Rites of passage models, drawing from ethnographic descriptions of ritualized transition, are widespread in adventure therapy programmes. However, critical literature suggests that: (a) contemporary rites of passage models derive from a selective and sometimes misleading use of ethnographic materials, and (b) the appropriation of initiatory practices and motifs out of the cultural contexts from which they emerged may be both unethical and ineffective. This paper explores the origins and applications of rites of passage models in adventure therapy, and discusses some of the central critical questions around their use. It challenges the simplistic use of complex cultural processes and offers some guidelines for the ethical and practical integration of such models in service of therapeutic outcomes.
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