Exploring outdoor therapies with Dr Will Dobud
This episode focuses on Dr Will Dobud’s research in the area of outdoor and adventure therapies. We unpack the solution-focused therapeutic work he does on expeditions with young people experiencing poor mental health and/or substance use.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (00:00):
In this episode Will talks about his book called 'outdoor therapies and introduction to practices, possibilities and critical perspectives'. I wanna give a shout out to Taylor and France's publishers who have sponsored this episode and are providing two electronic copies of Will's book for a special giveaway. To find out more about how to end the draw, to win a copy of Will's book, check out the psych attack social media accounts on either Twitter or Facebook. The handle is at psych attack cast. I hope you enjoy the episode.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (00:37):
Hello and welcome to this episode of Psych Attack. I'm Dr. Jasmine B MacDonald today, Dr. Will Dobud, and I explore research and practice issues in outdoor and adventure therapies. I hope you're going well and have settled in with a warm cup of tea. Hey, there Will thanks so much for taking the time to catch up today.
Dr Will Dobud (01:02):
Thanks so much for having me. I'm really excited.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (01:04):
So today we're going to talk about, uh, your work in outdoor therapies and I thought maybe a nice way to start is to ask this super serious question of where is your favorite outdoor space? It doesn't have to be therapy related, could be anywhere in the world. What's your favorite outdoor space?
Dr Will Dobud (01:22):
My favorite outdoor place. If I had all the, the money in the world to start any program, I could, it would be in West Virginia in the Canan valley, which is a sort of subartic climate in a Mid-Atlantic area. So it's really weird. It gets tons of snow, tons of rain. It basically is the Alaskan climate in the middle of West Virginia. So it's one of my favorite places. I worked at a program in that area. Um, so that's where my outdoor therapy journey started. That's one of my favourites that said I am at my best in a canoe. That is my adventure. What I love to do. So I love whitewater canoeing, or at least just being on some moving water. Um, that's something I miss terribly living in South Australia where there's not a tonne of fresh water,
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (02:16):
Dr Will Dobud (02:16):
Um, but that is that's my happy place is being in a canoe. I could sit in a canoe all day, every day and I would be happy.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (02:25):
I love that. That's amazing, I'm gonna sound super ignorant. What's the one I think a canoe is, or it's just you, right? What's the one where there's two people?
Dr Will Dobud (02:33):
Nah canoe is the two people. Kayak is typically just you.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (02:37):
Dr Will Dobud (02:37):
Um, you can't have double seated kayaks. It's really funny. Everyone always says you have to progress from the canoe to the kayak Will and I've just, it's never been the same as being in a canoe for me, weirdly enough, I grew up going to summer camp a lot, uh, which is much more normal in the American context. But my mum said, I think you should go to summer camp. And I said, I don't know. And she said, your best friend is going as well. I've talked his mom. So the two of you can go together. And the day we were driving to the airport for me to go to summer camp, my friend bailed out, he said, I'd be too homesick. I'm not going,
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (03:10):
Dr Will Dobud (03:11):
And I was going away for two weeks and I've, I was about eight in my memory. I think I was sitting in a car, crying in the airport going; 'mom do not make me do this'.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (03:20):
Dr Will Dobud (03:21):
And she put her foot down and uh, I went and within two days I called her and said, you've gotta leave me here. I'm not coming home.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (03:29):
Never pick me up.
Dr Will Dobud (03:29):
Never picked me up again. And, um, there was all these, uh, I was a pretty funny young person because I didn't do well in school. I was kind of a naughty kid. Um, but at summer camp live the dream happiest I've ever been. And they had all of these like, uh, ranks. If you did this well at everything you got to this rank. And then if you got better, I didn't care about any of that. That's what every other camper wanted. So I didn't even progress to the first, like the lowest level in like seven years of going to summer camp, because all I did was canoe on a lake. That's the only thing I was interested in doing
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (04:07):
Well, I ask the difference between a canoe and a kayak, because when you were telling me about, you know, that being your happy place, uh, having flashbacks of my husband and I being in New Zealand and being in a canoe and him just being like physically uncomfortable, because he had to be sitting at that right angle and his body wasn't used to it. And every shift he would make to me in the front, it would feel like we were gonna flip. And I am a risk averse, like probably typically pretty stress person. I'm like Tim, stop moving. And he's like, I'm in physical pain. We had to get all the way across this lake to get to these glowworm caves. That was awesome. So I loved the experience, even though I was pretty confident we were gonna flip at any time. Um, but it was a nightmare for him. So it was pretty funny.
