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Enhancing Your Therapy with Gestalt Approaches
Gestalt Therapy continuing education addiction counselor CEUs

Section 20
Gestalt Principles in Adventure-Based Counseling

CEU Question 20 | CEU Answer Booklet | Table of Contents | Gestalt
Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

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.
- Fletcher, Teresa B.; Hinkle, J. Scott; Adventure Based Counseling: An Innovation in Counseling; Journal of Counseling & Development, Summer2002, Vol. 80 Issue 3
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.

Personal Reflection Exercise #6
The preceding section contained information about Gestalt principles in Adventure-Based Counseling.  Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 20
What are two ways in which Gestalt therapy is relevant to Adventure-Based Counseling? Record the letter of the correct answer the CEU Answer Booklet.

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Table of Contents

Latina/o adolescents’ family undocumented-status disclosures directed at school counselors: A latent transition analysis. - April 19, 2018
For adolescents from undocumented families, school counselors may serve as a resource to draw upon for support should the adolescents decide to disclose their family status. In this study, we identified psychological factors that were associated with adolescents’ decisions to disclose (or not) their own or a family member’s undocumented status to a counselor and examined corresponding mental health implications. Utilizing latent transition analyses with a sample of 410 Latina/o immigrant high school students, four profiles emerged in Wave 1: (1) indifferent nondisclosers, (2) concerned revealers, (3) anxious revealers, and (4) secure revealers. By Wave 2, we identified the same profiles, except anxious revealers were no longer present, and anxious nondisclosers emerged as a new profile. At Wave 3, we only identified three profiles: (1) indifferent nondisclosers (2), concerned revealers, and (3) anxious revealers. As Latina/o immigrant students experienced greater fear of deportation in the middle and end of the year, they were more likely to be concerned revealers (i.e., reporting moderate perceived risk of disclosing, low communication efficacy, and moderate levels of disclosure) compared with most profiles. Anxious revealers reported higher levels of depressive symptoms than several other profiles in the beginning of the year, and concerned revealers reported higher levels of depressive symptoms than several other profiles in the middle and end of the year. This study emphasizes the importance of considering the diverse experiences of family undocumented adolescents, and it sheds light on the extent to which family undocumented adolescents confide in a counselor. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
An examination of the Psychology of Working Theory with racially and ethnically diverse employed adults. - April 19, 2018
The present study tested key tenets of the Psychology of Working Theory (PWT) in a sample of 526 racially and ethnically diverse employed adults. The authors investigated how economic resources and marginalization predicted decent work through experiences of work volition and career adaptability. Support for the hypotheses was mixed. There was a direct, negative relation between marginalization and decent work; a direct, positive relation between economic resources and work volition; and a direct, negative relation between marginalization and work volition. There was a positive relation between work volition and career adaptability as well as with decent work. Work volition was also found to significantly mediate the relations between marginalization and economic resources to decent work. These results suggest that the primary reason why greater economic resources and lower experiences of marginalization predict engaging in decent work is attributable to an increased sense of choice in one’s career decision making. Results suggest the need for further investigation using the PWT to understand how racially and ethnically diverse employed adults secure decent work. Practical implications are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
Testing the predictions of the existential constructivist theory of suicide in a college student sample. - April 19, 2018
There is a lack of empirically supported theories explaining suicidal ideation and few theories describe how suicidal ideation can be prevented in the context of normative human development. Rogers (2001) proposed an existential constructivist theory of suicide (ECTS) wherein existential distress and the inability to reconstruct meaning from adverse life events contribute to suicidal ideation. The ECTS includes a distinct focus on meaning reconstruction from adverse life events, which is congruent with existing research on college students and developmental frameworks used by counseling psychologists. Thus, in the present study, we tested the predictions of the ECTS in a college student sample. We collected data online from 195 college students (i.e., ages 18–25) attending a large, Midwestern university and analyzed the data using structural equation modeling. Findings provided partial support for the original ECTS. Post hoc analyses of an alternate ECTS model indicated that existential distress mediated the negative association between meaning reconstruction and suicidal ideation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
Transgender people of color’s experiences of sexual objectification: Locating sexual objectification within a matrix of domination. - April 19, 2018
The purpose of this grounded theory study was to investigate transgender people of color’s (TPOC’s) sexual objectification experiences (SOEs). Fifteen TPOC were interviewed about their experiences with sexual objectification. Using intersectionality and objectification theories as our research paradigms, results suggested that participants’ SOEs were shaped by the intersections of cissexism, sexism, and racism, and that participants experienced various levels of privilege and oppression based on their specific identities. Results revealed similarities with previous sexual objectification research as well as unique sexual objectification experiences for TPOC, including racialized sexual objectification, fetishization, genital- and gender transition-based comments, and body policing. Results also suggested that self-objectification may manifest as a desire to affirm one’s gender identity and result in physical safety anxiety. TPOC may engage in body surveillance to achieve transgender congruence and reduce potential victimization experiences. Mental health practitioners are encouraged to attend to how intersections of cissexism, sexism, and racism may encourage SOEs, and the ways in which such experiences may impact TPOC. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
Predicting PTSD severity from experiences of trauma and heterosexism in lesbian and bisexual women: A longitudinal study of cognitive mediators. - April 19, 2018
Sexual minority women (SMW) are at high risk of trauma exposure and, subsequently, the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The authors extended a theoretical model explaining the higher risk of mental disorders in minority populations to the maintenance and exacerbation of PTSD symptoms among young adult SMW specifically. This study used observational longitudinal data from a sample of 348 trauma-exposed 18- to 25-year-old individuals assigned female sex at birth who identified as either bisexual (60.1%) or lesbian (39.9%) and met screening criteria for PTSD. Participants identified as White (82.8%), Hispanic/Latina (12.4%), American Indian/Alaska Native (13.5%), Black/African American (13.8%), and/or Asian/Asian American (4.9%). The authors investigated whether distal stressors (i.e., criterion A traumatic events, daily experiences of heterosexism) produced proximal stressors (i.e., trauma-related cognitions, internalized heterosexism) that maintained or exacerbated PTSD symptoms. Findings indicated that daily heterosexism longitudinally predicted trauma-related cognitions (i.e., cognitions related to the self, world, and self-blame). Internalized heterosexism and cognitions about the self longitudinally predicted PTSD symptom severity. In addition, a significant indirect effect was identified between daily heterosexism and PTSD symptoms via self-related posttraumatic cognitions. These findings suggest that exposure to minority-specific distal stressors appears to promote nonminority-specific cognitive processes that, in turn, may maintain or exacerbate PTSD among young adult SMW exposed to trauma. Clinicians should consider addressing daily heterosexism in young adult SMW presenting with PTSD and evaluate how these experiences might promote clients’ global, negative views regarding themselves. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)

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