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Adventure Based Counseling (ABC) is a therapeutic tool that can be adapted to almost any setting and is a mixture of experiential learning, outdoor education, group counseling (Schoel, Prouty, & Radcliffe, 1988), and intrapersonal exploration. Although obviously not a panacea, the conceptual framework of ABC is based on several counseling theories including behavioral and cognitive theories, experiential learning, an affective perspective (Priest & Gass, 1997; Schoel et al., 1988), as well as a process of events that promotes positive change. ABC involves activities in which clients are essentially learning by doing (Gass, 1993a). Galagan's (1987) adventure-based learning by doing program was positively associated with personal growth, accountability, support, trust, and a sense of personal energy. Similarly, Vester (1987) has presented a framework of leisure that focuses on adventure as a form of counseling. Descriptively, a counselor using ABC typically chooses an experiential activity that possesses strong metaphoric relationships to the goals of counseling. The counselor may then give directives for an adventure-based activity and, during the process, make references to metaphors, thereby creating a connection from the adventure activity to real life (Gass, 1995). After this experience, counselors debrief the client to reinforce positive behavior changes, reframe potentially negative interpretations of the experience, and focus on the integration of functional change into the client's lifestyle (Gass, 1995; Hinkle, 1999; Luckner & Nadler, 1992; Priest & Gass, 1997). ABC is developing into a significant area of counseling intervention. The efficacy of ABC has been minimally supported in the research literature; however, methodological flaws in research designs may actually minimize reported effectiveness rates (see Nassar-McMillan & Cashwell, 1997). Continued theory development and empirical research are obviously needed, particularly on the long-term effects of ABC.
Conceptual Framework Of ABC: Although ABC uses traditional psychosocial and educational theories involving individual, group, and family counseling, ABC differs from traditional counseling. These differences include the setting, the use of real and perceived risk, additional required skills, additional ethical considerations, an emphasis on processing and metaphor, and transfer of learning to psychological, educational, sociological, physical, and spiritual benefits. ABC can be used as a primary treatment or as an adjunct to more traditional types bf counseling. Although traditional counseling usually takes place indoors or in an office setting, ABC often takes place in the outdoors. There is also the perception of risk or real risk in ABC that is not found in typical counseling settings. ABC requires traditional counseling skills (i.e., what experiential educators refer to as "soft" skills) as well as additional physical skills (i.e., what adventure based counselors refer to as "hard" skills, such as challenge ropes course management, rock climbing, hiking, camping, and kayaking). Facilitation of activities includes programming, or selecting appropriate activities, and macroprocessing, which includes six facilitation styles. These styles, described more fully in this article, are as follows: no loading, front loading, back loading, or front- and backloading, and the use of metaphor and paradox. Finally, the adventure-based experience is transferred to real life through processing. Because ABC originated from experiential education and outdoor education, a model is needed for the counseling profession to transfer the traditional practices from outdoor and experiential education to a more therapeutic realm. To do so, counselors, counselor educators, and counselors-in-training need to develop an understanding of how the entire process works. Finally, ABC is relatively new to the counseling field, and a model helps to organize the relative information so that it is easier to comprehend, teach, and apply.
Theory Application: ABC is derived from individual, group, and family counseling models, as well as from educational theories. The primary individual counseling theories or therapies that combine to contribute to ABC are cognitive (Beck, 1963), rational emotive behavioral (Ellis, 1962), reality (Glasser, 1965), behavioral (Bandura, 1969; Skinner, 1953), gestalt (Zinker, 1977), narrative (Bruner, 1985), and constructivist (Fosnot, 1989). Cognitive theory is used in ABC to help clients understand the association between their adventure experience and their cognitive processes and how thought processes may affect relationships with others as well as with the self. Rational emotive behavioral theory can be effectively used when assessing risk or perceived risk. For example, if a person is in a low-risk situation but perceives the situation as high risk, irrational thoughts of risk can be challenged so the client is able to confront and differentiate between real and perceived risks (Priest & Gass, 1997). Of course, having a client differentiate between real and perceived risks is consistent with current behavior therapy that relies heavily on a cognitive base. Also, ABC uses reinforcement theory as a basic component of its approach. Reality theory is incorporated into ABC by the highlighting of natural consequences, taking responsibility for one's own actions, and working in the present toward the future (Clagett, 1992).
Gestalt therapy is relevant to the adventure experience in that individuals process events while they are occurring. This happens in microprocessing as new skills or insights from the experience are applied to real life. Furthermore, the "in the moment" focus of ABC is consistent with gestalt therapy. Narrative therapy, a technique used to write and rewrite a person's "story," is similarly used in ABC. The adventure experience can be used as a metaphor to rewrite a person's past. Finally, constructivist theory is based on the individual creating his or her own reality. ABC can assist with this process by adding another dimension to a person's reality through the insight gained from the adventure experience (Luckner & Nadler, 1992).
ABC can be used intentionally to address individual needs, but many ABC activities emphasize work in groups. The application of group counseling models is important for understanding group development and group dynamics (Gazda, Ginter, & Horne, 2001). Luckner and Nadler (1992) have identified a model of group development that is specific to ABC. These stages include acquaintance, goal ambiguity, diffusing anxiety, members' search for position, focus on affect and confrontation, sharpened interactions (growth), norm crystallization, distributive leadership, decreased defensiveness and increased experimentation, group potency, and termination.
Adjunct and Primary Treatment: The aforementioned theories have been identified to provide a better understanding of how ABC is grounded and supported. ABC can be used as an adjunct to treatment or as the primary treatment (Gass, 1995). In counseling, it will most likely be used as an adjunctive treatment intervention (Bandaroff & Parrish, 1997). For example, a day hike may be used adjunctively with breast cancer survivors to help them relax, engage in a peaceful environment, and have success with something that requires healthy, physical exertion. In contrast, an adolescent residential treatment facility may use longer trips using an outdoor setting with ABC as the primary treatment, and clients are expected to make behavioral changes as a result.
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