Adventure therapy for early intervention

April 20, 2018

Adventure therapy for early interventation

A form of therapeutic care that is popular with teens

by Will Dobud


As a therapeutic option for children and adolescents struggling with behavioural and emotional issues, adventure therapy is a research-proven intervention combining evidence-based methods from psychology and social work with outdoor adventure experiences. For the teenager struggling with depression, anger issues, anxiety or drug and alcohol abuse, adventure therapy provides a safe and effective option for early-intervention and therapeutic care.


At present in Australia, young people are the least likely of any age group to engage with a helping professional or youth program. One of the many perks for adventure therapy is in delivering a treatment option that adolescents tend to find more appealing as the excitement and adventure provide an opportunity for therapists to better connect with their young clients. Adventure therapy can be particularly effective with adolescents who have seen psychologists or counsellors previously but did not find the service helpful or failed to establish any type of therapeutic relationship.



A recent 2013 analysis* found that adventure therapy interventions have helped participants to improve academic performance and problematic behaviours, including aggression, anger and anxiety, general mental health and family functioning. Research also suggests that adventure therapists often have the ability to establish stronger relationships with their young clients, which is a common predictor of a successful outcome.


Despite positive results for adolescents engaging in adventure therapy, there are particular categories of young people who do not benefit from these programs. These are clients who are younger than 11 years old, those with suicidal ideations, eating disorders and violent or antisocial behaviours. If you are unsure if your child would benefit from adventure-based programs, an assessment from a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist would be an appropriate step to see if there is a program right for you.


In Australia, a typical adventure therapy program involves small groups of up to 10 participants spending time in a wilderness setting for anywhere from five days to two weeks. A key component to adventure therapy is the presence of mental health professionals providing clinical services that engage the young person while they are in the bush. In many programs, participants spend their days hiking from camp to camp learning new skills, such as fire-making, navigation with a map and compass, and how to work effectively as a team.


The Australian Association for Bush Adventure Therapy (AABAT – to be found at is the peak body for practitioners and researchers with experience in adventure therapy. In April 2016, AABAT will be hosting the National Bush Adventure Therapy Forum in Adelaide, SA for all those interested in learning more and experiencing adventure therapy first hand.



Will Dobud is a master social worker and program director of True North Expeditions, an adventure therapy organisation working with children and families across Australia. For more information visit or

Popular Posts

February 18, 2018
I don’t know about you…but I’m excited!
I don’t know about you…but I’m excited!

I don’t know about you……but I’m excited   Have you heard of vicarious anxiety?  I hadn't but it exists, and I certainly experienced it this week.  My son is about to start a degree, but in addition, he will be living on campus at a residential college.  This is not common practice in Australia, but as I lived...

March 04, 2018
The Letter Your Teenager Can't Write You
The Letter Your Teenager Can't Write You

The Letter Your Teenager Can't Write You By Gretchen Schmelzer, PhD   Dear Parent: This is the letter that I wish I could write.  This fight we are in right now. I need it. I need this fight. I can’t tell you this because I don’t have the language for it and it wouldn’t make sense anyway. But I need thi...

March 13, 2018
25 things we say to our teens
25 things we say to our teens

  And if it all gets too much, feel free to join our closed Facebook group for parents/carers of teens.  We are a peer support group, that practices empathy before judgement. [click here to join]  

Browse by category

more categories

Sign up for our newsletter

Sign up for our monthly newsletter. No spams, just product updates.

By signing up, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.