Practitioners Views on Nordic Outdoor-Based Therapy: Practices and Experiences
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This master's thesis examines outdoor-based therapy professionals' practices, experiences and understanding of outdoor-based therapies in the Nordic countries. The study is qualitative and inspired by phenomenological research. The research concentrates on studying the methods, current practices and experiences of therapists and is framed by existing theory from the field of outdoor-based therapy research. The research is aimed at understanding the experiences and meaning of the phenomenon rather than creating generalised knowledge. The data of this thesis was gathered by a thematised open interview. Informants were recruited through Nordic outdoor and adventure therapy networks and selected by the criteria defined in this study. Five interviews were carried out during spring 2018. These interviews give insights into the informants' practices, experiences and understanding of outdoor-based therapy. The informants identified themselves as outdoor-based therapy practitioners, were working in a Nordic country and were using outdoor-activities in their practice. Four out of the five had over five years of working experience in the field. The research included three men and two women in the age range of 29-55-year-olds, each representing a different Nordic country. They had variable educational backgrounds from the social and health sectors. In addition, they hold training in outdoor and adventure activities and applications. Interviews were transcribed during autumn 2018. The data was analysed by thematising it under the categories of practice, experience and understanding of outdoor-based therapies. The used theoretical framework considered already existing studies from the field of outdoor-based therapies around the globe, concentrating primarily on Nordic countries. Adventure, environmental and outdoor education theories were included in the research because of the narrow literature of the field of outdoor-therapy and due to its historical roots in education. Additionally, this master thesis draws on lectures, network meeting and discussions among practitioners presented in seminars in the Nordic countries during the years of 2016-2019. The researcher's own educational and professional history in the field of study targeted the direction of the work. The research results of this study show that outdoor-based therapies are practised in various ways in the Nordic countries and contain influences from Adventure and Outdoor Education and Therapy, Wilderness Therapy, Experiential Learning, the Nordic Outdoor Life and Japanese Forest Bathing. None of the outdoor-based therapies are legalised forms of therapy hence, anyone could provide an outdoor-based therapy practice without being a certified therapist. Furthermore, practices are often provided based on the practitioners' personal interest and beliefs towards the intervention as there are no strictly defined requirements for the practice yet. However, therapeutic and ethical aspects are seen to be important including practice design, goal setting and answering the defined client needs by adapting the practice for each individual client in order to drive positive change in the client's situation. Even when the currently used frameworks differ, similarities could be found in the outdoor-based therapy ideologies. It seems that the natural environment, connection to nature and nature's health benefits are in the core of the Nordic outdoor-based therapies. Furthermore, nature appears to own a role of a co- or main therapist in the Nordic outdoor-based therapy intervention. Additionally, outdoor-based therapies are used as a group modality, they were action-centred and carried out in the nearby environment. Most often, one group session lasts from three to six hours, and one group gets together several times regularly over months. The results of this study are not generalised due to the nature of the conducted qualitative research. Further research is necessary in order to provide additional evidence of outdoor-based therapies in the Nordic countries. Nevertheless, the findings are informative, and they have transferable elements to the professional discussion of outdoor-based therapies.
Masteroppgave - Norges idrettshøgskole, 2019