About Our Founder

Dr. Palmer has been involved with the Adventure-Based Counseling movement for over 20 years and has led, supervised, taught, and designed both professionals and programs across the western states and in Alaska. As a practitioner, researcher, leading university professor, and program designer; Dr. Palmer has worked shoulder to shoulder with nearly every leader in the industry and has brought in nearly $10 million in federal and tribal funding for adventure-based programs.

​After working for major universities and directing multi-million dollar healthcare departments, Dr. Palmer founded Adventure Therapy Northwest to expand access to care for those across Oregon & Washington.

“For the last twenty-plus years, I’ve centered my career and personal life within adventure-based endeavors. Whether in my own parenting journey, within the teaching/university environment, or in the clinical realm; my unwavering aim has been the incorporation of adventure, the outdoors, and/or the wilderness into every aspect of my life. We are seeing more and more attention given to the great need to teach RESILIENCY these days, and rightfully so! Resiliency is the ability to adapt to adversity without succumbing to bitterness, to step back up when failure arises, and resiliency is the determination to continually strive for personal agency in a world that would rather seek blame or scapegoats. Adventure is not possible without adversity, and resiliency is not gained without adversity. I have found no better media than adventure in which to create the ideal learning laboratory for the formation of resilience, self-reflection, and true competence/confidence.”

DB Palmer

Ep20. A conversation with DB I really want to do this!

“Life is about moving forward without really knowing the destination. Life is about discovering the path as we go. Not wandering blindly, but in truth, none of us really knows where it will end up” – “We learn so well when we are slightly uncomfortable, when we’re being pushed by a good coach, or mentor, or when in situation that have the potential for failure. And failure is so much more effective in teaching than success. It’s tough to nail down where we succeeded, but it’s usually very obvious to see where we fail” – “The truth of adventure is rain, heat, uncertainty, danger, but that is exactly what life really is. The problem with insulating against natural consequences is that we don’t learn limits, and we don’t learn how far we actually could go. So possibilities are also blunted” – “If we all expect the identified leader to do everything for us, the trip doesn’t go very well. But we all start adding in our pieces, and taking responsibility, all of a sudden the worse trip is still really good” – “Adventure based parenting revitalizes relationships, it motivates active lifestyles, and it fosters long term family connections” – DB’s song is “Ain’t no grave” by Crooked Still  https://youtu.be/py_mHp1g0Bo – Follow backcountry professor on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXnQgA1nNV4WePe7LeoFhlw

