Adventure Therapy

I have talked forever about getting out of one’s comfort zone by trying new activities, expanding one’s mind through learning, and just taking the road less traveled.  It may surprise you to know that this is actually is a form of therapy.  

Adventure therapy is defined as the use of experiences (often in unfamiliar settings) to create learning that results in change.  This concept has been around for a long time.  Remember the Outward Bound experiences back in the 1970s and 1980s?  Same idea.  The basic premise is that one will learn more by experiencing difficulty and learning how to overcome adversity.  This learning will directly transfer and apply to the work environment, facilitating positive change in the individual.

We cannot talk about adventure therapy without explaining self-efficacy.  Self-efficacy is a motivation theory that points to the feeling of effectiveness and confidence that we feel concerning accomplishment of certain goals.  By using adventure therapy, in combination with certain techniques of emotional control (see last HPC Journal), we begin to see positive change and performance increases in individuals.  This is another incremental look at the mind/body connection; a powerful connection that most people just take for granted or overlook.  Let’s look at an example of how adventure therapy, emotional awareness training, and self-efficacy influence performance in the workplace.


We begin our journey with an evaluation of John.  John works as a sales leader in a pharmaceutical company.  As part of his job, he must make calls to doctors in order to build positive relationships.  He is successful, but wants to take it to the next level.  Emotional awareness training using the IZOF model would be used to evaluate John’s best and worst emotional states with respect to his performances on the job.  He would then go under a series of sessions of adventure therapy which would completely take him out of his comfort zone.  Turns out that John has a small fear of water.  Over the course of six months, the therapist would work with John in a swimming pool to teach him how to swim.  Furthermore, the entire therapy session would culminate in an open ocean race that would cause John to face his deepest (no pun intended) fears.  

By facing his fears, John gets a boost in his own self-efficacy.  He has set a very challenging goal and accomplished it.  That is the heart of adventure therapy: accomplishing what one thought of as impossible.  It is the accomplishment of this goal that is important; it boosts one’s self-efficacy and has direct translation into our normal, everyday jobs.  

The following year has been a tremendous boost for John.  Not only has he been able to identify and boost his emotional states before important sale calls, but he has a renewed sense of self-confidence that all his customers can see and more importantly, sense.  Adventure therapy, if done the correct way, can yield this quiet confidence that we all seek.  The confidence that will be sensed by customers and co-workers.  The confidence that will take John to the next level.
aaThe above case study shows us that adventure therapy is very personalized.  Swimming would not have worked if John were an Olympic level swimmer.  The challenge would not have been great enough.  A tailor made adventure must be designed.  Perhaps a trip to the local community theater to audition for a part in a play?  Or perhaps learning how to SCUBA dive?  You see, the adventure does no matter.  What does matter is overcoming the adversity that the challenge brings, and boosting one’s self-efficacy in the process.  

This Week's Assignment

Adventure therapy transcends the traditional “lie on the couch and tell me about your mother” therapy but it is therapy nonetheless.  It is a journey into the deepest and darkest recesses of one’s soul and inner being.  Find what your biggest fear is and take steps to conquer it.  Today.  What are the baby steps that you need to take?  When you conquer this fear, your world will open up in ways you never thought possible.  You will go to the place that you have always feared but never challenged.  The confidence that you build and the fun that you have will be priceless. 

So what are you waiting for?

Ed Naggiar