Solution-Focused Therapy in the Outdoors: How Therapists and Outdoor Professionals can Construct a Distinct Model for Change

Mr Will Dobud1
1Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia; 2True North Expeditions, Hazelwood Park, Australia


Outdoor facilitators and helping professionals experienced in working with troubled young people know that engagement can be difficult at best. Any outdoor adventure group, whether in a school or therapeutic setting, is likely to have students labelled ‘at-risk’ or those struggling with a range of mental health issues. The purpose of this workshop is to present solution-focused approaches for co-constructing change and providing experiences of personal development for participants on outdoor experiences. These approaches invite facilitators to explore alternative assumptions about the participant’s role in the change process. Building off John Dewey’s approach to experiential education, the centre of gravity is shifted to the student, rather than the curriculum, inviting alternative understandings of resistance and resilience. While many outdoor facilitators are not qualified psychotherapists, research suggests these professionals can work with distressed individuals on their programs. For example, a high ropes course facilitator may facilitate a group of young people coming from residential care. Though other helping professionals may accommodate the group, a solution-focused approach can assist in the briefing and debriefing of the outdoor experience. The professional works collaboratively and deeply with the participants, using solution-focused questions to help orient participants towards future learning and therapeutic change. This experiential workshop will provide an engaging discussion with illustrations of solution-focused conversations that can help practitioners co-adventure with their young participants, working towards unlocking a hopeful future and orienting participants towards future learning. Attendees will leave with an understanding of how solution-focused questions can help with co-constructing change for a hopeful future.

Will Dobud MSW is the program director of True North Expeditions, Inc., an Australian adventure therapy program for adolescents. Will is also a casual academic in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Charles Sturt University and was awarded the Australian Postgraduate Award in 2015 for completing his PhD, a study of adventure therapy experiences. Will has been involved with adventure therapy programs in Australia, the United States, And Norway. Will’s research centres on people’s experiences in adventure therapy and steps practitioners can take to improve their effectiveness.

About OEA and Outdoors NSW

Outdoor Education Australia (OEA)  was established in 2006 as a national network of outdoor education associations. The organisation facilitates communication between state and territory outdoor education associations about the practice and delivery of outdoor education; advocates for outdoor education across primary, secondary and tertiary education; and provides policy advice.

Outdoors NSW is the go-to place for all things outdoors in NSW.

The peak body for the outdoors in NSW, the organisation, (formerly known as ORIC), represents the outdoor community, advances outdoor standards, safety and practices, and fosters greater participation in the outdoors.

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