Adventure and Complex Trauma in Adolescents

April 26, 2024

Abstract
Background: Adventure therapy (AT) involves engaging activities close to nature with some degree of risk and seems developmentally appropriate for adolescents. While some AT is of the long and remote group expedition form, it is increasingly used as a brief weekly intervention within the community, often using the traditional therapeutic dyad. Many theories inform complex trauma (CT) informed practice in AT although no purpose-built theory or framework has been evident to date. When some AT theories are applied to adolescents with CT there appear to be some mismatches. Also, some CT practices with adolescents seem to be difficult to reconcile. This doctoral research sought to create a stand-alone theory that could resolve potential conflicts, and produce a practice framework for both clinical and non-clinical practitioners.

Methods: The CT and AT literature were scoped, critically analyzed and synthesized to create a draft process was critiqued by 30 experts from both fields, including young AT participants. These interviews were subjected to reflexive thematic analysis.

Findings: Both fields seems divided along ontological and epistemological lines with sometimes incompatible approaches to healing. Assisting the development of a sense of self was identified as the central therapeutic aim. Four phases, five domains of experience, and four broad healing benefits were proposed, examined, refined and presented as a practice framework. Interviewees viewed practitioner attitude and knowledge as more important than specific skills.

Discussion: The CT-informed AT (CTIAT) theory requires rich and dynamic experiences that help restore a healthy and rounded sense of self. Caring, kind and humane practitioners, with a healthy sense of self, can use the framework regardless of whether they have clinical talk therapy skills. Several cautions include the need to eliminate coercion, replace treatment models with reflexivity and avoid forcing the pace of AT programs. Ecological dynamics and an ethic of care are proposed as core AT and CT approaches. The practice framework will be presented after a brief discussion of overarching concepts.

Limitations: The research participants were only recruited in Australia from the ISSTD and a specific AT association and were not selected for diversity. Further research might consider cultural, neuro and gender diversity applicability. While the framework is being used it has not been formally field tested and efficacy research is recommended. As the potential AT risks increase practitioners require formal skills training however, any practitioner might employ outdoor activity in nearby nature.

Potential to distress: No
 

Target Audience

Beginning/Introductory

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be able to: 

  • Compare the four phases, of the CTIAT practice framework, with the clinical three-phase process
  • List the potential risks and opportunities within the five domains of an adventure experience
  • Explain ecological dynamics concepts, affordances, constraints and the ecological niche
  • Identify how the four broad benefits are likely to be experienced in each domain and how they might change in each phase of the CTIAT framework
  • Describe the skills, knowledge and attitudes needed for implementation of the CTIAT practice framework
Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 1.50 APA
    The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
  • 1.50 ASWB ACE
    The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD), #1744, is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved as ACE providers. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. ISSTD maintains responsibility for this course. ACE provider approval period: 08/20/2021 – 08/20/2024. Social workers completing this course receive 1.50 continuing education credits.
  • 1.50 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.50 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.
Course opens: 
02/06/2024
Course expires: 
12/31/2050
Event starts: 
04/26/2024 - 5:00pm EDT
Event ends: 
04/26/2024 - 6:30pm EDT
Rating: 
0

Presenter: Graham Pringle, MA, PhD Candidate
Presenter Bio:Graham Pringle is a Director of Youth Flourish Outdoors, the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation, and the School of Outdoor Therapeutic Practice. His doctorate investigated the healing of complex trauma through outdoor adventure experiences. His business, The EMU Files, helps organisations to become complex trauma informed and to create holistic healing experiences. With experience in Residential and Foster Care, Outdoor Education, Adventure Based Youth Work and Adult Training, Graham enjoys training adults and designing programs that stop young people from acquiring mental health diagnoses. Having worked outdoors with young people since 1985 he has also studied widely and holds a Masters of Arts (Outdoor Education), Graduate Diploma in Social Science (Psychology) and a Graduate Diploma in Education, and is currently completing a Diploma of Child, Youth and Family Intervention. Graham is a Friend of the Outdoor Therapy Centre and has published many articles and chapters.

Available Credit

  • 1.50 APA
    The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
  • 1.50 ASWB ACE
    The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD), #1744, is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved as ACE providers. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. ISSTD maintains responsibility for this course. ACE provider approval period: 08/20/2021 – 08/20/2024. Social workers completing this course receive 1.50 continuing education credits.
  • 1.50 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.50 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.
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