What happened in the field of outdoor therapy in the Nordic countries in 2018: Finland

January 21, 2019

The Finnish adventure therapy network had three meetings in 2018, with the number of enthusiastic participants varying from eight to 19 people. Each of them consisted of thinking, discussing and doing, with discussion topics being inspired by the 2017 gathering of the Nordic network in Turku. The year’s first meeting was organized in February in the aptly-named Seikkailutalo (”Adventure House”) in Helsinki. Pekka held the strings, collecting ideas and discussion topics. Miia and Saara worked hard on the webpage of the Nordic network, while Markus talked about the ethics of adventure therapy, drawing ideas from the ethical principles of the Finnish Psychological Union, the best practices formulated for Finnish adventure education and ethical principles of TAPG. Everyone participated in the lively discussion on how to turn all the ideas into sensible business models. Applying for grants was seen as one way of getting started with the activities, with Satu and Kaisa having a lot of good ideas about where to apply for funding. These are only the subjective recollections of one person (Markus), and I apologize for all the great folks who were present and contributed to the discussion but whom I didn’t name here.

When it comes to the doing part, we did a high ropes climbing activity that involved balancing on a ladder held by the other participants and depositing our bravest environmental action ideas in a pouch found at the top of the ladder. We also got to play around with the Adventure House’s drysuits, trying our best to jump through the hard sea ice and finally getting to float around in the icy water - with some passers-by wondering whether we were fully OK both mentally and physically.

Topics that were discussed in all our meetings included the original nature of Finnish / Nordic adventure therapy, the question of who can be an adventure therapist and - the enduring question of all questions - what is adventure therapy? Co-operation with nearby fields and actors, such as the Finnish Adventure Education Network (http://www.snk.fi/seikkailukasvatus/) and Green Care Finland (http://gcfinland.fi/), was discussed, with especially Miia and Pekka being active in this respect. In addition, courses and further education on adventure therapy in Finland were important, enduring topics in our three meetings.

As things currently stand, the ethos in the Finnish network with regard to these issues is one of maximal openness: we have considered it important that no one individual, organization or professional group claims possession of the idea of Finnish adventure therapy. Rather, the network aims to share knowledge, skills, ideas and information among its members - as openly as possible - so as to facilitate the growth of adventure / outdoor therapeutic ideas in Finland. The members of the network include psychologists, occupational therapists, psychotherapists from different backgrounds, wilderness guides, educators, nurses etc., and the wide range of professions and kinds of background knowledge has been seen as a particular strength of the network. The downside with openness of this kind is that the network is based on volunteer work, which carries with it the risk of the volunteers exhausting themselves with unpaid work. Because of these considerations, we have considered founding an organization to run the activity, but no decision has thus far been made.

This year’s last meeting at the fabulous Youth Center Marttinen (https://www.marttinen.fi/) included discussion on the members’ interests, wishes and visions for the future. These included (in no specific order):

- Performing academic research on the effectiveness of adventure (psycho-)therapy in Finland
- Arranging more peer training in the future
- Networking with and meeting people with whom it would be possible to work in the future
- Ideas and background rationale for one’s own adventure / outdoor therapeutic work
- Considering the role of therapeutic reflection as a part of adventure activities
- Writing about the ethics of adventure therapy

The meeting culminated in a wonderful and quite scary high ropes activity, jumping off an old railway bridge (Bridge Swing) in wintery conditions. The activity was a part of the peer training discussed above, and it was organized with the idea that members of the network with sufficient technical skills and qualifications could use a similar activity in their own work.

Finnish adventure therapy was visible in two conferences. The Finnish national Adventure Education Days in March gathered about 200 participants and AT was strongly visible in lectures and workshops. Two Finnish representatives, Ville Turunen and Pekka Lyytinen participated in 8IATC. Pekka gave a workshop and together they gave two pop up-workshops in the conference. Pekka was also nominated as a Finnish representative in Adventure Therapy International Committee (ATIC) for the next three years together with Miia Riihimäki.

Year 2019 will prove interesting in Finland, with a new intervention program beginning in Paimio (“Tyttö olet helmi!”), https://www.lastenkuntoutus.net/…/tytto_olet_helmi!_-toimin…) and with research into the effectiveness of adventure education experiences being a publicly stated area of emphasis of the Finnish Adventure Education Network. In addition, there are interesting individual projects going on in Finland, such as the climbing therapy workshop in Tampere, therapists using adventure methods in treating traumatized individuals (https://www.disso.fi/…/kir…/kehollinen-kokemus-voimavaraksi/) and several individual projects focusing on the therapeutic use of trekking.

Upcoming events in Finland:

Forest therapy days 2019:

Climbing therapy workshop:

Adventure Education days:

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