Dr Will Dobud (04:52):
Well, it's a miracle you're still married. Cause the canoe test is a relationship ender for a lot of people. Yeah. When I first came to Australia, my wife and I went canoeing together and I was like, all right, I can show off my pretty handy canoe skills. And it was a really hot day. We were at somewhere in New South Wales and she said, I'm gonna jump if I jump out, like to go for a swim, can I get back in? And I said, yeah, yeah, yeah. Like I'll just keep the boat
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (05:17):
Dr Will Dobud (05:19):
Yeah, Exactly. And so she I'm leaning the other way on the boat. She's in the water she's climbing in and she climbs in and then like leans towards me. And so I'm leaning the opposite way to counter way. So I get dumped in the water and she just swims to shore, gets up and walks back to our hotel room. So I'm sitting with a capsized canoe in like, I don't know, know where there's crocodiles or not like every person who comes to Australia for their first time, I was terrified and I had to get the boat out of the water. So I, I get the boat out and I put it on the dock and it just slid back out into the water. So I had to jump back in and go get it. Um, and I, yeah, I thought this Renee is just in it for herself and uh, she's left me with this canoe. So the most young couples, if they have a canoe story and they stayed together, they're, they're probably in it for the long haul.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (06:12):
Look at us go amazing, one place I really like to start is to get a sense of, you know, how did you get into outdoor therapies, but you know, your, your kind of journey into social work and therapy in general. So yeah, like what, what's your background? How did you get into this area?
Dr Will Dobud (06:29):
So when I managed to scrape my way and graduate from high school, I got a job at a skateboard store and I was working in retail. I just really had this idea. I really wanted to be useful in some way to people. And that, that came out out of a result of a lot of my own therapy journey. As I thought, maybe the, maybe I keep getting in trouble cause I'm just not being useful to anybody. Everything I do is pretty self-serving and then I get in trouble for it. So I joined the volunteer fire department in Maryland and that was amazing. I got incredible training. Someone's lost in the woods. I was like, just give me a call. I'll drop anything I'm doing to go do that. So I had really amazing firefighting experiences and a friend and I saw a job application in West Virginia. The application was to be an outdoor guide to teach search and rescue skills, to young people in a therapy setting.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (07:29):
Whoa, that sounds awesome.
Dr Will Dobud (07:30):
It was amazing. And my friend went there and he lasted one, two week shift. He was like, this is too hard. These kids are too naughty, everyone's angry. They're not really excited to be here. And in my, in my mind I just thought, yeah, but that's why we are here. Like to be cool role model adults. The other thing I thought was so clever about this was even though there were licensed clinical social workers and clinical psychologists, they came and visited. We were really out there on our own in really remote. Like we didn't see other people, we made our own campsite. We were really remote, but our job, we never talked about clients' problems. We were just there to teach outdoor skills. Have a good time. Uh, yeah, we did some reflective groups around the fire, but we weren't, you know, we weren't the people going, why are you here? Tell me about your anxiety, any of these questions. We were just teaching wilderness search and rescue skills. I thought that was amazing because we were teaching how to be useful and help other people. A lot of this comes from outward bounds model of teaching people to give service to others. I was blown away that young people were becoming happier. They were dealing with their relationships with their parents or their substance use and that stuff was coming up. But we didn't inquire about anything like that.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (08:50):
Dr Will Dobud (08:51):
Virtually no adolescent is a voluntary client. You know, someone else's has the problem with them
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (08:57):
Dr Will Dobud (08:58):
Um, so we have all these, you know, technically involuntary people and I was going, you know, I get along with these troubled kids, better than half the firefighters I walk into a burning building with. I said, this is like a really functional team. And I got to live in the dirt. And I met all of these people that actually had some common goals of, of working with youth and being useful. And it was like their life. And I thought I've never been around people, this passionate about anything. And so one of the social workers at this program, she sat me down cause I was, I was only 18, 19. So I, I wasn't much older than the kids themselves. And I think a lot of people knew I had pretty turbulent family and she said, Will, you've gotta go back home. You need to go to school. And I said, school, are you crazy? Like, that sounds like the worst place for me. But I went back, went to a local community college and started studying some psychology classes. And then one of the social workers I was working in West Virginia rang me and said, I'm gonna move basically to where you live. And I think we should start a program for kids leaving this program. So when they moved back home and then I got to basically be outdoor bum sleeping on his floor in a sleeping bag, I got to live with a social worker, uh, someone who is an incredible mentor for me. We started this program from the ground up. So young people would come do individual therapy with him. We had a weekly group. So all these young people came, we just worked and worked and I immediately switched over from psychology to social work. And I really wanted to look at relationships. And how does therapy actually work? I knew how to facilitate an outdoor experience. I felt very confident building relationships with young people. If someone asked me to justify my approach or say what I was doing, I had no idea.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (10:58):
Dr Will Dobud (10:59):
And so that really sent me on a mission of really trying to think about not only does, how does outdoor therapy work, but really how does therapy itself work and how does someone get better at doing it?
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (11:13):
All of these experiences that you're talking through actually led you from, you know, these earlier experiences of avoiding a classroom, if you had to, to actually getting your bachelor's and then masters as well. Right. And then a PhD.
