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Pamela Jones and Callum Anderson

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1 Pamela Jones and Callum Anderson
A Counselling Adventure Exploring Adventure Therapy at Teesside University Pamela Jones and Callum Anderson

2 Outline and Aims To offer a sense of what Adventure Therapy is like from a counselling clients perspective using feedback and experiential elements To look at the reasons behind its development at Teesside and how we have applied it on a practical basis To explore how it is still changing and evolving to fit the client group

3 Definition of Adventure Therapy
Adventure therapy is the creation of opportunities to explore individual and group goals, in a safe environment using perceived and actual risk scenarios. This is delivered through a mix of social and adventure based activities, designed to psychologically challenge individuals, and promote a positive outcome to their goals. Opportunities are created through he use of the Adventurous activities, and social events such as abseiling down a rock face or shopping together for the food and deciding the finer points of the menu. The perceived risk is purely in the clients view, whilst the actual risk is the very real risk that can be seen by clients and staff. In some instances they may be linked, with the perceived risk being much bigger for the clients than the real risk is to the staff. Staff are always to work within comfort zone, whereas the clients are encouraged to participate in their stretch zones. This can work in both positive and negative manners for the clients and the staff. For example; if a perceived risk has a big negative impact on a client, this can detract from their experience, and risk a ripple effect for the rest of the group. Careful management of the activity and group is paramount at all times. The aim of our “game” is to empower the clients to a skill and confidence level where they are psychologically and therefore physically comfortable enough to realise their individual goals, through the activities. Included in this is the security blanket is the support offered by Activity and Counselling staff.

4 Background – Why Adventure Therapy?
Expansion of our successful project, “Lighten Your Load” which combines counselling with an individual physical activity programme. Clients benefiting from using activities like the University’s climbing wall in small groups. Recognition of the health benefits of being out of the urban environment in green space(Barton & Pretty, 2010) LyL uses a structured approach of initial 1:1 sessions to design an activity program for individuals using the sports facilities available through Sport and Well-Being. These are a combination of Indoor gym, exercise class and climbing wall based activities, and outdoor adventure activities. The access to which lasts for 3 months after which it is hoped that those concerned have seen the benefits of physical activity and buy their own Sports Membership enabling them to carry on.

5 Where we began Pilot project which ran in April 2008
Joint project based in the Well-being Centre incorporating Counselling, Sport and Well-being and Disability Services (Mental Health) Combined approach using counselling with the experience of an adventure activity in the natural environment

6 What we did/do? 2008 – ½ day team building, ½ day introduction to abseiling, 1 full day abseiling and walking 2009 – ½ day team building, 1 full day walking 2010 – ½ day team building, 2 full days and an overnight camp. Canoeing, climbing and abseiling

7 Aims of Adventure Therapy at Teesside
To take a small group of clients (max.10) currently attending counselling or clients supported by our Mental Health Advisor. To take clients out of their comfort zone in a controlled manner using safe and managed learning environments. To offer both a physical and emotional challenge. For clients to have a challenging and positive experience. To move from “I cant” into “I can”, and apply this to everyday life. 8Clients this year. Comfort Zone - Comfort Stretch Panic. *We never go into panic I can’t into I can explained later.

8 Aims of Adventure Therapy at Teesside
Transfer what they learn from this specific experience to everyday life experience. To encourage the clients to work together and share the experience with each other. To have a member of the counselling team present to talk through their concerns or fears during the experience. To have the opportunity to reflect at depth in situ How do we encourage them to transfer the positives from this experience to their everyday lives? Peer refection and encouragement, to further develop the Supportive environment? Do they have an opportunity to talk to their counsellors after the event? Us of LEQ-H and Core 10.

9 What works? (The theories)
“I can’t into I can” 3 Responses Dominant theory in current group Adventure Therapy seems to be narrative therapy. Integrative approach using a collection of different tools - individual goal setting, reflective journal writing, group reflection, individual discussions and ‘crisis’ management (panic and anxiety) I can’t into I can: This is an area of complete fluidity, for each individual and their unique experiences. It takes into account all internal and external influences on the individuals. Perceived risk and therefore danger levels change continuously depending on the individuals mental state, so it is vital to constantly monitor each individuals responses to be able to support them using appropriate techniques. The other aspect of this way of working is that the environment that we work in is constantly changing, requiring a dynamic approach to the assessment of the hazards and associated risks. This in turn means that the clients levels of comfort are changing, leading us back to the point before. There are definite times when psychological support takes precedence over activity support or input, but very few where it is the other way round. (which hopefully means that we are getting it right!) 3 Responses. “Yes” /”No” / “I want to but…” This is exactly what it says on the tin. There are 3 responses to any aspect of the activities; YES!… this is a positive yes and is delivered with conviction and certainty. NO!… This is a firm, but polite NO! Again delivered with courage and conviction in the hope that it is given at a time of no regrets where the client wishes that they had changed their answer later after the opportunity has passed. I WANT TO BUT… this is the state where the answers of YES and NO have become confused and unsure. This is down to a variety of reasons and will be brought back to a yes or no with supportive questioning and positive reinforcement about what the individual thinks either the barriers are to a YES or; what the almost overwhelming factors are leading to a NO! This is facilitated by the counselling and activity staff present, with a definite line where the activity staff retreat and leave the counselling staff to intervene. All responses are to be treated with the utmost respect from the other participants, and staff, as agreed in a ground rule setting discussion prior to each activity where the system will be used.

10 Life Effectiveness Questionnaire
A 24 point questionnaire, looking at: Achievement Motivation Active Initiative Emotional Control Intellectual Flexibility Self Confidence Social Competence Task Leadership Time Management

11 Experiential activity
Self selecting Risk assessed Trust exercise based around communication and trust of strangers in a controlled environment. This is designed to place participants in a situation of slight discomfort, and where they need to trust those around them for their safety. They have a final say if they start or stop. Questionnaires.


