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An outbound program is basically the creation of challenge in a safe environment through experiential activities and has long been identified as being an essential part of the experiential education, which uses an experiential approach to physical and mental development. These programs approach psychological treatment through experience and action within group games, outdoor pursuits, and wilderness expeditions focusing on organizations, groups, families, and individuals.
Outbound programs have come to be recognized as a mainstream academic approach to teach interpersonal skills, wilderness survival skills, and leadership skills through courses ranging from one week to one semester. Also, the outbound programs are very effectively used in treating the various psychological problems of adolescents, youth, families and organizations
Kurt Hahn said, ‘Outward Bound is like Achilles’ sword.  It heals as it cuts’.  This dual, contrasting function is not an automatic one.  The Outbound ideology is compelling, persuasive, and facilitating.

A wide range of psychological theories can be utilized to explain outbound education processes and outcomes. Some of these theories are briefly outlined:

Physical Fitness

At their most basic level, outbound programs are physical.  For example, gains in participants’ mobility and fitness levels arguably occur and contribute to overall psychological well being.

Stress & Arousal

Outbound programs often put participants in situations that challenge them physically, emotionally, mentally and socially. The nature of this arousal is studied both physiologically & psychologically and results evaluated.


When faced with challenging situations, participants cope in different ways, some of which are effective, some of which are ineffective or even destructive.  The immediate feedback provided by the environment, group and practical situations can help outbound participants to develop more effective coping strategies.

Resilience & outdoor education

Resilience refers to one's capacity to withstand stressors without going under.  In fact, a highly resilient person may actually thrive on problems, seeing them instead as opportunities.  Outbound philosophy, perhaps best exemplified in the work of Kurt Hahn, strongly promotes the idea that tough outdoor experiences are valuable for "toughening" people up and developing a greater ability to deal with real-world challenges.


Self-concept enhancement has been understood as a major aim of many outbound programs.  While overall enhancement of self-concept is achieved, it has also been shown that there are specific and predictable differential gains in different dimensions of self-concept.

Achievement Motivation

Outbound programs often aim to enhance participants’ motivation to achieve.


Self-efficacy refers to a person's belief in his ability to successfully do things. Enhancement of self-efficacy should arise when actual skills are developed, but it may also be useful to directly foster a positive belief about personal capability.

Locus of Control

Locus of Control refers to the extent that a person believes he/she has personal control and responsibility over the events of his/her life and the larger events around him/her.  Several studies have been conducted examining the effects of outbound programs on participants Locus of Control.  In general, there are substantial shifts towards a more internal Locus of Control.  Outbound programs, for example, have been shown to produce a more internal locus of control in participants.

Task Difficulty, Goal Setting and Feedback

Difficult goals are set, action and experience takes place, feedback is given and performance is reviewed, then new plans are made for improved performance.

Group Dynamics

Most outbound programs are group-based experiences. The dynamics of group interaction and group development are fundamental to the achievement of outbound training aims and to nature of personal experiences in outbound programs.


Changes in self-perception are intimately related to the perceived norms, values and identity of the social groups’ one belongs to. Outbound programs are like entering a new culture which leads to the formation and development of unique group values and norms that in turn influence the self-perceptions of group members.

Remedial & Recidivism

Outbound programs have been shown to achieve positive remedial effects on low academic performers. In addition, programs designed for at risk or delinquent students appear to contribute to reducing the likelihood of re-offending.

General Well-Being

Participants on outbound programs report better positive and negative psychological well-being after returning to their normal lives.