Date of Graduation

5-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders

Advisor

David D. Christian

Committee Member

Allison A. Boykin

Second Committee Member

Anthony J. Vajda

Third Committee Member

Kristin K. Higgins

Keywords

Adventure Therapy, Group Climate, Middle School, Mountain Biking, Resilience, School-based Counseling

Abstract

Adolescence is a time of significant physical, mental, emotional, and social development marked by numerous transitions and challenges. Middle school is one of the earliest and perhaps first times of significant social and physical transition that impacts early adolescent development. As a result, schools are becoming a primary care setting for children and families to identify and address mental health needs. However, only 2% of school mental health services are provided by licensed professionals. Therefore, schools and service providers continue to seek out comprehensive modalities that can efficiently provide preventative and responsive interventions to students beyond individual and school counseling services. Adventure Therapy (AT) is an approach that mental health professionals in schools can use to foster mental health in students. The purpose of this dissertation is to test an adapted AT program for the school setting during the course of the academic semester to assist incoming middle schoolers adjusting to a new environment and navigate developmental transitions. A mountain bike specific program was created to assess the effectiveness of the kinesthetic activity along with the addition of AT concepts. The program was informed by a conceptual framework that integrates the EcoWellness holistic model of wellbeing with AT. The effects of an AT mountain bike program and a non-AT mountain bike program on middle school students’ perceptions of group climate (i.e. Engagement, Conflict, and Avoidance) and factors of resiliency (i.e. Optimism, Self-Efficacy, and Adaptability) were tested in this study using an experimental design. The program was implemented in a charter arts public school in Northwest Arkansas as an introduction to mountain biking course. An observed sample of 30 participants were used for the data analysis. The visual analysis of the profile plots indicated differences within and between groups on all outcome variables. However, further analyses using the mixed model for a two-group experimental design with repeated measures to test statistical significance yielded few differences. There were statistically significant effects for participant Engagement and Conflict based on the Group Climate Questionnaire (MacKenzie, 1983). The only statistically significant effect for resiliency factors was on Adaptability as measured by the Resiliency Scales for Children and Adolescents – Sense of Mastery. Despite the few statistically significant results, clinical significance indicates the treatment group saw a greater increase and sustainability in scaled rankings when compared to the comparison group. This pilot study sought to explore the effects of developing an AT program centered around a specific kinesthetic activity on group and individual participant outcomes. According to the literature review, this is one of the few studies that focuses on a specific kinesthetic activity, particularly mountain biking from an AT perspective. Additionally, this study informs research and clinical application for the development of an AT program with middle school students in a school setting. The outcomes of this program provide clinical and practical significance to inform the field of counseling and further the development of AT practices.

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