia).
  • Given the ease with which practitioners and organizations in all professions assume cultural biases unknowingly, it is essential to continually ask "What do culturally competent/appropriate/responsive practitioners and/or organizations look like?" or is it more "What is a definition of cultural competence for practitioners?" (CITE- Skye and Nina 2008 TAPG pre-con).
  • It is important that awareness be maintained of the potential cultural parity of practitioners in comparison to clients.
  • It is important that practitioners understand the disparities of cultural representation in adventure activities; and that different cultural groups have very different perceptions of the same activities/environments. Central to this is that practitioners continually examine their own biases and those that might be embedded into an AT activity, particularly assumptions about client reactions to particular activities and how those may/may not be associated with positive/culturally relevant therapeutic outcomes. Additional information regarding these issues and factors to consider might include demographic changes/trends in the U.S., current US Institute of Medicine data on health disparities and reasons for their existence, American Camping Association has information about widely differing participant experiences with camping/the outdoors and how this relates to comfort levels). (Richards, Peel, Smith, & Owen, 2001), there are also many other cites for this in the AEE world- Karen Warren, Nina Roberts have written a lot about this; there is a whole book about women in the Outdoors somewhere........)
  • Practitioners should continually challenge themselves to understand how cultural beliefs about adventure or environment shape experiences, for both themselves and clients. Although there are many, areas to explore might include how cultural values and beliefs are shaped, identification of relevant cultural barriers, skills that enhance open communication, culturally appropriate assumptions regarding levels of self-disclosure, effective techniques for particular client populations (e.g., working with interpreters, considerations, etc.), role of cultural upbringing and how that relates to communication style/conflict resolution, etc..
  • Practitioners should continue to educate themselves about culturally relevant outcomes, in order to avoid making what may be misassumptions about treatment success or non-success.