Adventure therapy is a subset of counseling psychology built upon a foundation of experiential education for personal growth and development. By stretching to achieve personal goals, participants experience beneficial social and emotional skills like gaining confidence, building trust, boosting self-concept, and learning to rely on others.
Adventure Therapy is also an APU course offered during Block this fall semester. While students had a textbook and classroom on campus, the majority of the course was held across Southcentral Alaska. During the class, students were provided opportunities to directly experience and lead adventure therapy processes and practices first hand.
The course is taught by industry professional Randy Dowd, who earned his doctorate in counseling psychology from APU in 2016. Dowd is an APU instructor who also manages the adventure-based nonprofit Onward & Upward headquartered in the Mat-Su Valley but serving Alaskans across the state.
“I find that, especially in this class, learning by doing is more impactful,” he said of APU’s Adventure Therapy course. Students experience class the way their future clients could — through active learning, conscious reflection, and pushing themselves to leave their comfort zone in a managed risk and carefully monitored environment. “By integrating all the senses and the emotions of the experience, it’s just more meaningful,” he added.
The four-week course introduced a range of Adventure Therapy programs. Daily activities included a high ropes challenge course in Wasilla, working in the fields at the Kellogg Campus farm, connecting with Alaska Behavioral Health’s youth empowerment program Seeds of Change, and joining an archaeology cultural study with the Knik Tribe.
“Each activity has an outcome intention behind it, similar to how it would be used in a therapeutic setting,” Dowd said.
Much like an actual adventure therapy program, the course provides avenues for personal growth and daily reflection. No matter where their careers take them, students who complete Adventure Therapy gain skills that will benefit them through college and beyond.