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Does Adventure Therapy Work?
Findings from Meta-analysis

James Neill
Last updated:
06 Sep 2003

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Adventure therapy meta-analysis - Masters thesis powerpoint presentation (Staunton, 2003)

Key reference
Neill, J. T. (2003). Reviewing and benchmarking Adventure Therapy outcomes: Applications of meta-analysis. Journal of Experiential Education, 25(3), 316-321.

Overview of Adventure Therapy Meta-analysis

For a small field of inquiry and endeavor, adventure therapy has produced a reasonable of quantitative outcome research to warrant review of findings via meta-analysis.  Gillis (1992, 2000; Gillis & Thomsen, 1996) has called for a meta-analysis to be conducted on several occasions, as has Neill (2003) recently in a paper reviewing the empirical literature on adventure therapy and suggesting some benchmarks for program evaluation of adventure therapy programs. 

Given the bold claims of adventure therapist advocates that adventure therapy is at least as effective as conventional psychological methods (e.g., see Davis-Berman & Berman, 1994; Gass, 1993), it is surprising that such a systematic review of adventure therapy literature was lacking.

During 2002/2003 a meta-analysis was conducted by Norman Staunton, as part of his Masters degree in outdoor education at the University of New Hampshire.

Meta-analysis involves the systematic accumulation and analysis of summary research statistics from many different studies about a single research question.  Read more about meta-analysis research methodology...

An exhaustive search was conducted for suitable literature.  Initially thousands of possible references were identified, which were narrowed to approximately a hundred suitable sounding studies.  However, due to lack of availability and/or poor reporting of results, only 17 studies proved to be suitable for meta-analysis.

Overall, a standardized mean effect size of .42 was found, after correcting for typical biases and errors.  This is slightly higher than the typical effect size for outdoor education programs and is roughly equivalent to the typical effect size for group-based psychological intervention programs.  Read more about other meta-analyses related to adventure therapy...

To learn more about the meta-analysis, view the powerpoint presentation of Norm Staunton's Masters thesis defence.