Family adventure therapy has many parallels to group adventure therapy – think Outward Bound for family vacation! Best yet, you can do it without a therapist if you employ some thoughtful planning. Adventure therapy is a powerful tool. As a coach I talk to clients about developing better communication skills, enhanced problem-solving skills, building trust and most importantly, mending damaged relationships.

If you are committed to understanding and using the tools of adventure therapy to transform your family’s relationship while traveling, here’s what you might try …

  1. Step outside your comfort zone and try some adventure activities! Introducing these types of activities in novel situations increases the likelihood of success. Talk to me about this. I will make some suggestions and explain how adventure activities while traveling can alter and enhance your family dynamics.
  2. Focus on your family’s natural positive patterns of interaction. These are the areas where you will see the most potential to improve family dynamics. When you see something good happening, bring it to everyone’s attention!
  3. What you’re working toward is strong relationships and good boundaries within your family structure. Make sure there is lots of positive feedback and support during all activities.
  4. Make sure there is plenty of celebration around growth and accomplishment.
  5. Talk about failures with kindness and acceptance.
  6. Be intentional about understanding each other’s modes of coping, making decisions, and communication styles. This is an essential part of acceptance.
  7. Spend time after each activity highlighting each other’s competencies – this will build self-esteem and connection.
  8. Write down the observations you made about behaviors you saw during the activity as soon as possible. Issues are typically revealed in stressful situations like this. Taking notes and reflecting on them helps you gain clarity. Increasing awareness of ineffective family behaviors, as well as strengths, will allow you to focus on positive behaviors and understand where your family needs work. I encourage families that travel with me to journal every night.

If the main goal for your trip is building stronger family connections (which is always my goal when I design trips for families), I’d focus on adventure activities. But you must have an understanding of the capacity adventure activities have to transform strained relationships and, more importantly, you must be intentional about taking advantage of that.

Family adventure therapy (which uses adventure activities) has the potential to heal strained relationships between family members in the following ways:

  • Helping family members integrate back into their family system. Let’s face it, it’s fun to have an adventure and it feels good to accomplish exciting new goals and receive praise from your family! That builds connection.
  • Learning to relate to one another in a positive manner. When you work together to accomplish a goal you’ll be surprised how rewarding it is and how close you become.
  • Building positive alliances within your family relationships. When you are intentional about understanding your family dynamics and implementing the tools listed above, building positive relationships is easy, I promise.
  • Experiencing one’s family function in a positive, supportive manner. This alone can be groundbreaking for families!

There is a lot of research on Family Adventure Therapy so if you get a wild hair and want to learn more about this fascinating area of study, you can check out any of the following studies: Berman & Davis-Berman, 1994; Gass, 1994; Bandoroff & Parrish, 1998; Bandoroff & Scherer, 1994; Becvar & Becvar, 1988; Clapp & Rudolph, 1990; Gerstein, 1996; Gillis & Gass, 1993; Jacobsen, 1992; Mulholland & Williams; 1998.

If you’d like to know more about incorporating the tools used in family adventure therapy into your travels, don’t hesitate to reach out. You can sign up for a 30-minute discovery session with me at

Now let’s go travel!

All my best,

Bambi Wineland is the mother of two internationally adopted children, a traveler, the Founder and CEO of Motherland Travel. Motherland Travel designs Heritage Journeys for families with internationally adopted children. The emphasis of these Heritage Journeys is on family bonding, building self-esteem and cultivating pride in a family’s multi-cultural heritage. Read more about her here >>

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