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Adventure Therapy - Terminology

James Neill
Last updated:
04 Jul 2003

The terminology "adventure therapy" is not settled on and is regularly debated.  Gass (1993) has suggested that adventure therapy programs generally fall into one of three categories, plus a fourth, more recent term can be added:

Adventure Therapy Categories


 Wilderness Therapy

A therapeutic experience that takes place in a wilderness setting where focus is placed on naturally occurring challenges and consequences.  Wilderness therapy programs tend to last for several to many days.

Adventure Based therapy

Takes place most often in inpatient settings where the intervention takes place on or near the treatment facility of the participants.  Often involves the use of constructed challenges and consequences, such as ropes courses, initiatives, and games.

Long-term Residential Camping

Participants are placed in long-term living or traveling units.  The focus is primarily on the challenges associated with daily life under whatever the conditions of the program happen to be.  Participants are often responsible for completing chores and other activities that impact the other members of the group.

Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare

This more recent term has emerged through the development of the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Industry Council, sponsored by 12 programs in the United States which conduct clinically-licensed adventure-based programs for adjudicated and diagnosed clients.