Practitioners of adventure therapy work with populations that require special consideration and a careful approach to treatment services. People receiving adventure therapy services struggle with significant challenges in their lives such as substance abuse, physical or sexual abuse, isolation, depression, and many other mental health issues. It is critical that adventure therapy is provided in a manner that accounts for the intense needs of our client populations.

Supervision provides the oversight and safety net for our clients. Supervision supports practitioners by providing professional development, gaining an outside perspective, keeping practitioners focused on client needs and goals, maintaining a reflective and ethical practice, managing risk, and coping with the personal responses of practitioners to client issues.

The best practice is that all practitioners seek out and utilize supervision or peer consultation in their practice and that practitioners comply with governmental rules and regulations related to supervision and service provision. Adventure therapy practitioners are responsible for ensuring that quality clinical oversight is provided.

Types of Oversight 

Clinical oversight may be provided through supervision, clinical review or peer consultation, depending on the practitioner's level of experience and training or the organizational structure. Clinical supervision is often required by state licensing boards for new therapists, who are not permitted to practice without the supervision of an independently licensed, more experienced practitioner. Most adventure therapists will require clinical supervision in order to be consistent with best practices and licensing standards. Supervisors have a level of professional accountability related to their role that provides a safety net for practitioners and clients.

In addition, the work of paraprofessional staff may be supervised or reviewed by a clinical supervisor hired to provide clinical oversight for decisions made related to provision of adventure therapy services. This type of oversight may exist where the clinical supervisor maintains responsibility for the clinical oversight, but the paraprofessional staff are directly supervised by some other person. In this situation, clinical supervisors may be responsible for tasks such as completing diagnostic assessments, reviewing client cases, making clinical recommendations and developing treatment plans, or supporting staff in responding to crisis situations effectively.

Adventure therapists with independent licensure or adequate experience will often continue to engage in supervision through the use of peer consultation, drawing on other experienced peer practitioners to answer questions, gain an outside perspective, and provide oversight for client care. Using peer consultation has a different level of accountability than providing or utilizing supervision, as peers providing consultation are not directly accountable as there is not a hierarchical structure to peer consultation.

Qualifications of Supervisors 

The best practice for professionals providing clinical supervision or oversight for adventure therapy practitioners is to have training and experience in both clinical mental health and adventure therapy practices. Supervisors providing clinical supervision of adventure therapy services should have a minimum of 2 years post-graduate experience and, ideally, will have this level of experience in practicing adventure therapy as well. Due to the diverse nature of adventure therapy settings, it may not always be feasible to meet these standards for supervision. For example, a school social worker in a rural setting may be supervised by someone with the mental health qualifications but limited adventure experience. This practitioner may be able to engage in peer consultation or contract with a different supervisor to oversee the adventure components of his or her practice. It is important that practitioners work to attain the appropriate level of supervision in order to provide the best client care.

Standards of Supervision 

Clinical supervision needs to occur regularly and be documented. The frequency and duration of supervision will vary widely in terms of settings, but needs to ensure that practitioners have access to clinical supervisors, especially during times of client crisis. The standards outlined for adventure therapy practitioners are consistent with those found in most mental health treatment contexts; the difference is that in AT, the best practice is for practitioners to be supervised by professionals with adequate depth of experience and knowledge with the use of adventure to maintain safe and ethical client care.

Experiential Models of Supervision 

As the field of AT is experiential in nature, it is no surprise to find that supervisors have developed experiential approaches to supervision. The work of Lee Gillis and Mike Gass on the CHANGES model of supervision and numerous presentations at professional trainings and conferences is noteworthy and the reader is referred to their work (CITE) for more information about application of experiential models of supervision.