13 Achieve specific goals

14 Having fun with strangers….not in a dodgy way!

15 Interact with new people, and not to drown!

16 Client selection Clients all established, assessed and well known to counsellors / Mental Health Advisor Self selecting, offered opportunity but no obligation No ‘at risk’ clients Clients who may have tackled other issues in counselling such as depression, bereavement, anxiety but currently presenting with low self esteem/ confidence Clients involved in LYL project Clients who want a challenge but aren’t sure how to do it for themselves – stuck in familiar patterns

17 Client Selection Pre- Exercise Participant Health Questionnaire for Adventure Therapy (Teesside University) Consent Forms (Permissions gained for visual, audio and written evidence to be used by Teesside University anonymously)

18 Activity Criteria Each activity is decided using the following criteria: Group or individual orientated. Do we have / can we get resources for the activity? Is it appropriate to the group and the individuals it contains If something happens, can we escape? Time : travelling / activities?

19 What we have learned from the experience- Outdoor activity
That we need to have better resources to be more flexible in our approach to the activities. To have prior knowledge of individuals goals would allow me to tailor the activity to the clients. Which Activity to use ? Contributing factors regarding which activity: -Environment / Weather / Group / Appropriateness.

20 What we have learned from the experience - Counselling
Every group totally unique! Clients may have goals they haven’t divulged – now using personal goal setting to share with counsellor in advance Managing anxiety and group cohesion a large part of the role Accepting its a different role with continuous exposure to clients over a 2 day period from sitting for an hour a week with someone in a counselling room

21 What we have learned from the experience - Counselling
Using a positive questionnaire (LEQ) that is outward looking and suitable to this activity.


23 Costs Staffing – Internal normal hours plus cover for any time off in lieu. Kit Hire – £235 Food - £133 (£6.05 / head) Van Hire - £120 Fuel - £60 Accommodation - £0 Total - £ per client Client contribution of £20 new total each of £ Per client. Supplementation of costs for my time for Kit hire, and no costs for accommodation, staff time from the two staff from Sport and Well-Being bring this cost down vastly.

24 Client feedback Feedback sources – Colleague Alex Kyriakopoulos Doctorate in Counselling Psychology research based on qualitative interviews with year 2008 and year 2009 clients CORE 10 and LEQ used pre, first day, end of final day and one month post experience, Journals Activity Questionnaire one month post experience.

25 Client Feedback Themes Social Anxiety
“On first impressions all the others seemed to be people I don’t usually surround myself with, then one by one it began to slot together”

26 Social Anxiety “With regards to the situation of being with so many strangers, I found myself quite anxious at times because I wanted to say things which didn’t seem appropriate to say to someone I didn’t know well. So this was quite annoying. This taught me that I need to find a way of saying how I feel to people who I don’t know well. I do worry about hurting people’s feelings, but at the end of the day, it’s not going to help if I stay quiet.”

27 Trust “This made me realise I was more comfortable trusting other people than trusting myself. This may be partially due to me not knowing myself as I had previously discussed with my counsellor, therefore I was afraid to put my own life, so directly in my own hands funnily enough.”

28 Trust “After our group talk and asking what we thought was our greatest achievement and most fun, I realised that one thing I didn’t think I had a problem with. Trust. I feel I didn’t have a problem with this issue, yet talking together got me quite emotional on the realisation. I trust people too easily. It’s strange that it is this way though, as, with what I have been through the last three years, I shouldn’t be able to trust anyone”

29 Self Belief / Achievement
“Realising this I decided to push myself to abseil in the theory that upon realising the issue I may as well challenge it and hopefully build some trust in myself. Of course I did not fall to my untimely death and it was a good experience and I felt proud of myself for doing it especially when I initially did not want too.”

30 Self Belief / Achievement
“Best part of today has been....Reaching the top of the rock face. I had done this on the climbing wall once before, but to be outdoors, on the real thing was awesome (even with the prospect of the sharp, jagged rocks to fall down onto). “

31 Environment “The best part of today has been the journey down to the campsite in the canoes. Just the beautiful scenery and lovely weather. This is happiness. “ “A few of us had a night boating trip after everyone else had settled down by the beach campfire, it ended up with four people in two boats.... in the middle of the completely black lake looking up at the moon, which was beautiful and amazing. “

32 Shared Experience “The people I have met on this experience have made this time even better. It makes you realise your not the only one that thinks this way and that your not the only one good at putting an act on” “Also seeing people doing the things which are to them scary or tough, dare I say it, is inspiring.”

33 Shared Experience “Secondly as we were going round the group I was surprised at the similarities of some of the fears/challenges and achievements listed and the ones floating around my head … but it does make me feel better somewhere inside to hear that from other people who aren’t my friends (who therefore I think might just be saying it to make me feel better) and who you can see are also working at it.”

34 Application to every day life
“So in part the trip did make me start questioning the patterns I have, I hope to take that and use it in everyday life. “ “I did take some of my new interaction confidence with me to another similar situation later on, and I did notice a difference. “

35 References Kyriakopoulos, A (2010) How Individuals with Self-reported Anxiety and Depression experienced a combination of Individual Counselling with an Adventurous Outdoor Experience: A Qualitative Evaluation. Counselling & Psychotherapy Research. In Press Life Effectiveness Questionnaire (LEQ) – Richards,G and Neill, J. -

36 References CORE 10, CORE System Trust (February 2006)
“What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi study analysis” Barton,J and Pretty, J Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, March 2010.

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