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What is an Adventure Therapist?

Since 2001, the Association for Experiential Education’s Therapeutic Adventure Professional Group(TAPG) has been striving to promote standard practices for adventure therapists. An adventure therapist is a multidisciplinary expert who uses their skills of counseling, psychology and the great outdoors to help clients overcome problems, deal with mental health problems and improve the quality of their lives.

Adventure Therapy 101

Adventure therapy is a hands-on and outdoor-based form of psychotherapy that uses active and experiential approaches to helping clients. Adventure therapists use activity bases where they implement ropes courses, outdoor pursuits, wilderness expeditions and cooperative group games. They employ both real and perceived physical and psychological risks to clinically stimulate desired changes. They verbally engage their clients during activities to promote desired behavioral changes, such as through planning sessions and post-activity debriefings. In order to be successful, they must clearly show how the function of the activity matches resolutions in ways that contribute to the transfer of learned knowledge into target behaviors and attitudes. Adventure therapists tend to run humanistic and solution-focused programs designed for particular demographic groups, such as incarcerated youth or struggling married couples.

What Skills Do Adventure Therapists Need?

Adventure therapists must have unique teaching and counseling skills to excel in their jobs. For example, they must be able to guide young participants through explaining the nature of sensation differences, contrasting colors and sounds of nature. They must continually anticipate and warn participants of environmental concerns and potential hazards. They must be comfortable working in close contact with clients because they physically guide participants through body positioning and training sessions. Adventure therapists need excellent strength and endurance to deal with the physical demands of nature-based activities. Tactical competency is important because adventure therapists use various tools and equipment. Strong planning and organizational skills are needed to break complex tasks into actionable steps and supervise teams of clients who struggle to follow instructions.

How to Become One?

A recreation or leisure bachelor’s of science will provide students with the basic therapeutic and counseling skills needed to work with clients in nature to promote wellness and establish healthy behaviors. These students learn how to work with clients who face social, interpersonal, social psychological challenges.

Adventure therapy combines clinical, technical and leadership skills through borrowing from the fields of counseling, psychology and behavioral science. These programs usually employ well-rounded mental health professionals who are from a variety of backgrounds. Overall, students will learn how to use the environment to promote physical and mental health while repairing relationships and balancing behaviors.

Adventure therapy offers excellent benefits to clients. It can increase the self-esteem of clients with various kinds of emotional, behavioral and psychological problems. Physical challenges and adventure pursuits drastically increase team building initiatives and promote behavior changes. When it comes to the family experience, an adventure therapist is able to help their clients develop successful methods of communication and address negative behavior patterns.

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