Adventure Therapy

Our Adventure Therapy program at St John of God Waipuna offers young people opportunities to explore and develop their own strengths and wisdom in a supportive yet challenging environment through nature and adventure activities.

 Hauora Trust

The aim of our Adventure Therapy program is to increase personal resilience – the skills, strengths and relationships each young person has to help them get through life.

The program has run for the past 18 years in Christchurch East. It was founded by Paddy Pawson in 1999 and first delivered at Aranui High School to young people who found their home and school life challenging. 


Our Adventure Therapy programs are based on:

  • the relationship between facilitators and young people is the starting point of any developmental/therapeutic change  
  • successful interventions with young people are strongly connected to the systems around them – including their family, school and peers
  • young people benefit from experiences, in a safe environment, where they can be challenged, and receive feedback (from multiple sources), about the choices they make
  • the natural world provides unique opportunities for personal development
  • facilitated exploration, play and discovery allow young people to develop self-efficacy and resilience
  • high levels of both challenge and support are integral to development.

Benefits of Adventure Therapy

There are many definitions of adventure therapy and and a huge range of practices – generally they are interventions which use facilitated, challenging activities in natural, outdoor environments as a medium for therapy or development. Our programs are based on the experiential learning cycle.

The benefits of participating in adventure therapy include:

  • unique opportunity for engagement and relationship building
  • ability to work with live material
  • real challenges, risks and consequences
  • active learning
  • unfamiliar environments to explore how you react to different situations

What people say about our adventure therapy program

"It takes them on a journey of exploration of themselves, which both the students and their families very much value."

"Adventure therapy works very effectively with teens/adolescents. The youth support model developed by the Waipuna Trust is the best example within New Zealand of a cost effective way to bring experiential learning to the greatest number of young people. It involves 9-10 weeks of individual casework, outdoor experiences and support for young people."

"The impact of this work, particularly on the young themselves, but also indirectly on their families and classmates was significant. We have had many students whom I believe, without this intervention, would have dropped out of school well before availing themselves of the many educational opportunities offered in a high school setting."

"The Adventure therapy model does effect change in young peoples’ lives that lives beyond the program throughout their lives."

"There is evidence to show that adventure therapy, when used as part of a whole package of youth development initiatives, can be a very effective way of engaging young people who are vulnerable to harm."

Child protection

St John of God Hauora Trust's Child Protection Policy helps ensure the safety and protection of children. The policy provides guidelines for our caregivers to ensure correct and effective processes are in place when there are concerns for the safety or wellbeing of children.

More information

Tel: (03) 386 2159