What is International Adventure Therapy?

Although it is tempting to offer a single definition of international adventure therapy, an implication of any definition is that there will be clarity about what lies inside and what lies outside the definition – and there is no hard boundary around adventure therapy in a global context. 

Instead of a definition, we offer information on how adventure therapy is practiced around the globe, and some ideas about what international adventure therapy includes. In taking this approach, we respect and value the cultural diversity within this ever-evolving field. 

As indicated by the name, the two core elements of adventure therapy are (1) engagement in adventurous (physical) activities, and  (2) therapeutic intent. Beyond this, we must consider the social, cultural, environmental, political and fiscal contexts that influence the development of local adventure therapy practices.

While adventure therapy is practiced in many parts of the world and has an identified international community of practice, the field has no ‘governing’ body to specify standards or register practitioners or programs. Any regulation of the field that occurs occurs at a national and local level. An advantage of the absence of specific international adventure therapy governance is that the field is free to be dynamic, agile, creative and diverse. One of the resulting challenges is that there is no globally shared answer to the question ‘What is international adventure therapy?’ and we rely on the integrity of practitioners and community pressure to maintain adequate standards. 

In order to provide some conceptual anchors about adventure therapy, on the next page we share some examples of adventure therapy around the world and suggest that inclusion of more of these elements increases the likelihood that a given program or service is considered to be adventure therapy. While a number of elements are present in the global practice of adventure therapy, most programs contain only some of those elements. When more of the key elements are enacted by any given program or service, it is more likely they would be described as an adventure therapy program or service. In this way, adventure therapy may be seen as lying at the overlap of a Venn diagram where each circle in the diagram represents one of the adventure therapy elements listed on the next page.

We also acknowledge the limitation that these descriptions are provided in one language (English) and recognize that other languages offer words and phrases with different translations, making it impossible to capture all of the nuances of adventure therapy on an international scale. 

For more information go to: About international adventure therapy practices.