Dr. DB Palmer, Ed.D, LPC-S, LMHC-S, LCMHC

Clinical Licensure in Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Utah, & Louisiana
An overview of Dr. Palmer’s professional background:
  • Ed.D Counseling Psychology, 2013
  • MA Human Services: Marriage & Family Counseling, 2008
  • BS Recreation Management, 2002
  • Board Approved Clinical Supervisor (Alaska & Washington)
  • Certified Clinical Adventure Therapist, Association for Experiential Education (AEE)
  • Master Counselor (National Association for Therapeutic Wilderness Camping)
  • VP Board of Directors, Alaska Association for Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health
  • Project Director, Child Health & Development, SAMHSA Project Launch
  • Project Director, Pediatric Integrated Care Collaborative, IHS/Johns Hopkins
  • Advisory Board Steering Committee, Alaska Avalanche Information Center
  • Board of Directors, Wrangell Institute for Science & Environment
  • 2018- Presenter- Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health Institute & Child, Adolescent, & Family  Behavioral Health Conferences. 
  • 2018- PI/Project Director- SAMHSA Child Health & Development- Project LAUNCH- $2.75million. 
  • 2018- Project Director- ANA SEDS Trauma-Informed Youth Development- $1.2 million.
  • 2018- Project Director-Pediatric Integrated Care Collaborative- Indian Health Services & Johns Hopkins
  • 2017-2020- PI/Project Director: $480,000 Administration for Native Americans SEDS (ACF) federal  grantee.
  • 2015- Present- Adventure Film Festival Panel of Judges, Ireland Adventure Film Festival.
  • 2016-Balto Film Festival- Panel of Judges, Seward Alaska 
  • 2016- Grant- CRWP- UAA Center for Community Engagement & Learning- Spring Semester
  • 2015- Grant- CRWP- UAA Center for Community Engagement & Learning- Fall Semester
  • 2014- UAA Faculty Research & Creative Activity Symposium- Invited Presentation- Adventure Film/ODS
  • 2014-Balto Film Festival, Invited Panel Presentation at the 49 hour Film Challenge, Seward AK.
  • . 2014- Arctic Slope/North American Outdoor Institute- Grant-funded research project.
  • 2013-American Canoe Association- Group Leadership Dynamics.
  • 2013- NAOI/APU- Arctic Slope Community Foundation- Wilderness Challenge Design/Assessment- 2yr.
  • . 2013-North American Outdoor Institute- “Human Dynamics & Avalanche Risk”
  • 2012- North American Outdoor Institute- “How group dynamics affect adventurers’ decision making”
  • 2012- Alaska Geographic. “Decision-Making for Adventure Leaders.” 
  • 2012- North American Outdoor Institute- “Psychology of Risk: Group Dynamics in Avalanche terrain”.
  • 2011- Cover Story “Getting off the Couch”– Counseling Today magazine and online webpage.
  • . 2011- Snow Safety Conference- “Human factors and decision making”– N. American Outdoor Institute
  • 2011- Invited Presentation: “Professional Opportunities & Wilderness Therapy”– AEE NW Regional.
  • 2011- Invited Presentation: “Psychology of Place” Alaska Forum on the Environment.
  • 2010- AEE International Annual, “Evidence-Based Wilderness Therapy” 
  • 2010- AEE Northwest Regional, “What the research tells us about Adventure Based Counseling”
An Overview of Dr. Palmer’s teaching history:
  • Social Media for Outdoor Professionals (UAF)
  • PSY 111 General Psychology 
  • ODS 275 Media & Strategic Communication for Outdoor Professionals (created course)
  • ODS 264 Recreation Program Planning & Assessment 
  • FLM 172 Preproduction & Previsualization for Film  
  • ODS 298 Adventure Research & Creative Activity (created course)  
  • ODS 161 Wilderness First Responder (co-instructor)  
  • ODS 154 Packrafting Alaska (created course)  
  • ODS 112 Swiftwater Rescue Technician (created course)  
  • ODS 152 Beginning Rafting  
  • ODS 153 Beginning Sea Kayaking  
  • ODS 169 Four Seasons Backpacking  
  • ODS 181 Introduction to Recreation and Outdoor Leadership  
  • ODS 262 Foundations of Adventure and Experiential Leadership  
  • ODS 282 Leadership in Experiential Initiatives and Activities  
  • ODS 171 Outdoor Adventures in Alaska  
  • ODS 120 Cross-Country Skiing  
  • ODS 266 Introduction to Safety and Risk  
  • ODS 281 Leadership Activities for Diverse Populations  
  • ODS 287 Leadership in Outdoor Recreation Activities  
  • ODS 295 Outdoor Leadership Internship  
  • ODS 293 Adventure Filmmaking Field Seminar (created course)  
  • MSOEE 60900 Assessment of Outdoor & Environmental Education (graduate)  
  • MAP 68101- Wilderness Therapy Graduate Thesis  
  • MAP 68101- Wilderness Therapy Graduate Thesis  
  • PSY 423- Psychology & Criminal Justice
  • CJA 330- Juvenile Delinquency
  • MS Education. Health & Fitness Programming: Mental Health & Fitness. V.Golson
Training/Certification History
  • Wilderness First Responder & Wilderness EMT
  • Swiftwater Rescue Technician, Rescue 3 & Swiftwater Safety Institute
  • L4 Open Water Coastal Kayaking Instructor, American Canoe Association
  • AMSEA Instructor, Alaska Marine Safety Education Association
  • Kenai River Guide Academy Graduate
  • ADA trainer, Cornell University/University of Washington
  • FEMA Incident Command System
  • Former Army Infantry Soldier, 11C
  • 20+ years as a Wilderness/Adventure Guide across Alaska, Canada, & the USA
  • Ultra Marathon Canoeist with thousands of competitive river miles completed
  • Bear Guard/Wilderness Safety Specialist, Learn to Return

Why Adventure Therapy?

Adventure Therapy addresses numerous behavioral health challenges.

Adventure Therapy draws from the inherent therapeutic nature of the outdoors.

Adventure Therapy increases physical activity, blends social interaction, and aids self-reflection.

Let’s get started!

Core Elements of Adventure Therapy

AT Technical Skills

Definition: This element focuses on the knowledge of technical skills competencies and limitations related to AT interventions, risk management protocols specific to adventure therapy populations and settings, and environmental practices of adventure therapists.

