“Man” will be taken to include women and the concept of nature will be that based on the scientific principles of evolutionary change over time. While allowing that gender roles are based on cultural, social as well as biological differences, we infer that therapy taking place in the outdoor environment will not be biased toward one gender or another.
These originating parameters will give precedence to logical possibilities on what the purpose of therapy is supposed to be and the possibility of effective therapy in the natural environment. The terms are value laden and it may be necessary to provide initial definitions of this philosophical position.
Philosophy on nature
The question is specified in the nature as therapy agenda. We are drawn into a philosophical discussion requiring a look at the historical and evolutionary progress of man as a part of nature. Conceptualizing man as a creature who is part of nature and who evolves is consistent with evolutionary theory. Considering the purpose of therapy to reintegrate an individual (Rogers), allow insight (Freud) into behavior or to teach new behavior (Skinner) there is an element of change presupposed within the process. Considering that this change is designed to make the individual better able to negotiate life, the question then becomes less about the solution because by definition therapy is positive but about the problem and how our way of living is so “unnatural.”
To discuss some philosophical viewpoints on mans place on the earth and how we see ourselves in relation to nature is a difficult task because nature and the world around have paradoxically been unknowable until comparatively modern times. It could be argued that it is post modern dislocation and rootlessness, existential angst us, the move to living in cities, the globalization of a specific type of culture with the introduction of television, internet and standardized cultural norms that leads us to quest for a mythical connection with the land – for it is a specific point enunciated by …that it is the thing we lack that we desire most. It could be argued that our hubris and belief in human potential is so great that we are unconcerned by the destruction of nature and that this form of deception is propelled by technological illusion but this is just one perspective and there are innumerable variations…
Baudrillard: “Once animals had a more sacred more divine character than man” P133 (1994)
Thoreau: “Such is oftenest the young man’s introduction to the forest, and the most original part of himself. He goes thither at first as a hunter and fisher, until at last if he has the seeds of a better life in him he distinguished his proper objects as a poet or naturalist it may be and leaves the gun or fishing pole behind.” (p138 1995)
Darwin: “As man can produce and certainly has produced a great result by his methodical and unconscious means of selection, what may not nature effect? Man can act only on visible and external characters: nature cares nothing for appearances, except in so far as they may be useful to any being. She can act on every internal organ, on every shade of constitutional difference, on the whole machinery of life” (P65 1998)
Dawkins: “We animals are the most complicated things in the known universe” (p1 2006)
Jung : ”Instead of being at the mercy of wild beasts, earthquakes, landslides and inundations, modern man is battered by the elemental forces of his own psyche” (P201 1983)
What is clear at this point is that to look to nature as a start point is too large a point of reference, nature has a different face for each person. To categorize the activities of man in nature in some cohesive formula is also a process fraught with difficulties.
It is tantamount to saying that only the “good” things we do in nature constitutes therapy which leads us into a moral morass or objectives and ethical dilemmas. To look at therapy in nature as an objective may have some validity for structured programs which use nature as a resource to teach or enact change but there are wider perspectives and different viewpoints on what constitutes good usage of natural resources.
A lot of discussion is needed before a definition of adventure therapy is reached. I f we take a path from therapy we should look at what makes any therapy a success, what aspects of therapy can be applied outdoors and what additional advantages the change of environment brings?