Adventure Therapy – a beginners guide

by Bree Arnott

Adventure Therapy is a relatively new field in New Zealand and one that is growing pretty quickly. So what does it do? Why is it getting so much attention? And how is Whenua Iti Outdoors involved?

Adventure Therapy (AT) combines the outdoors (taiao), people (tangata), challenge (wero) and therapy (haumanu). It is an intensive, structured yet flexible approach that can be adapted to suit a  range of client needs. The methodologies employed in AT are research based so practitioners are working with proven processes and approaches that can help with even complex mental health issues.

Generally a programme will involve one on one sessions leading up to a group wilderness experience followed by a further one on one and group sessions to embed new skills and knowledge into the home environment. Much of the research on AT has been completed in the USA and there is a fantastic summary of rationale and intended outcomes in this short and entertaining video from the Outdoor Behavioral Health Centre in New Hampshire

WIO is a strong supporter of AT in Aotearoa and earlier this year we helped organise and hosted the 2018 Forum which was a busy, exciting event with a huge variety of workshops and speakers . In 2017, WIO piloted an AT programme working with students from local schools. The pilot involved counsellors, outdoor instructors and teachers, all working together to help each individual with their own unique needs.

Almost a year later we know…..

  • All students from the pilot are still engaged in education.
  • Two are now studying in Tertiary Education
  • Students remaining  at school are better engaged with learning, studying towards  NCEA
  • All have made significant progress overcoming their original presenting issues which is awesome progress

This year we have commited to a running an AT programme from August to October with a Te Ao Māori AT programme in the pipeline for later in the year which we are so very excited about.

If you’d like more information please contact or visit our website

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