Adventure Therapy would be a unique program in Western Canada

Outdoor Recreation chair is trying to add a new program to the school’s portfolio


Caroline Depatie is currently working to introduce a new program to Capilano University that would be nothing short of life changing. Although Depatie herself, the co-chair of the School of Outdoor Recreation (OREC) and Tourism Management, still struggles to confidently give an exact definition of what Adventure Therapy is, she knows that it’s something she wants to bring to CapU.

Depatie was exposed to a concept that she knew she wanted to bring back to CapU when she attended a conference put on by the Experiential Education Association in Montreal in November. Adventure Therapy, in generally terms, uses nature and outdoor activities to help people get through challenging times. “It could be helping or supporting a youth that’s having a hard time with their family and friends, or couples that are going through a rough patch or individuals suffering from eating disorders – it’s just so broad,” said Depatie.

She can still recall the moment at the conference when she was exposed to the idea. “One presentation that really touched me was called Tip of the Toes Expeditions,” she said. “They do expeditions with kids and youth that are currently undergoing cancer treatment or are done and in remission.”

Depatie instantly saw potential for this concept at CapU. However, while she and the rest of the OREC faculty are extremely well versed in the adventure portion of the practice, she admits that they are still working on the therapy portion. Luckily for Depatie and her cohorts, CapU has many other programs that have been able to offer guidance. “I guess the part that is puzzling us, the word therapy,” she said. “When I did talk to folks in psychology and in music therapy, it was how is that going to work. So, it [would be] a very interdisciplinary degree, which I think the University wants to bring on more.”

CapU has traditionally seen its programs operate independently of one another, although that seems to be changing. Cap Core is a new program due to launch this fall that puts a clear emphasis on interdisciplinary learning, which fares well for a potential Adventure Therapy program that would likely rely on such a style of learning. “I think with this particular program we need to be able to work together and say, ‘yeah let’s work together and let’s find a way that we can all contribute and make this happen’,” said Depatie.

For now, the degree is still in the planning stage of development. The concept paper has been approved by OREC’s internal approval process and received positive feedback from CapU’s senate sub-committee, which gives advice on curriculum. “They were very supportive,” Depatie remarked. Currently, it’s being evaluated at the Senior Academic Leadership level.

If the program is approved, it will still have many stages to go through before it becomes a reality. One of the big questions Depatie anticipates she will have to address is the sustainability of the program, essentially asking the question covering the scope of interest in the field for the program to be worth running. From what Depatie sees in OREC students currently though, this shouldn’t be a problem.

“We’re finding that a lot of our OREC students, when we give them assignments when they have flexibility to choose topics gravitate toward that, toward the healing power of nature,” she said. “We’re just finding that students currently who are in the diploma are naturally attracted to this idea of adventure therapy.”

Depatie believes the concept is at least two or three years away from becoming a program. Her ultimate goal is to see OREC contribute to the health sector and help people who are experiencing difficult times in their lives by taking them outdoors to heal. “Our intent is to be very innovative,” she said. “I haven’t seen anywhere where there’s a degree in adventure therapy. So we’re in a place where we could become the world’s best. It just makes sense for what we already offer at Capilano University and for where the University is located.”

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