Dr Will Dobud (11:27):
Yeah. All those experiences. Yeah. They really add up being able to, to get the master's degree and then to do a PhD in this field and being really passionate about therapy outdoors and also very passionate that there's a lot of bad versions of outdoor therapy. What I do will always be lumped into the worst part of our field. We're a tight-knit community. And so not only do I think we can do cool research and really keep exploring outdoor therapy, but we need those who are putting words on paper to call out what is the worst part of our field and bad practice so that we can make our field better. And we can change the narrative about this work. My really good friend, Daniel, he finished his PhD, about the same time as me. So he's going, you know, he spent a year interviewing to find whatever his next academic job would be. And every interview he got asked, you're not those child kidnappers are you, you don't do all that bootcamp stuff. And he's like, I do adventure based prevention and I've worked in community mental health. I've never done residential treatment. Like, so why am I getting interrogated or heckled about something I've never done, but it's in the name of outdoor therapies that we're all in it together. I think a lot of my academic work is just about really taking it personally, what we do in this field. I don't think that's any different that if someone did something really heinous in the name of cognitive behavioral therapy, I think a lot of CBT people would stand up and be like, that's not us. That's not what we do and they'd challenge it. And so I feel very fortunate to have a job where I'm encouraged to, to speak out about that stuff as well.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (13:08):
Mm I could tell in reading your work and in hearing you talk that one you have a passion and, and this experience that really drives you to keep working in this area. But two, you have a really good way of writing publications that anyone could pick up and go, okay, I, I see the argument or the issue you trying to address here, but it's still quite complex content. That's a really tough skill to develop, Will. The, 'Of Dodos and Common Factors' paper, the issues you raise in that around evidence based practice and comparisons to randomized control trials, that's complicated content. And you're just like holding the reader's hand all the way through it. So if no one has tipped their hat to you, I'm doing that now, sir.
Dr Will Dobud (13:54):
Oh, thank you. Thank you so much. That's really nice because I think that dodo paper. I really found myself as a writer. Now I wrote that with my colleague professor Nevin Harper who's at university of Victoria in Canada lives on Vancouver island. I was going around and presenting about that idea. I was going, if all of these therapy models tend to work the same, why do I hear outdoor therapy? People saying that we are better because it's outside or we are better because of this. And so I was doing, I did like three years of workshops and then I had this, it actually kind of came to me in a dream. I went, I should actually probably write this because what if I'm wrong? What if the outdoor therapy is, are the one therapy better than the rest? And I knew that shouldn't be true.
Dr Will Dobud (14:41):
I didn't want that to be true either. Well, my hypothesis was that I, I didn't think that would be true because it's not true for anything else. We go to a conference and it's all amazing. And for anyone listening, just go to an outdoor therapy conference because it is, you will never have more fun because the second the workshops over you'll have half the people that want to take you on a hike to some special place. The other people want to go to the bar and have some huge debate. These are wild people and it's incredibly inclusive. You know, the one cool thing about outdoor and adventure therapy is we haven't been around that long. You don't have to go in there and think you have imposter syndrome. Uh, your program is probably just as good as everybody else's. But yeah, so I, I knew the sort of common factors research that what tends to contribute to outcomes is something, all the therapies have in common.
Dr Will Dobud (15:32):
So if we just add something specific, we don't tend to see any benefit. What I was concerned with was people are saying being outside's really good for reducing stress, that's why outdoor therapy works. And I was going, yeah, but all those studies are done on like, all the nature is healing are done on university campuses or at a community level, like, look at this, we planted more trees and people are happier. What's that got to do with substance abuse treatment, nothing. And what's that got to do with building a therapeutic alliance? Nothing. If, if nature's so damn healing, why are we even there? Like
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (16:11):
Dr Will Dobud (16:11):
Plop the person, sit outside and say, go heal yourself.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (16:14):
Where is the risk in this? You know, this is one of the things that you kind of highlight in your work as well, that as a role in outdoor therapies.
Dr Will Dobud (16:21):
Yes. And so I, I, uh, so I called ne and I said, Nevin wrote this paper in 2010. And I could tell we were reading the same books and, and I called Nevin and I said, we need to actually do what you wrote about in 2010. And he said, I can't believe anyone's actually read that. Um, and Nevin, and Nevin's a brilliant assertive writer. So it was very fun to work on that project because I, I was like learning from someone whose name, I always knew creating a really great friendship, also having great mentoring.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (16:55):
Dr Will Dobud (16:56):
One of the things I, I have been very fortunate to have really amazing mentoring as well from Dr. Scott Miller, from the international center for, for clinical excellence. He has a way of presenting about clinical trials and data and big fancy research words in a way, way that I could understand it. And so I just tried to mimic him if mimicking is the best part of flattery or what, whatever the saying is. But yeah, I think that's really important because we have very few outdoor therapy researchers, and I know so much of anything gets stuck behind a paywall. And that sucks. But I knew that if I was gonna write something to say, we are no more special than anything else, which should inform our research agenda. It better be in some plain English in a way someone can understand. Also every study that's sort of critiqued in there is written by someone. I have to go sit at a conference with every year and hopefully they don't hate me. Um, and there has, I mean, there has been people who haven't, who think that paper is not good for our field. I view it as simply the truth. And also, I don't think the idea that we are just effective as everything else, sometimes that that can lead to a feeling of defensiveness. I feel liberated with that idea because anyone that comes to me and goes, why don't you do whatever in the office, or you're that outdoor therapy, that's like the alternative, no, we are just as good as you are. We are just as effective as everything else.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (18:27):
Dr Will Dobud (18:27):
So the government and third party payers and reimbursement, they shouldn't choose CBT over us. We should be on the same page as them. And COVID is an amazing example of this. This big meta-analysis came out just this year, that found telehealth doing therapy online, just as effective for substance use treatment as face to face.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (18:50):
New Speaker (18:51):
So the issue is policy makers are probably like online is really cheap. All therapists can be at home. We don't have to pay for a building. They shouldn't think that way. It doesn't mean none of them worked. It meant face to face, worked and worked well online, worked and worked well. And what we know, add the outdoor us to that worked and worked well. One of my concerns is when we just keep making new therapies, we just make a new one, make a new one, make a new one. We've got probably over a thousand. There's like a hundred different names for outdoor therapies. Anyway, we keep making them and we wanna position ourselves like 'that new therapy is the one that's the book of the month'. That's the soup de jour. We need that one to be funded, right? We're in a cognitive behavioral tsunami at the moment, right? And so we've got that one. And the issue is that's one way to engage people in therapy, and that can work and work really well.
