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19-10-2012
My Experience and Understanding of Adventure-based Counselling

Instructor: Lau Yau Kuen
19-10-2012
My Experience and Understanding of Adventure-based Counselling

Instructor: Lau Yau Kuen

According to Neill (2004), ‘Adventure therapy is the use of adventure-based activities and/or adventure-based theory to provide people with emotional and/or behavioral problems with experiences which lead to positive change in their lives.’ Adventure therapy is also “programming aimed at changing [specified] dysfunctional behavior patterns, using adventure experiences as forms of habilitation and rehabilitation” (Priest & Grass, 2005). The underlying philosophy of adventure-based counseling (ABC) is experiential education and it stresses on one’s personal improvement through full value contract, adventure wave and challenge by choice (Schoel, Prouty & Radcliffe, 1988). After several lectures, different skills were explained and even applied on ourselves. In this essay, these theories and experience will be discussed.

Adventure-based counseling is part of the means of experiential learning. Educational psychologists usually define learning as “a change in the individual caused by experience” (Slavin, 1986, p.104). Through various experiences, people can learn from them and gain personal growth. Kolb (1984) suggested an experiential learning cycle, pointing out four essential elements of experiential learning, which are experience, review, conclusion and planning. Applying to Adventure-based counseling, experience means some challenging activities for groups or individuals. Review means encouraging individuals to reflect, describe, communicate and learn from the experience. Conclusion means concluding past and present experiences and planning means applying new learning in the future.

There are several learning theories explaining how experiences can lead to learning, which means behavioral changes or cognitive developments. Operant conditioning proposed by Skinner states that successes, praise, positive feedbacks or rewards can act as positive reinforcers so that the subjects would be reinforced to act the same way again. Similarly, failures, punishments or negative comments would act as negative reinforcers which deter the subjects to act again (Skinner, 1968). In adventure-based counseling, participants would face some challenges and act. Some actions would lead to positive results, which would further reinforce participants to act in the same way when they face similar situations again. Some actions lead to negative results, which make them aware and change their behaviors next time. This can be applied also to changing of personalities and problem-solving skills. Undesirable personalities will be discouraged by failures or negative feedbacks while desirable personalities will be reinforced.

Bandura suggested social learning theory that people can learn through observational learning and modeling (Bandura, 1986). Through observational learning, people would imitate others’ behaviors and learn from others’ successes or failures. In adventure-based counseling, when participants face the challenges individually, they would imitate what other participants do, or take others’ successes and failures in dealing with the challenges as example. So when they face the challenges, participants would improve along the sequence. When encountering group challenges, participants would imitate the socially desirable behaviors of their group mates or remind themselves not to behave socially undesirably after observing their group mates’ failures. This can enhance participants’ social skills.

In cognitive aspect, James Coleman (1977) differentiates between the information assimilation process of the regular classroom and the experiential learning process. In traditional classrooms, knowledge is taught to students through direct instruction and they simply memorize the knowledge. Through information assimilation,...
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