Exploring how psychologists in Aotearoa New Zealand perceive adventure therapy : a qualitative study : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Adventure Therapy (AT) is gaining prominence in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) as a mental health intervention practice that can address a wide range of client presentations. Against a backdrop of pressing mental health needs, it offers to be an effective tool to improve client outcomes. AT combines adventurous group activities in the outdoors, with a therapeutic intent. As an approach, AT has its roots in the early twentieth century with Outward Bound, Scouting and tent therapy. While the research base has provided evidence of AT’s effectiveness, it is considered limited due to the absence of randomised controlled trials and the diversity of programmes. Practitioner perception research into AT is growing and is important for ongoing practice development. However, despite psychologists being an important part of mental healthcare delivery, they have not featured in previous literature. This study seeks to fill this gap by answering the question: How do psychologists in Aotearoa NZ perceive the practice of AT? It seeks to identify key perceptions, to explore the utility, effectiveness, and uncover barriers with psychologists using AT. Using a qualitative research design drawn from a critical realist perspective and applying reflexive thematic analysis, data was gathered from psychologists across Aotearoa NZ who had experience in using AT in their practice. Findings showed that AT is seen to be a milieu of therapeutic elements that embraces physical and psychological risk. Notably, it was observed that for AT to have a lasting impact, focus was required on pre/post transitions and follow up. Needs for additional skill development were outlined with collaboration from outdoor instructors a preferred model to acquire outdoor skillsets. Its unique characteristics provide tension in delivering AT to efficiency standards inherent in traditional talk therapy and, although AT provides successful outcomes, it is relatively unknown in psychological circles. The insights from this research contribute to the ongoing refinement and expansion of AT as a valuable mental health intervention.