Dr Will Dobud (19:45):
Going outside is another way to engage people. We don't have a problem that therapy doesn't work therapy works really well. The issue is what engages someone to stick it out in the course of therapy they're receiving. So thinking everybody needs CBT is ridiculous and thinking everyone should be outside is equally silly. When I wrote that paper, one of the things an American health insurance provider said, well, if going outside, can't be shown as that's why therapy works. Why should we fund therapy? And I said, no, this paper is directed at you for funding specific things based on their research. You're thinking, God saying, this is bad. I'm saying your bad, you shouldn't fund this a certain therapy.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (20:30):
You've missed the point here my friend.
Dr Will Dobud (20:32):
Exactly. But I think you, yeah, you're proving my point. Exactly.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (20:38):
Yeah, no, no, wait, that's my point. Yeah. Yeah. Just as these different therapies are gonna have different approaches. Every person is different and going to feel more comfortable or be attracted to different approaches. You touched on this just now really well. And it really struck me when I was reading that paper. So it's a scoping review. And the articles that you're reviewing would often say things like no more effective than that phrasing in itself is almost like a or where the underdogs, or like not, not to be taken serious. The phrasing should be equally as effective or, you know, something that phrases it in a positive light.
Dr Will Dobud (21:14):
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (21:15):
I found that really fascinating when I was reading through, you can almost see this complex in outdoor therapies as you go through the work.
Dr Will Dobud (21:22):
Yeah. I, I, one of my dreams is that no one ever apologises for being an outdoor therapist. And you're absolutely right. That's exactly how these things are written. It doesn't make sense. And I really like that you said the underdog. I think that is how we talk about our field. We talk about us, like, we're the alternative, going back to adventure based prevention so America in the United States, we have a national registry of evidence based practices and programs to get on this list, which a lot of researchers are working to do. It's not something that interests me. I know you have to play that game. You need two clinical trials. You have to prove your intervention is safe and you have to prove that you're cost effective. And so they're, they're doing a lot out of research to get some outdoor therapies on, on that registry.
Dr Will Dobud (22:12):
About 30 years ago, an indigenous run program, project venture, I believe is the name they were on that list. They were doing clinical trials. They were doing the research necessary. That registry said that program should be the, the model of if people are gonna create indigenous prevention programs. So we've been there before. We've done. We've been on that mountaintop before now. It feels like we've moved backwards. Um, so we need more people really writing about that stuff. And I think COVID, as much as it's been, you know, has caused a lot of trauma and a lot of pain and a lot of disconnection. I think coming out of this is the time for outdoor therapists to go, yeah, we're not going back inside and we're gonna keep everything outside. But that said, the other big issue is we don't have enough data. Two Australian psychologists did the biggest study of adventure therapy outcomes, and they hypothesised less than 1% of practice goes under any type of empirical evaluation. I don't care if it's qualitative, quantitative, do something to know how effective you are.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (23:17):
Dr Will Dobud (23:18):
Otherwise we're doing what we've always done. We're taking research that says going outside is good and using that to justify a psychotherapy service, as people look towards the climate and that catastrophe going on, as well as COVID being locked inside, a lot of people are starting to look towards the outdoors. A lot of us have been there for the better part of 50 years doing, doing this work. I think you're right. That if we write like we're the underdog, we're gonna be treated like the underdog when our outcomes tend to be on par with everything else.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (23:49):
Dr Will Dobud (23:50):
Last year the book came out the edited book, outdoor therapies, and it was fascinating. All we did was use outdoor as a commonality. So we brought in wilderness therapy writers from Norway, uh, adventure therapy writers from Australia, reading about surf therapy, right surfing. We think of like endless summer and cool sort of hippy dudes on surfboards. They have done incredible work to get recognition for surfing with people living with a disability. So even department of veteran affairs is funding surf therapy. It's amazing that they're doing this all with the evidence they're building and they're not apologizing for anything.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (24:29):
Dr Will Dobud (24:30):
Equine-Assisted therapy very popular, they don't apologize for anything. So I was seeing that from where I come from, mostly wilderness and adventure therapy, and I was going, we could really learn something from these people. They're doing a much horticulture. They're forced therapy in Korea. They have government funded government maintained forest therapy, forests, where a therapist can just take their client free of charge free of anything.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (24:55):
Dr Will Dobud (24:56):
Insurance covered. You just go. Here, it's like so much gatekeeping, right? We've got, you gotta go get national park tourism license, tons of insurance. Uh, your public liability insurance is gonna be way more cause you're doing something adventurous. So I think, yeah, we gotta keep shouting from the rooftops and really learning. What did these other advocates for their modalities do that led them to be so successful in this world of psychotherapy?
