Career Development

How To Become an Adventure Therapist: Step-by-Step Guide

Learn about the steps important to pursuing a career as an adventure therapist, including education, skills, salary and more.

Adventure therapists use outdoor activities and adventure-based experiences to help people with physical, emotional and mental health challenges. This type of therapy can be used to treat a wide variety of issues, including addiction, anxiety and depression. If you are interested in becoming an adventure therapist, it is important to learn about the requirements, job duties and average salary for this career. In this article, we discuss everything you need to know about becoming an adventure therapist.

What Does an Adventure Therapist Do?

An adventure therapist is a mental health professional who uses outdoor activities and adventure-based experiences to treat patients with emotional, behavioral or mental disorders. Adventure therapy can be used as a standalone treatment or in conjunction with other forms of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or family therapy.

Adventure therapists typically work with small groups or individual patients and may specialize in treating specific disorders, such as addiction, anxiety, depression, eating disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of the common duties of an adventure therapist include:

  • Planning and leading therapeutic outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping, canoeing, rock climbing, etc.
  • Assessing patients to determine their suitability for adventure therapy
  • Designing individualized treatment plans based on each patient’s needs
  • Monitoring patients during activities to ensure their safety
  • Debriefing with patients after activities to discuss their experience and any progress made
  • Keeping detailed records of each patient’s treatment
  • Collaborating with other mental health professionals to provide comprehensive care
  • Maintaining all necessary certifications and licenses

Adventure Therapist Salary and Job Outlook

The average salary for an adventure therapist is $54,603.39 per year. However, salaries can vary depending on the employer, geographic location, and level of experience.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job growth for adventure therapists will be faster than average over the next decade. This is due to the growing popularity of outdoor recreation and the need for therapists who specialize in this area. Adventure therapists often work with clients who have mental health disorders or substance abuse problems. They use outdoor activities to help these individuals improve their physical and mental health.

How to Become an Adventure Therapist

Here are several steps you should take to become an adventure therapist.

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work, or a related field

Adventure therapists need a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work or another related field. Some schools offer adventure therapy as an undergraduate major, but others have pre-professional programs that allow you to specialize in adventure therapy later on.

Undergraduate courses should include general psychology, research methods, statistics and counseling. You may also want to take outdoor education or wilderness training courses.

2. Complete an internship or practicum in adventure therapy

Completing an internship or practicum is a great way to gain hands-on experience in adventure therapy. Internships are often part of degree programs, but you can also apply for internships independently. Practicums are usually supervised by professionals and take place during the last semester of your degree program.

During these placements, you’ll work directly with clients in an outdoor setting. You may help them complete activities such as hiking, rock climbing, canoeing and other similar tasks. Through this process, you’ll learn how to assess clients’ needs and develop treatment plans that incorporate adventure therapy.

3. Become certified as an Adventure Therapist through the Association for Experiential Education

The Association for Experiential Education (AEE) is an organization that provides professional development and training opportunities to adventure therapists. To become certified as a registered adventure therapist, you must complete the AEE’s Therapist Training Program. This program includes online courses in topics such as experiential education theory, outdoor risk management and leadership, wilderness first aid and safety, group dynamics and facilitation, and adventure therapy practice.

You also need to have at least 1,000 hours of supervised experience working with clients in an outdoor setting. You can gain this experience through your internship or practicum, but it may also be possible to get credit for some of these hours if you completed them while earning your bachelor’s degree.

4. Gain experience working with clients in an outdoor setting

Most adventure therapy programs require candidates to have at least one year of experience working with clients in an outdoor setting. If you are a graduate student, consider volunteering or working as an assistant at your school’s adventure therapy program. You can also volunteer or work for a non-profit organization that provides outdoor activities such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America or Camp Fire USA.

If you’re not currently pursuing a degree, look for internships or entry-level positions in adventure therapy. These opportunities allow you to gain hands-on experience while building your professional network.

5. Develop strong communication and interpersonal skills

Adventure therapists must be able to clearly and effectively communicate with clients, colleagues and other professionals. They also need strong interpersonal skills so they can build relationships with their clients that encourage them to open up and share their thoughts and feelings. Adventure therapists should always maintain a professional demeanor while working with clients, but they should also be approachable and friendly.

6. Stay up to date on changes in the industry

As a adventure therapist, it’s important to stay up to date on changes in the industry. For example, new research may show that a different type of therapy is more effective for certain clients or that there are new safety protocols you should follow when taking your clients into the wilderness.

You can do this by reading professional journals and attending conferences and workshops offered by organizations such as the Association for Experiential Education.

7. Join professional organizations such as the Association for Experiential Education

The Association for Experiential Education is a professional organization that offers memberships to individuals who work in the field of experiential education. Through this organization, you can network with other adventure therapists and professionals in related fields.

The American Counseling Association also provides resources for aspiring counselors and therapists. You may consider joining this organization if you plan to practice as a therapist outside of an outdoor setting.


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