  • Practicing within one’s own competencies based on technical skills training and assessed competency. Competency can be assessed either by having a certification, or an assessment of skill competency from a reputable training organization, or employer.
  • Conducting risk analysis of sites and activities that are utilized
  • Environmental awareness 
  • Minimizing and recognizing the impact of AT on the environment

Facilitation and Processing in AT

Definition: This element focuses on the effectiveness of the adventure therapy experience, assists clients in finding direction and sources for functional change, and creates changes that are lasting and integrated into the clients’ lives

  • Establishing norms
  • Engagement and cohesion building strategies
  • Awareness of trauma responses in AT
  • Adapting intervention to incorporate isomorphic metaphors
  • Utilizing models for stages of change and group development while conducting AT services
  • Generalizing adventure experiences to everyday life.
  • Matching and facilitating an activity towards a clinical goal with transfer of skills

Organizational/ Administrative Policies in AT

Definition: This element focuses on the organizational processes and policies surrounding adventure experiences used by the adventure therapist.

  • Designing and maintaining policies that reflect an awareness of standards in the field
  • Laws and regulations impacting AT services
  • Development of crisis management response plans
  • Medication and medical monitoring
  • admission protocols, treatment, discharge, and referrals from AT services
  • Supervising client behaviors and safety during AT activities
  • Supervision and consultation to maintain ethical practice and AT certification
  • Resources for seeking consultation about  AT practices
  • Logistics of planning AT interventions

 Conceptual Knowledge of AT

Definition: This element focuses on the ability of the adventure therapist to use specific models, practices, philosophies, and applications of adventure therapy for the unique needs of treatment issues with clients

  • History and foundations of the development of AT
  • Connecting interventions with the therapist’s theoretical orientation
  • Key components of AT interventions
  • AT Models

Therapeutic Alliance Building in AT

Definition: This element focuses on the ability of the adventure therapist to co-construct an effective therapeutic alliance with clients. The building of this positive form of therapeutic relationship incorporates the use of natural environment elements and adventure programming concepts. Special attention is paid to the specific and diverse context of various clients (e.g., social, cultural, systemic, ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation, etc

 Respecting and honoring inclusivity and diversity when providing AT services

  • Recognizing impact of AT on client-therapist relationship
  • Awareness of the breadth of interaction and communication styles during AT services
  • Demonstrating empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard
  • Repairing ruptured therapeutic relationships during AT interventions
  • Ensuring clients’ rights when receiving AT services.

Assessment in AT

Definition: This element focuses on how the adventure therapist examines clients in mental health settings through adventure experiences and uses supportive documentation for screening and creating potential interventions.

  • AT interventions as part of ongoing client assessment
  • Adventure-based assessment to inform clinical facilitation decisions
  • Seeks information about client from multiple areas to deliver effective AT services
  • Assessment and management of risk (emotional, physical, environment, trauma-informed)

AT Interventions

Definition: This element focuses on the implementation of adventure therapy treatment strategies and processes to produce functional client change in an appropriate, culturally relevant, lasting manner.

  • Activities and techniques used in AT programming
  • Selecting culturally relevant adventure experiences
  • Interaction with the treatment environment as an integral part of the treatment process
  • Selecting and conducting AT interventions that are appropriate and individualized to the client. 

Therapeutic Monitoring in AT

Definition: This element focuses on the continual connection to clients involved in adventure therapy programming, including ongoing evaluation of therapy, maintenance of treatment gains, ongoing treatment planning, and termination.

  • Monitoring transfer of learning from adventure activities to “daily life” over time
  • The use of adventure activities for formal and informal outcome evaluation purposes.
  • Detailed/formative treatment planning that supports development of appropriate AT interventions
  • Co-creation and/or assessment of progress on treatment goals using AT intervention

AT Documentation

Definition: This element focuses on the accurate appraisal of all steps in the adventure therapy process, including but not limited to screening and intake, participant forms, agreement to participate, waivers, informed consent, and other pertinent documentation forms for client benefit.

  • HIPAA and confidentiality considerations of providing AT services (e.g., storage of AT documentation and files in the field and in the office)
  • Assumption of Risk and Liability Releases appropriate for Adventure Programming
  • Incident and Accident reporting
  • Use of clinical language in notes to reflect intent of AT interventions and client progress

Professionalism in AT

Definition: This element focuses on the expected professional behavior of an adventure therapist.

  • Will follow all professional regulatory laws and ethics of the region, state, province, or country in which one practices.
  • Ethical Standards specific to AT services
  • Knowledge of commonly accepted  practices in AT
  • How to use clinical supervision for developing specific AT interventions.

Socio-Cultural/Environmental Considerations in AT

Definition: This element focuses on the awareness and practices related to diversity needs, power, privilege, and environmental stewardship.

  • Recognition of practitioner biases and controlling countertransference.
  • Practicing reflection to increase awareness and manage bias.
  • Practice environmental ethics appropriate to your location and region of practice.
  • Advocacy for diversity, equity and equality, and environmental conservation and protection with an awareness of climate change and the history/traditions of indigenous peoples

Let’s get started!

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