Professor James Neill of the University of Australia defines adventure therapy as, "the use adventure-based activities and/or adventure-based theory to provide people with emotional and/or behavioral problems with experiences which lead to positive change in their lives." Priest and Gass defined adventure therapy in 1997 as "programming aimed at changing [specified] dysfunctional behavior patterns, using adventure experiences as forms of habilitation and rehabilitation." Another definitions states, "any adventure experience with diagnosed clients or reporting a specified therapeutic outcome."
Outward Bound's program for at-risk youth is at the heart of the history of Adventure Therapy. Summer, 2007
Photo: Carolina Center for Public Service - www.unc.edu/ccps/students-scholars-ob.php
Michael Gass and his colleagues, H.L. "Lee" L. "Lee" Gillis (Author), Keith C. C. Russell, in the book, Adventure Therapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, provide an authoritative in depth analysis of the subject, from decades of combined experience, and research, in the field.
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Gass and colleagues does not present a glamorized view of the subject, and without bias, provides insights and examples of the many positive aspects of Adventure Therapy, as well as the possible dangers, especially when conducted by poorly-trained instructors. Challenged youth benefit most from Adventure Therapy, at the same time, the field is only now becoming developed and structured enough to provide a consistently positive experience for youth.
Detailed History and Development of Adventure Therapy
We are no doubt most familiar with Outdoor Bound, which did stabilize the field, providing a foundation for spin-offs and a myriad of other similarly-oriented groups and organizations. The book discusses the history and development of adventure therapy, from the 1800s through the present.
Challenged youth, in the context of adventure therapy, include those in trouble with the law, drug and alcohol abuse, youth who have experienced trauma in one form or another, or those who having difficulty socially integrating (this is not a complete list, but a framework). Adults, also, can benefit from AT, including those in the prison population.
The book provides a detailed history of the development of Adventure Therapy (AT), discusses in-depth, the history and structure of such well-known organizations as Outward Bound, and details the path of organizations that followed and preceded, the roots of which go back to the 1800s in Upstate New York, and New England.
Possible Dangers and Shortcomings of Adventure Therapy
The fact that AT is, in fact, an adventure, lets us know that there is physical exertion involved, as well as a bit of brush with danger, leaving the conveniences of home, with, to various degrees, wilderness experiences. Some of the benefits of such experiences are that it builds self-confidence, self-esteem, as well as a sense of commaradarie with companions in a spirit of cooperation and support, working towards a common goal, and helping each other to reach that goal.
On the other hand, there have been numerous deaths from dehydration, boating accidents, heart attacks, as well as controversies with some AT organizations concerning the adequate training of staff, which may have contributed to deaths. Additionally, there is one AT school of thoughts which takes an "in-your-face," marine boot-camp approach, and not everyone agrees that this is in the best interest of clients, most of whom are trying to gain a better footing on serious problems. Some leaders of one camp (only one to speak of in the history of AT), were notoriously guilty of sexual abuse of numerous clients.
Style and purpose of Adventure Therapy: Theory, Research, and Practice
The book is in-depth, well-researched, modest, rather than boastful, informative and honest. Most organizations and a wide array of literature associated with the AT movement are given consideration here.
This book, like most Routledge published psychology books, is directed towards professionals, those in AT, those who might wish to implement some form of AT or other in their therapy, mental health professionals, and educators including mainstream public school administrators, who have implemented forms of adventure therapy in their field trip curriculum.
While many Adventure Therapy courses span several weeks or a month, even a complete summer, AT can be implemented on a one-day occasional field trip itinerary as well, and this proves to be one effective way of helping inner-city teens, such as in Newark, NJ, who might not have much opportunity to get out of the city.
Adventure Therapy as Self-Help for the Family
While the book is geared towards professionals, parents can also benefit from reading it, and there is much information to glean in a practical way as to what particular main-stream organizations offers AT services that their teens might benefit from.
Some others, more specifically, who might consider adventure therapy are, administrators and educators involved in alternative education schools, residential programs, and substance abuse counseling programs. Additionally, the information presented here can be implemented as a self-help, or self-family-help strategy, based on the AT model. What child or teen wouldn't benefit from a weekend camping, canoeing Delaware Water Gap rapids? Instead of Disney World, why not raft or hike the Grand Canyon? If you are able to travel to Europe, hike the hut system in Austria for a week. These adventure outings build character, stamina, and are physically and mentally refreshing. They are stress-busters, and build self-esteem. Your budget can be as large or small as you want to implement one form or other of Adventure Therapy. (Adventure Therapy as self-help was not necessarily developed in Gass' book, but ties in with one of the purposes of this website).
Adventure Therapy: Theory, Research, and Practice
is highly recommended for professionals, including educators, both administrators and teachers, for some parents, and as a library book. Libraries should considering obtaining this valuable, well-researched book for their readers.
If a library would like a copy, of Adventure Therapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, the AYCNP would be happy to supply one, free of cost.