Therapeutic time in nature is the foundation of the Dooloomai philosophy. Our programs are a theory-informed evidence-based therapeutic approach to promote health and wellbeing. Dooloomais approach is preventative and strengths-based. We focus on achieving real life skill outcomes for participants.
The programs allow participants the opportunity to explore their identities, relationships, skills and behaviors. We use adventure and the outdoors to facilitate experiences that are challenging but achievable, this combined with therapeutic methods encourage participants to make positive changes.
A key component of Dooloomai programs is Experiential Learning - "learning through reflection on doing" (Patrick, 2000, page 1003). This is integrated with a process of shared conversations, counselling and quiet time for reflection.
Programs begin with less confronting activities to allow groups to get to know each other and the facilitators in a safe environment. We then move into more challenging activities such as bushwalking, ropes courses, abseiling, rock climbing, kayaking, sea kayaking and rafting. Not all programs include all elements, and some will focus upon nature connection or team work if this meets the appropriate challenge level for the participants.
Space for reflection and therapeutic support is a key aspect of a successful therapeutic program (Nichols, 2015). Follow up support is also an integral part of our programs allowing for transference of learning from the program into the participants broader community.
Dooloomai facilitators have a solid grounding in the following theoretical framework that informs their work.
Attention Restoration Theory (Kaplan)
Exposure to nature helps us improve our focus and ability to concentrate. This happens through four stages;
Clearing of head (stresses pass through mind and float away)
Mental fatigue recovery (if drained from a task, able to come back to self)
Soft fascination (gently distracted in low stimulation activity)
Relax, restore, reflect (restore attention, reflect on life)
Comfort Zone Model/Edgework (Piaget)
The comfort zone model is widespread within adventure education literature. It is based on the belief that when placed in a stressful situation people will respond by overcoming their fear and therefore grow as individuals. This model is often presented to participants prior to activities with a highly perceived sense of risk and challenge which arouses strong emotional and physical responses to novel tasks (e.g., ropes courses or rock climbing activities). Students are encouraged to think about ‘stretching themselves’ by moving outside their comfort zone, to expand their preconceived limits and by inference learn (and become better people).
Behaviourist Theory (Bandura)
This theory is based around the assumption that learning can improve problem behaviors. Behaviors reinforced with negative consequences are less likely to be repeated (sleeping in till midday and causing the group to depart late from camp), whereas behaviors with positive consequences (friendship made from offering to help carry some ones pack) are more likely to be repeated. Bandura emphasizes modelling as key component, which is relevant for group members to learn effective behaviors through imitation and modelling from each other.
Person centered (Carl Rogers)
Client-centered therapy operates according to three basic principles that reflect the attitude of the facilitator to the participant:
The facilitator is congruent with the participant.
The facilitator provides the participant with unconditional positive regard.
The facilitator shows an empathetic understanding to the participant.
The facilitator accepts that each individual structures themselves according to their own perceived reality and believes that the participant knows themselves better than anyone. They are their own expert, so are able to better them self through growing self awareness.
Emphasis of person centered therapy is encouraging the participant to listen to themselves and engage in a more congruent lifestyle. This kind of encouragement creates an empathetic relationship between the facilitator, the participant and the group members.
The Australian Association for Bush Adventure Therapy ABAT Inc. have developed the following set of ethical principles. https://aabat.org.au/ethical-principles/
Dooloomai utilises these to guide the development of all our programs.
Positive regard for all people
Respect for differences in culture, gender, age and identity
Strong family and community connections
Transparency, Informed consent, Confidentiality
Voluntary participation (within the confines of service type)
Selection for ‘readiness’ to participate
Attention to individual and group needs and hopes
Supportive physical, psychological and social environments
Tailored adventure experiences
Provision of options and choices (including supported exits)
Respect for cultural custodianship of country
Increasing self awareness and reflexive practice
Safety and no harm to self, others or natural environments