Helpful aspects of outdoor therapy experiences : an online preliminary investigation

Revell, Stephanie and Duncan, Elaine and Cooper, Mick (2014) Helpful aspects of outdoor therapy experiences : an online preliminary investigation. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 14 (4). pp. 281-287. ISSN 1473-3145 (

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Background: The term outdoor therapy can be used to refer to a wide range of outdoor programmes including adventure therapy and wilderness therapy. Much of the research in the outdoor therapy field has focused on outcomes of these programmes rather than exploring the actual processes that are inherent in these experiences. Aim: This study investigated participants' perspectives of helpful aspects of outdoor therapy experiences. Method: By means of an international online survey, participants reported what was helpful about their experiences of outdoor therapy. A mixed method approach was used, with the qualitative data being analysed with the use of grounded theory methodology to conduct thematic analysis. The quantitative data was analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics. Findings: A total of 43 complete responses were received. Quantitative and qualitative analysis established that being in the outdoors was the most helpful factor. Of 19 given aspects ‘to be outdoors’ was ranked the highest and ‘being outdoors’ emerged as a main category in the thematic analysis (84%, (n=36)). ‘Group related aspects’ were all rated higher, on average, than ‘your relationship with therapist’. Such findings contradict previous research on how important the therapeutic relationship is in facilitating positive therapeutic encounters. Conclusion: Although very much a preliminary survey, findings suggest that further investigation into the meaning attached to being outdoors and how this might affect/impact upon the therapeutic relationship is needed.