Background: Behavior Management through Adventure (BMtA) was originally developed and implemented by Project Adventure in the early 1980s to address the needs of at-risk youth in Georgia. Since that time, the program has been implemented by more than 20 schools, agencies, and programs with more than 5,000 youth in Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. BMtA is now one of several related programs that are included within Project Adventure’s Building Respectful Learning Communities model.
Objective: Help participants change feelings, thinking, and social behaviors; reduce dysfunctional behaviors; improve functional life behaviors; and avoid rearrest.
Description: BMtA is a form of outdoor therapy for youth with behavioral, psychological, and learning disabilities; students excluded from school for disciplinary reasons; and juvenile offenders. BMtA incorporates group-based adventure challenges (e.g., ropes courses) and developmental exercises with problem-solving components in an effort to help participants change feelings, thinking, and social behaviors; reduce dysfunctional behaviors; improve functional life behaviors; and avoid rearrest.
Trained facilitators deliver BMtA over approximately 60-120 days to groups of 12-20 youth who live together and participate in therapy together. Participants are required to create and understand safe and respectful behavioral norms under which the group will operate, to commit to those norms, and to accept a shared responsibility for the maintenance of those norms. The group participates in adventure challenges, which are introduced incrementally, to allow trust to develop within the group. Over time, these exercises are used to reinforce skills such as patience, listening, seeing another’s point of view, leading, following, planning, and experiencing the consequences of actions. BMtA’s intent is to enable participants to use these skills in dealing with problem behaviors, and members of the group, as well as facilitators, can call group meetings at any time to acknowledge positive actions or address problems.
Results/ Accomplishments/ Evidence: One study compared rearrest rates of juvenile offenders in three groups: (1) those who received BMtA; (2) those who received an outdoor therapeutic program (OTP), which included base camping in cabins and short-term adventure programming (e.g., challenge ropes courses, backpacking, rock climbing, caving); and (3) those who received the State of Georgia’s Youth Development Center program (YDC), which consisted of treatment as usual in 90-day boot camp programs in State institutions. At 6 months and 1, 2, and 3 years after treatment, rearrest rates of youth who received BMtA were lower than those of youth who received an OTP or YDC.
Another study compared rearrest rates of juvenile sex offenders in three groups: (1) those who received LEGACY, a behavior management program that incorporated BMtA; (2) those who received an other specialized program (OSP), including individual and group therapy programs with experiential exercises and residential psychiatric programs with outdoor components; and (3) those who received YDC, which consisted of treatment as usual in 90-day boot camp programs in State institutions. At 2 and 3 years after treatment, rearrest rates of youth who received LEGACY were lower than those of youth who received an OSP or YDC.
Juvenile drug offenders were assessed before and after receiving CO-OP, a residential substance abuse treatment program that incorporated BMtA. Results indicated that the youth had lower average BDI scores after receiving the intervention.
Population of Focus: Black or African American, White, Adolescents, Children, Incarcerated/formerly incarcerated
Setting: Correctional facility
Level of Intervention: Individual
Resources/Qualifications Needed: Trained facilitators
- Project Adventure Facebook page
- View a presentation of the results.
- Read more about the program and its results.
Michael A. Gass, Ph.D.