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (25:23):
I might usually start an episode by saying, oh, Will tell me what a is outdoor therapy. And I decided specifically not to do that today.
Dr Will Dobud (25:30):
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (25:31):
Because so much of what we've talked about has, you know, um, alluded to what it is and what it isn't. But the most important fact that there isn't a single adventure therapy, but if we have people listening, either interested in seeking out some kind of outdoor therapy for themselves or people thinking, you know what, this would really suit me as a therapist, or I'm a student who doesn't wanna be in a classroom and sitting in an office as a social worker psychologist. Could you give us like an overview of what you would do in one of your programs as adventure therapy so we can get a sense of what that looks like.
Dr Will Dobud (26:04):
Yeah. So I guess there's two sides of it for all people in, in South Australia, I'll offer individual sessions, just like you would, I have an office, you can come and sit on the couch and we'll do a normal therapy session. What, whatever that means. I've got like little laminated cards of all these different activities we could do. And I typically work with young people. I'll throw them on the ground and say, if any of these really resonate with you and you want to go do this, we can schedule time to go do that. I was couch surfed to a lot of different therapy couches as a kid. And so I am a pro at walking into an uncomfortable interview, but I, I also really respect the fact that young people typically aren't psyched to sit with me.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (26:43):
Dr Will Dobud (26:44):
And so I need to give them some choices so they know what they want and their preferences will be listened to. We typically use adventure therapy the most when describing our work, it comes out just because I've used it for 20 years. It's a really limited word. So it, it turns people away. You might turn away the elder people, living with a disability. I don't want to go on adventure. I don't feel comfortable going on something. That's an adventure. So I've had my fair share of sessions, just sitting outside under a big gum tree and chatting. I've also done my fair share of adventure, being in a canoe, all different types of activities with all different types of people as well, when it comes to your more long term; so with adolescents, I also do a 14 day expedition. That's quite short compared to the American context, quite long for Australia, that program, typically those young people don't know each other. That's different from many programs. So we typically pick up all these kids, either from the airport or they get dropped off somewhere if they are in the South Australian area. And so we try to build a tight group. And so we'll go drive out to the middle of Flinder's ranges. We have amazing property that we get to use out there. And we basically disappear into the woods. So we have what looks like daily group therapy. We give everybody a journal. If they wanna fill out a journal while they're there, that's fine. Or we'll film like video blog of their experience, or they have something when they get home expedition is like, that's where I'm at my best. And so one of the great things is you're doing things together. If I get hurt, it's very real that they're gonna have to do something to help me just as much as I would need to help them. So I really believe with young people, it gives them an experience where they really count and they matter. And they're a super important part of the team where a lot of them who have been in trouble in school, who feel really disconnected from family who come with long histories of complex trauma.
Dr Will Dobud (28:32):
They matter, they're a part of the group and we really try to focus on success and mastery. So there's no failing at anything. So if we've set someone up and they fail, we did a really bad job. Disclaimer, I am shamelessly solution focused, even though there's no model better than the next, it's just, I am stuck there. So that will come out in my talking always. I tried to write in my PhD from a non solution focused angle. And my first examiner came back and said, you just need to own your solution focused stuff, cause it's all through this thing. And even I, so, um, but I want, when I do my work is I want, when, you know, if we think of normal solution focused brief therapy, we typically look for exceptions to the problem, right? When was that person able to resist the urge to self harm?
