Engaging youth with adventure therapy
A new adventure therapy course is kicking off in Nelson with 10 days of total immersion in Kahurangi National Park.
After a year of planning and training, organiser Richard Wilkins is introducing Nelson youth to the initiative during the first course from August 28 to September 7.
Wilkins travelled to the United States last year August on a prestigious Fullbright-Meg Everton Professional Enhancement Award in Education with the goal of bringing his experience back to the ‘‘small but expanding’’ communities of adventure therapists across New Zealand.
An education partnerships coordinator at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT), Wilkins re-trained as a guidance counsellor after three decades working as a physical education teacher.
Now, with the backing of a government scholarship, he’s hoping to combine the two as adventure therapy.
Adventure therapy - where counselling for troubled young people is coupled with outdoor pursuits such as tramping, kayaking or horseriding – is provided by youth trusts such as Adventure Development and St John of God Waipuna Trust in Southland and Canterbury, and is now a course at Ara Institute of Canterbury.
Wilkins said the Whenua Iti Outdoors course he led is the first in the region and the only one of its format nationally.
The 10-day course in Kahurangi National Park includes a digital detox and ‘‘leaving behind the problems and pressures of modern life’’.
Wilkins said all nine secondary schools in the Nelson/ Tasman area were offered the chance to nominate a few of their students for one spot on the course, and Wilkins and his team then interviewed the students and made the final decision.
He said the course was heavily subsidised but the school or student needed to make a $100 contribution.
The course was an opportunity for participants to re-engage with learning while immersed in nature.
‘‘You are taking young people out into the outdoors and you’re using the challenging opportunities they may come across to develop trust and self-esteem.
‘‘Particularly some of the more troubled people, that actual outdoor experience can be a lifechanging one. For some, it can be a catalyst for moving forward and developing coping skills.’’
He enjoyed helping young people to develop a ‘‘sense of self’’.
‘‘And also to give them the opportunity to experience the power of spending time in the outdoors.’’
Richard Wilkins, pictured here at Whenua Iti, is organising the first adventure therapy course in Nelson.