A time for adventure based therapy…

The Ropes Course

The purpose of the Ropes Course, which is also called adventure based counseling, is to challenge groups of individuals to work together as a team to overcome obstacles in an effort to reach their goals — those set by the facilitator and those set by the participants themselves. As opposed to the typical “feelings groups,” in which residents sit around a circle and work through concerns verbally, this approach to group therapy places participants in a hands-on learning situation. The Course takes place over two days (4 hours each day).

In many cases, this environment provides an opportunity for the more withdrawn members to assume an active role in the problem-solving process, while more headstrong members are challenged to rely on other people for support versus relying totally on themselves. The group moves through typical stages: (1) forming, (2) norming, (3) storming and (4) performing. A crucial component of the ropes course experience is the process circle in which the members reflect on their experience, sharing insights and feelings related to the activities.

Members set goals for themselves that are positive and meaningful to the group as a whole and personally challenging. The idea is for them to build upon personal and group strengths, while eliminating, or minimizing negative, ineffective behaviors. After completing several ice breaker activities, group members are asked to come up with goals that will guide the group, providing them with a compass to gauge where the group stands. Some examples of group goals include working as a team, being open-minded, honest, and willing and setting realistic goals.

The group is also asked to identify behaviors that it does not want to tolerate. These behaviors usually include things such as: general negativity, one person trying to run the show, blaming, giving up and arguing. When this sort of negativity arises, the members agree to confront and work toward changing this behavior. Additionally, each member is asked to specify two personal goals, usually related to character defects identified in the treatment process, to work on throughout the Ropes Course activities.


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