Emotion and adventure therapy : A model
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The cognitive zeitgeist within the psychotherapy literature of the last decades has tended to obscure the role of emotion, emphasising instead the role of cognition and behaviour in psychotherapeutic change. It seems anomalous that clinically oriented psychologists should have neglected emotion to such a degree, as emotional distress of one type or another is the currency of psychotherapy. Concurrent with the neglect of emotion in the psychotherapy literature, within general psychology there has been a resurgence of interest in emotion as a fundamental aspect of human experience. Following the course set by Jeremy Safran & Leslie Greenberg, the individuals who have alerted the psychotherapeutic community to the need for cognisance of the general psychology work on emotion, an attempt has been made to form an amalgam which acknowledges both the therapeutic and academic knowledge about emotion. That is the first element of the discussion presented below. The second major element is Adventure Therapy. Adventure Therapy, as a means of addressing difficulties of various sorts, has been a part of the therapeutic landscape for almost one hundred years. There has been a recent resurgence of interest in Adventure Therapy, particularly as the need for alternatives to traditional ‘talking’ therapies for some populations has been recognised. The view taken here is that Adventure Therapy is indeed a form of psychotherapy and not merely a specialised form of recreation undertaken with particular populations. In much the same way as many other forms of therapy, Adventure Therapy is partially defined by the environment, procedures and techniques which constitute the practical aspect of the approach. Behind this is the theory that provides the rationale for the more tangible aspects. For instance, classical psychoanalysis has the unconscious, free association, and the ubiquitous couch, while Adventure Therapy has the outdoors and activities such as climbing, abseiling, kayaking, and tramping. As will become apparent, for Adventure Therapy, it is the activities and the environment within which they take place that is crucial to the therapeutic effect. Most psychotherapeutic schools, to greater or lesser degrees, have attempted, in the course of their theorising, to say something about the role of emotion. This does not appear to be the case for Adventure Therapy. By way of redressing this notable deficiency, the discussion below draws on the implications that stem from a synthesis emerging from both the therapeutic and academic literatures. Chapter 1 is an introduction to Adventure Therapy with particular emphasis on the existing theoretical models which have been applied to Adventure Therapy. Also discussed are the types of programs which exist and the populations to which they are directed. Similarly, Chapter 2 delineates a number of features of emotion drawing on the general academic research and theory. Chapter 3 outlines the ways in which various psychotherapeutic schools have conceptualised emotion. The emotional change processes which contribute to the purported psychotherapeutic effect are also examined. Chapter 4 describes the general therapeutic implications that emerge from the synthesis of the therapeutic and academic literatures. Chapter 5 is an examination of two particular bodies of research that relate to both emotion and adventure; coping and risk-taking. The purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate that the academic research provides some useful signposts as to the role of emotion in Adventure Therapy particularly with regard to the complexity of the factors which may need to be considered when examining adventure specifically. However, what also becomes apparent are the limitations of scope and methodology that will need to be addressed for research within the Adventure Therapy context. Chapter 6 presents a model of the role of emotion in Adventure Therapy. The model, essentially an ecological constructivist analysis, draws on the preceding chapters and is designed to provide a starting point from which a research program can be undertaken. It suggests that the activities and processes which are inherent parts of Adventure Therapy provide an adaptive context within which emotion plays a central therapeutic role by way of its ability to penetrate multiple aspects of being.