A Meta-Analysis of Adventure Therapy Outcomes and Moderators

The first study of Daniel's PhD involved conducting a meta-analysis of studies that empirically report on participant outcomes for adventure therapy programs and examined variation in these outcomes across different types of participants and programs.

A final analysis has been completed, and the final paper has now been published. Click here for more details.

A preliminary analysis has been completed, with Results presented at the 6th International Adventure Therapy Conference (6IATC), Hruba Skala, Czech Republic (September, 2012).

This study used the statistical technique of meta-analysis to study the impacts of participating in adventure therapy programmes. Meta-analysis is “a set of statistical methods for combining quantitative results from multiple studies to produce an overall summary of empirical knowledge on a given topic” (Little, Corcoran & Pillai, 2008, p. 1-2). The Effect Size, a value which reflects the magnitude of the treatment effect, is calculated for each study and the results from each study are then combined to compute a summary effect (Ellis, 2010).

To date, a number of meta-analyses have been published in the area of outdoor education, education, and psychotherapy (e.g., Cason & Gillis, 1994; Gillis & Speelman, 2008; Hans, 2000; Hattie et al., 1997; Wilson & Lipsey, 2000). However, these have predominantly focused on the broader field of adventure programming, with none solely focused on therapeutic programs. Although a number of unpublished adventure therapy meta-analyses exist, one remains uncompleted (Staunton, 2003), one was unable to obtain a considerable number of potential studies due to cost (Baker, 2011), and one focused specifically on Outdoor Behaviour Healthcare programs for adolescents (George, 2011).

Click here for a copy of the meta-analytic findings for individual outcomes by outcome category.

Click here for a copy of the age-based benchmarks.

Click here for a copy of the Coding Manual used to complete the meta-analysis.

Click here for a list of previous outdoor education, camping, adventure therapy and wilderness therapy meta-analyses, including abstracts, overall effects sizes and included studies.

Click here for a list of studies which met criteria for inclusion, however only provided post treatment versus control difference results.


Baker, D. (2011). The effects of adventure and wilderness therapy: A meta-analytic review. Masters of Psychology, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.

Cason, D. R., & Gillis, H. L. (1994). A meta-analysis of outdoor adventure programming with adolescents. Journal of Experiential Education, 17(1), 40-47.

George, J. T. (2011). Efficacy of Outdoor Behaviour Healthcare (OBH) for adolescent populations: A meta-analysis. Doctor of Psychology, University of Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN.

Ellis, P. D. (2010). The essential guide to effect sizes: Statistical power, meta-analysis, and the interpretation of research results. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Gillis, L. H., & Speelman, E. (2008). Are challenge (ropes) courses an effective tool? A meta-analysis. Journal of Experiential Education, 31(2), 111-135.

Hans, T. A. (2000). A meta-analysis of the effects of adventure programming on locus of control. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 30(1), 33-60.

Hattie, J., Marsh, H. W., Neill, J. T., & Richards, G. E. (1997). Adventure education and Outward Bound: Out-of-class experiences that make a lasting difference. Review of Educational Research, 67(1), 43-87. doi: 10.3102/00346543067001043

Littell, J. H., Corcoran, J., & Pillai, V. K. (2008). Systematic reviews and meta-analysis. New York: Oxford University Press.

Staunton, N. (2003). A meta-analysis of adventure therapy program outcomes. Retrieved from

Wilson, S. J., & Lipsey, M. W. (2000). Wilderness challenge programs for delinquent youth: A meta-analysis of outcome evaluations. Evaluation and Program Planning, 23(1), 1-12.

Last Updated: 26 September 2014