Dr Will Dobud (29:21):
We want the outdoor therapy experience to also be an, exception to the problem. So if we're working with someone who's highly distractible in the classroom, if I can have them do something where they aren't highly distractible and they stay focused on a task, then I can start asking questions of how are you able to do that? So I want the outdoor experience to be evidence. They can live free of the problem that brought them there in the first place.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (29:48):
Dr Will Dobud (29:48):
If we're thinking of an individual therapy session, if I take a walk and sit with someone next to a stream in what we call nearby nature, they can go back to that stream and sit there. If they have that experience of calm, of being reflected, maybe a moment in their busy day of feeling less anxious. If they attach that setting to a feeling of restoration, they can go back there whenever they want. They don't need to just have, Will the therapist there. One of the great things is the property that we go to has let us make a map of their property with a lot of the areas that typically go to where there's experiences those young people had. And we've had a lot of young people take their parents camping at that spot, um, on that property to show them well,
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (30:30):
Dr Will Dobud (30:31):
You know, this is the mountain we climbed. This is this area. This is that. It's about the talking as well. All of us need to have some sort of theory model to use, but we really want them to also feel some sense of improved wellbeing. As a result of the experience, the surf therapy chapter in the book, it was really interesting that they talked about how the qualitative research they had with veterans was the veterans loved the sense of amazement when you're able to stand on a surf board. Additionally, people that were amputees as a result of their combat experience, just being able to kneel on a surfboard was amazing. The other part was just sitting and bobbing in the water with somebody else was not only disarming, but it's really peaceful and calm. And so they really said it wasn't just getting up and rotting away. It was the whole thing. So something, one of our amazing feminist, uh, adventure therapy writers, Denise Mitten, she always talks about how important it is to have downtime that we're not just filling it with talking. We're not just filling it with activities. We need that informal time. So for young people, one of the things they really notice is they really notice the person of the therapist. You know, you're really doing something together. It feels very natural. It's not really your stale typical psychotherapy session. And so I think that again is another really great way we can use the outdoors to reduce some of the power and differences. You know, you're in a neutral setting, as much as I come with some skills and knowledge of that area, things could go wrong for both of us. So we are in it together.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (32:06):
All of these aspects that you're describing, uh, bringing home for me, the idea of the separation in our health and other social systems, being able to surf or being able to be out in nature and physically achieve things while you know, working through and having that kind of downtime to process emotions or cognitions, it kind of encourages altogether embodiment. What I thought was particularly interesting about that was context dependent memory, which is a really wanky psych and social work explanation of, you know, when we're learning something, the space that we're in, we more likely to remember that later, if you go back into that space, smell something while you're learning, you smell it again, it comes back and there's this stuff with substances that we don't need to go into. Yeah.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (32:48):
But, but, um, that idea that someone might have an important experience with their process, something or achieve something in a physical space outside of your office that they can go to when they wanna have their own time. And remember that. And that's quite powerful and not something I'd put a lot of thought into before, except in a mental health context, maybe having consumers that would say, I don't wanna meet in the office. Can't you come and sit out under this tree and being told, especially as a student going through my social work training, no, we don't do that. It often impacted specific cultural groups.
Dr Will Dobud (33:19):
New Speaker (33:19):
So I've just ranted there, but I found everything you said was really fascinating.
Dr Will Dobud (33:23):
I think you're right. I think even though when we look at the mental health world, most of us tend to lean politically to the left. We are really conservative in the way we think about what we do. One of the common things that people say is, well, what about confidentiality? If you're outside, I have, I've never had a client go outside with me say, what if other people hear us? Now they maybe have thought it. I'd like to think I can try to create a relationship where they can tell me there are people who just prefer to be in the office. No problem. I'm not saying outdoors is better or not.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (33:54):
Dr Will Dobud (33:55):
We'd like to appropriate stigmas. Why people don't engage. If I'm walking in a park with a client, it does not look like therapy. We are totally invisible asking them to walk into Will Dobud psychotherapy clinic in the middle of the city and sit in a white room. There's a lot of people who could see them.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (34:11):
This is a really good point. Well, Yeah.
Dr Will Dobud (34:13):
One of the importance with telehealth is someone can sit in the comfort of their home and talk to a help and professional. And if someone wants to go outside, it simply looks more invisible. I really just wanted to focus on expeditions when I started my practice and this mother rang, the young man was probably 15 or 16, pretty serious and persistent self-harming. And the mother rang and said, will you work with him, I've heard you work with youth. And I said, yep. And now my office was under construction. And I said, I like to meet outside. And she said, I don't think he'll like that. Can he meet at your office? And I was like, no, no, no, let's just meet outside. We'll just do that. So nowadays I totally go. Yeah, your preference. No problem. And we sat under a tree and he was wearing a t-shirt of a punk band I listen to. And I said, whoa, cool. And we just talked about punk music for an hour. I asked him what his best hopes for our work together, which he said, none of this ever works. I've been to this many social workers and psychiatrists. And we had, uh, good amount of funding to work with this kid due to the loss of his father. He hadn't gone to school for about six months. He was a stay in bed all day, every day and then stay up all night.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (35:25):
Dr Will Dobud (35:26):
Next session. We did basically the same thing. I brought really nice headphones. We listened to music. He went to school after that session and never did not go to a day of school for no reason ever again was a straight a student. I said to him, years later, cause I thought I'm gonna jinx this. If I ask him why he did that. Like, like, like this is, I was like, I remember coming home. And I said to my wife, Renee, I said, I don't know what happened, but there's a miracle that just occurred that. Yeah. Like I was like, I don't know what it was. Um, years went by. Um, and he would call every now and then and say, can we have a session? And we'd meet in my office. And there was a time when I was like, we're a bit stuck here. It feels the same all the time. I said, we're gonna go canoeing. Great thing about the canoes. You're not face to face. Right? I'm in the back, client in the front, we're just fishing. We've sat in and we're just sitting there not catching anything. And he just totally just started unloading about his dad. We just sat there in that space. It was like, well maybe this outdoor environment of bobbing and around in a little bit of moving water was really nice.
