The symbolic uniqueness of wilderness participation

  • G Greffrath
  • CDP Meyer
  • H Strydom
  • S Ellis
Keywords: Ropes course, challenge course, wilderness therapy, eco-therapy, eco-psychology


In the field of adventure therapy the curative powers of natural environments are too often not recognised as therapeutic in itself. Compared with the ecological and experiential values of wilderness the symbolic values thereof have largely been overlooked. Through restoration, physical self, primitiveness, humility, timelessness, solitude, privacy, freedom of choice, personal self and spiritual upliftment, this study aims at determining whether wilderness can be experienced as symbolically unique and whether this natural world can be considered a necessity for achieving therapeutic outcomes. In doing so, this study compared a centre-based adventure programme with an expedition-based wilderness programme, using a crossover research design with a mixed-method approach. For a meaningful adventure experience, results showed that the experience of above-mentioned components made the most important contribution during the expedition-based wilderness programme and that this programme is most effective in creating this very aspect. However, it is possible to also experience the above components during a centre-based adventure programme, but to a lesser extent and with a different meaning.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1117-4315