Adventure-based Psychotherapy

Hiking Out of the Grand Canyon Redwall Limestone,

The Prescott College Adventure-Based Psychotherapy concentration is designed for self-directed learners with some background in either mental health or outdoor/ experiential education who wish to specialize in adventure-based intervention. The 15-credit hour concentration is in addition to the 60-credit hours required for the master of science.

This is one of very few academic programs in the United States that incorporates the experience of the wilderness in modalities designed to heal clients and facilitate their personal exploration. Graduates possess competency in both conventional psychotherapy and adventure therapy, including wilderness leadership (if desired), and are employable in a range of settings, from educational to clinical.

A Unique Blending of Coursework

Students must take all of the following counseling core courses:

  • Human development
  • Group dynamics
  • Theories of counseling
  • Counseling skills
  • Multicultural foundations
  • Professional ethics
  • Helping relationships
  • Career counseling
  • Social and lifestyle issues
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Trauma and addiction
  • Psychopathology
  • Diagnosis and treatment planning
  • Research and evaluation

Additional course content areas for this concentration include:

  • History and theory of adventure-based psychotherapy
  • Therapeutic facilitation skills
  • Risk management
  • In-depth study of theory
  • Wilderness as a healing place


The qualifying Adventure-based Psychotherapy are recognized in the professional community as delivering clinical psychotherapeutic treatment primarily (or at least partially) from a philosophical and methodological in adventure and experiential learning.

A 700-hour (minimum) applied practicum encompassing both clinical (traditional) and outdoor settings interweaves throughout the ongoing coursework. The practicum focus on experiential development of outdoor activity skills and includes Wilderness First Responder first aid training for students who are not already certified.

The practicum is not theoretical learning; nor is it skills training. A practicum must consist of work in which the student is applying the previously learned theory in actual counseling with clients.

The total number of practicum hours required varies from state to state. However, a minimum of 400 hours must occur in a qualified Adventure-based Psychotherapy practicum setting, and a minimum of 300 must occur in a "traditional" counseling and setting.

Students receive a fixed amount of academic credits (12 semester credits) for the entire practicum. If a state requires more than 700 hours, students are eligible for more than 12 semester credits.

Of the 400 hours required for the Adventure-based Psychotherapy practicum, no less than 250 of these must be in direct supervised client contact. No more than 150 may be spent on other clinical duties. Of the 300 hours required in the traditional counseling setting, no less than 200 of these hours must be direct supervised client contact. No more than 100 may be spent on other clinical duties.

The practicum may begin in the second or third term, depending on the student's needs, and can continue into the fourth or fifth term. Students are encouraged to begin exploring sites and arrangements for the practicum from the earliest possible state in their program.

It is unlikely that the entire practicum (especially the 450 direct contact hours) will be completed in one term. Students can expect to accumulate practicum hours over the span of  at least two semesters and possibly a summer.

A qualified practicum will, ideally, offer an on-site supervisor who is a master or doctoral-level licensed clinician with an extensive background in Adventure-based Psychotherapy. If no one supervisor offers such a combination, a student may arrange, with support from Core/Associate faculty, for a Master Program honorarium to pay for a second off-site supervisor.

If a student's state/province does not accept Adventure-based Psychotherapy practice for practicum credit, the Masters Program student needs to meet the state/province hours in a "traditional" counseling setting in addition to completing the 400 hours. This may result in the need to consider a sixth term in the Masters Program.

Adventure Skills Training (AST)

In order to meet graduation requirements, Adventure-Based Psychotherapy students must demonstrate minimal competencies in backcountry travel/living, and at least one area of skill concentration – for example, rock-climbing, paddling, challenge course, skiing – as well as Wilderness First Responder (WFR) training in first aid. The student’s chosen practicum site may expect a specific level of prerequisite training in one or more areas.

Students in need of Adventure Skills Training (AST) should arrange to gain these skills during summer or winter breaks. Documentation of this learning (completed in coordination with Core Faculty) is due and semester credits are assigned in the term immediately following summer or winter break training experiences. Some shorter trainings may be interwoven into related courses during a term.

While students have the option of receiving academic credit for their Adventure Skills Training, this credit qualifies as theory in the Masters Program, not toward the practicum. Some may elect to decline credit for this training if they have enough credits to meet the program requirements. To obtain credit, the student will plan with faculty guidance to incorporate scholarly literature, reflection, writing, and the training experience to be submitted in a regular study packet.

Wilderness First Responder (WFR)

Students should plan to complete an 80-hour Wilderness First Responder course through a nationally established program prior to completion of their practicum experience.

Students can receive up to three theory credits for documented completion of the WFR course. Suggested (though not endorsed) sources for specific Adventure Skills Trainings include, but are not limited to: National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS); Outward Bound; Project Adventure; American Mountain Guides Association; American Canoeing Association; Wilderness Education Association; Tom Brown Jr. Trackers School; Animas Valley Institute; School of Lost Borders; Wilderness Awareness School; Boulder Outdoor Survival School; and outdoor leadership and training seminars.

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