nature is the co-therapist

Using Evidence based TECHNIQUES OUTDOORS


Bush Adventure Therapy is a diverse field of practice combining adventure and outdoor environments with the intention to achieve therapeutic outcomes for those involved. (Australian Association for Bush Adventure Therapy, 2019). Commonly utilised in youth populations and termed ‘Adventure Therapy’, this practice now extends itself to include therapeutic work with a range of different client groups engaging a range of outdoor activities and natural environments.

This work occurs internationally (See: International Adventure Therapy, 2019 www.internationaladventuretherapy.org; Adventure Therapy Europe, 2019, www.adventuretherapy.eu) and throughout Australia (see: Australian Association for Bush Adventure Therapy, 2019; www.aabat.org.au).


Why is adventure important?

In our adventures, the activity or physical process is explicit and clear.

The excitement, the challenge, the journey in to the unknown are all important parts of what make our adventures memorable to us. But further to this, and perhaps more importantly, in our adventures, the process of empowerment, growth, healing, emotional and psychological transformation are all implicit but profoundly therapeutic elements. These elements of adventure enable us to experience ourselves differently and subsequently develop new skills and strengths.

Bush Adventure Therapy can also be described as ecotherapy (Jordan, 2009; Jordan & Hinds, 2016) which includes a wide range of therapeutic and reconnective practices (Buzzell and Calquist, 2009). These nature-based approaches can be considered a new modality of psychotherapy that enlarges the traditional scope of treatment to include the human-nature relationship (Calquist, 2013; Hasbach, 2012).

In this approach, the presence of nature is integral to the therapeutic process. It has been well documented that adventurous activities that take place in natural environments have positive therapeutic outcomes for those involved (Gray & Neill, 2012; Pryor, 2009, 2008; Neill, 2008; Dickson, Gray, & Mann, 2008; Carpenter, Cameron, Cherednichenko, & Townsend, 2007).

Furthermore, natural environments provide a therapeutic presence that cannot be captured in words or by traditional measurement tools. Some describe this as an almost spiritual connection – the deep sensation of being a part of something wondrous, magnificent, and more than human – and that nature plays a fundamental role as co-therapist in the healing process.


How can this approach help with bereavement?

As discussed by Jordan (2015), the underlying theories and practical application of counselling and psychotherapy can be transposed to an outdoor, natural environment to create a safe, healing space. Our TRAIL TRACING Program explores this approach by applying therapeutic practices together with mindfulness and basic navigation during a 11 kilometre walk with the overall intention to navigate grief, loss, change, or adjustment in a unique and healing way.