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Nevin J  Harper

School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education at University of Victoria, Canada

Nevin is a professor, clinical counsellor, and outdoor educator. He is also a lecturer and trainer for Forest Therapy Hub, Outdoor Council of Canada, and City University’s counselling program. Nevin has been involved with outdoor therapies in Canada for 25 years including his years on the field, founding the Canadian Adventure Therapy Symposium, establishing Outward Bound Canada’s research advisory group, and authoring Nature-based Therapy.

Nevin J Harper - Carina Ribe Fernee.jpg

Beyond the stories we tell ourselves:
Implicit theory and a proposed research agenda for outdoor therapies 

We often rely on our personal experiences and the stories we tell ourselves about how outdoor therapy works. We also draw on research and evidence from related fields to make claims for our own work. Outdoor therapies research, much like psychotherapy research in general, lags behind in process and theory-generating research. Less articulated aspects of outdoor therapy is the tacit knowledge that is largely sensed, embodied, and intuitive, hence therefore also much harder to grasp and describe. This presentation draws our attention to the insights that could emerge through intentional explorations and attempted articulation of implicit theories in outdoor therapies. Moving forward as a field, we propose a research agenda into the more implicit landscapes of our practice via three possible pathways, including: (a) initial surveys to map practitioners’ guiding theories, (b) context-sensitive case studies that embrace the complexity of outdoor therapies, and (c) in-depth inquiries into microprocesses of change, perhaps not yet articulated in the outdoor therapy literature. In this presentation, we will share an example of the first proposed pathway, having recently carried out an international survey including 75 outdoor therapy practitioners from a total of x nations. We applied a grounded theory methodology in our exploration, mapping and analysis of the guiding theories represented across this diverse sample. Finally, we propose implications for future practice and research.

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