What works with youth? : an evaluation of the adventure development counselling programme.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Within New Zealand and internationally the capacity to deliver effective treatment for adolescent mental health problems has been identified as a priority concern. This research sought to evaluate an established New Zealand adolescent counselling programme (Adventure Development Counselling), and to shed light on factors associated with successful treatment outcomes. A mixed-methods research design was adopted to meet the unique challenges of studying adolescent behaviour in a community-based clinical setting. The design included administration of standardised measures of mental health and other individual and contextual variables immediately prior to, after, and six months following, treatment. In addition, qualitative data (observations and interviews) were collected on a small group of clients as they progressed through an ADC programme. Results from a series of repeated-measures analyses of variance indicated that ADC clients (n=42) achieved significant improvement on multiple indices of mental health, improvements which were largely maintained six months after completion of the programme. Further analyses identified several client factors (severity of problem behaviour, number of previous interventions) and contextual factors (parent/caregiver involvement, community support) as being significantly associated with treatment outcome (programme completion and level of improvement in mental health). The qualitative enquiry revealed the importance in the early phases of counselling of a client's readiness to make changes, and a developmentally appropriate and acceptable client-counsellor relationship. However, once youth were committed to making changes in their lives, approaches such as wilderness therapy that were action-orientated, intensive, challenging, enjoyable and group-based were perceived as particularly helpful. This thesis has contributed to the pressing need for research that clarifies the real-world applicability of counselling interventions for youth. Further, it is among the first such study applicable to the New Zealand context, contributing to improved understanding of factors associated with successful treatment outcomes for this country's youth.