Dr Will Dobud (36:32):
We had a really good working relationship and he chat about that and he, uh, unpacked some things that it, his mother did that he wasn't too happy about. We came up with some ideas and strategies to chat with her. Their relationship was pretty up and down. But a few years after that we were going canoeing. I was supervising a social work student. I said to the student, I said, Hey, we're gonna take this guy canoeing. I just want you to ask him, why'd you go to school? Like, why did you make this life change? Cause I don't wanna jinx it. You know? And so she goes, you know, so, uh, she was, she was amazing. She was one of my favorite, uh, people to work with. She was so blunt, which I needed cause I can waffle a bit. She said, so I've got a question Will told me you went to school after two sessions, why'd you do that? And I was like, I was like, Kat I wouldn't have asked it that way? That was, that was too dumb. You know,
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (37:18):
It's a why question, but all right. Yeah,
Dr Will Dobud (37:20):
Yeah, exactly. Don't ask why questions, you know that. Um, and he said just sitting under the tree side by side, talking about music, I just felt really listened to, and to me, I was going, I just got paid to sit and talk about music. I was like, this is incredible. Like this is ridiculous.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (37:39):
Dr Will Dobud (37:39):
We hardly talked about school. I mean, I got a good idea of how he viewed the problem. I told him I wasn't too interested in mum's view of the problem. I was just interested in working together. I think for a lot of people being outside, being side by side, having a shared experience together, being outside on adventure, I am just as much a part of that and benefiting from whatever the benefits of being outside are for young people or people that are involuntarily sent. They're pretty certain. They're about to be evaluated.
Dr Will Dobud (38:08):
You have a lot of people that are what we think of as resistance. Now, resistance we know is a therapist problem. That's not the client's problem. If you're doing something, a client doesn't like, that's your fault for a lot of people just doing something different that doesn't feel like a stereotypical therapy session might be really nice. I think another example of where we can really think outside the box is I got some funding to do some consultation at a regional school here in South Australia. So I had already managed to get a community grant to take 10 of their students on an expedition. So I knew most of the kids there and this one kid, I was doing session with him. We had an hour session and I was getting some feedback from him. And I said, how is that? Like, what would we do differently next time? He says, it's too long. And I thought, okay, then we'll go like what 40 minutes? Looking back on it. I was so stuck in just my training therapy must be an hour. And he said 15 minutes. And I remember driving the like 90 minute drive home going, how I was like, this is like soul crushing. He only wants to spend 15 minutes with me. This is ridiculous. He showed up to the next session with a typed up agenda for the 15 minutes. He was like, so here you go. I've got mine. So I had a fight with mum on Wednesday and uh, I think the way I reacted, could we just talk about that? That's been allocated about three and a half minutes of time and that, and he loved it. He was like, that's perfect. You know? And uh, I ended up, uh, you know, now years later I've bumped into him, he was working at a, at a restaurant and he said you were the first therapist to just go, yeah, that timeframe makes sense. No problem. And I thought, yeah, it was also fricking soul crushing. Cause I just like basically, you know, I figuratively and metaphorically babysat you for 10 days in the Bush. And then you're like, yeah, well I don't wanna a lot of you anymore. And, and we had this joke about it and he said, I knew it was important time. Where if I came with one thing and we had to talk for an hour, it didn't make any sense to me. So it was actually very logical and to the point.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (40:09):
Dr Will Dobud (40:09):
And he enjoyed it and I thought, fantastic. I was working with a young woman at that same school who didn't come on the expedition. She had a horrific trauma history. She said, everyone just wants me to talk. I don't want to talk. I don't want to share. I don't know what the point is of me talking about these things. And at the end of the session, she talks about how a guy friend she has is teaching her to play the drums. Now I've played the drums since I was about four years old. That was the way my parents got me to stop making so much noise around the house. Uh, I am a good drummer, right? And so I was in a very privileged position to go, well, let's go to the music room at the school. And that funding, the school was stoked to give me three hours a week with this, with this young person. And she wrote to the principal, a thank you note saying, thank you for giving me me the best social worker I could have, like dreamt of.
