The use of adventure therapy in community-based mental health: Decreases in problem severity among youth clients


Background: There is an increasing need to identify effective mental health treatment practices for children and adolescents in community-based settings, due to current mixed findings of existing interventions. This study looked at adventure therapy (AT) as a viable option to meet this need.

Objective: Using a sample of 1,135 youth from a community-based mental health center, this study addressed the following questions: (1) Is AT an effective treatment modality for youth compared to traditional counseling? (2) How do changes in problem severity associated with participation in AT-based interventions compare with those associated with traditional counseling across gender, age, primary diagnosis, and race? (3) What are the predictors of changes in problem severity in clients?

Methods: In this exploratory non-equivalent groups quasi-experimental design study, pre- and post- mean scores of problem severity as reported by youth’s primary clinician were compared by type of treatment and client characteristics. Treatment and client characteristics were used as predictors of changes in problem severity.

Findings: Participants in AT had significant reported mean decreases in problem severity larger than those of clients not involved in counseling with an adventure component with larger decreases in female and African American clients. AT and psychological counseling were found to be significant predictors of decreases in problem severity; however, length of counseling, not length of AT, was a significant predictor.

Discussion: These findings suggest that community-based AT may be a viable treatment for youth in community settings; yet these findings should be interpreted with caution due to several study limitations.


Social Work

Publication Date


Journal Title

Child & Youth Care Forum



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Document Type