Dr Will Dobud (41:02):
And it's not that I am the best social worker by any means. But if we have the opportunity to really think about what would be the best use of our time with this client, even just to be a male, that isn't a pig of a person, she had never experienced that in her life. Even just to do something with music and rhythm, we know that's really good. People could have looked at it and gone 'Will's just playing music with this', or 'Will's just going on a hike'. Don't you have the best job? You just get to go canoeing whenever you want. But if we know that there's important things happening, and this is why we need people to build their evidence, we can twist the arm of funders to say, actually what's going on is really important.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (41:42):
Dr Will Dobud (41:42):
Really impactful. And it just doesn't have to look like what you all think is important. It can look like anything, right? Having worked at a lot of residential treatment places, it's amazing how many of your most troubled young people with the most crazy histories of complex trauma build incredible relationships with the janitors, the landscapers, because there is no vested interest. It is just a real relationship. When I interviewed a bunch of people for my PhD research, what the young people said is they wanted a worker who is just as down in the dirt as they were.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (42:20):
Dr Will Dobud (42:21):
What people respond to is really seeing. And Carl Rogers talked about this, you know, seeing the person of your therapist, that they're a real person, you know, when we are children, how weird it is to like, see your school teacher in like the supermarket, cause you're like, that's not a real person, a school teacher. And then you're like, that's
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (42:41):
Who let you out?!
Dr Will Dobud (42:42):
Yeah. Who lets you outta the school. But that is, I think that's the opportunity we have when we're outside, outdoor education has this problem because everything has to be in curriculum. It becomes very rigid. We do this on this day. We have group processing time, but it's only for 60 minutes. And then it's into your sleeping bags going like that's not real. That's fabricated adventure. It has to feel real.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (43:06):
Dr Will Dobud (43:06):
I think that's why the search and rescue thing was so powerful. It was real West Virginia sheriff walked out and said, here's your first day aid and CPR. And if something goes wrong, we're gonna need you kids. So you guys have to be ready. We practiced how to pack our bags and get moving in five minutes, people who have set up a tarp to sleep under it's, that's a mission to do it's real. And, and it communicates to people that they matter. They're not just the recipient of some social work expertise they're part and they're needed. And one of the amazing things we do on our program, we just do everything for them when they arrive. Assuming that this group of young people who are often coming as an alternative to getting arrested or alternative, getting thrown at school for whatever issue, assuming they're gonna be a functioning group is dumb, right. And so we do everything, help them set up their shelters. We start the fire, cook their dinner. We make sure they're well fed that they're warm. We're just caring for them. It takes like one day before they all start going, can I help with cooking tonight? And you go sure. And they say, it looks like you're struggling to carry that. I can put some and more weight in my backpack and you go fantastic.
Dr Will Dobud (44:19):
And you just wait for people to be amazing. And it all comes out.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (44:23):
Dr Will Dobud (44:24):
It's an awesome moment to reflect on with the young people about offering to help being useful to others. Noticing that that person's a bit homesick and maybe wants to sleep closer to you or, uh, have you talk with them while they fall asleep. The first four days you're memorizing everyone's name, it's hard to carry a pack. You know, you get used to it. And for some people it's hard to be away from home that long.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (44:47):
Dr Will Dobud (44:48):
Be without your phone, not have substance of choice that you like to use, but by day four, it's like not even work anymore. You're just getting to hang out and have cool conversations with really interesting people. And it's real. And you can see that shift where the first night people are pretty anxious and they, they struggle to fall asleep. The second that sun goes down, everyone's like, I'm gonna head to bed and they just go to sleep and they sleep till the sun comes up. So they're eating healthy, getting a huge amount of sleep exercising in a way every day, moving their body. All these things are the best antidepressants in the world. And then you, the worker just gets to have real conversations with people while having fun with them, getting to see those people at their best.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (45:31):
Oh, I went, I went down the wrong route with my research. Will, I've just been wasting time in an office this, this whole time.
Dr Will Dobud (45:37):
There's nothing wrong with the office. It's just a lot less fun.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (45:42):
This conversation has been awesome.
Dr Will Dobud (45:44):
Thank You. I Loved it.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (45:46):
We have covered a lot of ground.
Dr Will Dobud (45:48):
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (45:49):
Our last thing though, people wanna reach out, keep in touch with you Will, what's the best way to do that.
Dr Will Dobud (45:55):
Yeah. So I am pretty active on social media. So you can just search my name on Twitter or Facebook or anything like that. I love chatting with people. I love reaching out to people. And so don't hesitate to reach out. You can also email me. That's Wdobud, W and then my last name @csu.edu.au. Happy to hear from anyone if anyone ever wants to, to reach out.
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (46:20):
Will, thanks again for your time. I hope that you enjoy the rest of your evening and we get to catch up again soon.
Dr Will Dobud (46:25):
Yeah, definitely. Thanks so much. And keep up the great work with this podcast. I love it. Even though it says psych in the name it's okay. Um, but that fantastic. Um,
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (46:35):
But I did wonder if we were gonna touch on that.
Dr Will Dobud (46:38):
Why is this social worker doing a psych podcast? No, that's okay. I'm joking
Dr Jasmine MacDonald (46:44):
For those of you at home. That's all for today. Show notes for the episode can be found at www.psychattack.com. If you've enjoyed listening to psych attack, please rate it on your favorite podcast platform and share this episode to help other people find the show. If you have questions or feedback, you can reach out on Twitter (@psychattackcast). Thanks for listening. And we'll catch up with you again next time.