Gregor V. Sarkisian, PhD, Professor in the MA in Psychology program was the coeditor and contributor to the first-ever special issue of the Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice dedicated to surf therapy research around the world.
“This Special Focus Issue on Surf Therapy Around the Globe includes the most comprehensive collection of research on surf therapy,” said Sarkisian. “It includes empirical research on eight surf therapy programs delivered across six countries – Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America – serving diverse populations, including youth with disabilities, vulnerable youth, active duty military service members and military veterans. Additionally, a program planning tool, four videos and a concluding article synthesizing findings and outlining the future of surf therapy practice, research and coalition building are included.”
Peer-reviewed social science journals are among the most direct way to communicate with scientists, academics, and media about new research. This Special Issue on Surf Therapy Around the Globe appearing in the Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice is devoted to advancing the science and practice of surf therapy for diverse populations. The collection of research represents the most comprehensive collection of research on surf therapy to date. Additional feature editors include Kristen H. Walter, PhD, Giovanni Martinez, PhD, and Philip B. Ward, PhD.
Achieving therapeutic benefits while catching waves may not be new, but documenting the emotional, physical, and psychological effects of surfing has only just begun. Navigating the advancing science of surf therapy is complicated, as researchers must consider all relevant factors. Traditionally, programs prioritize underserved populations and marginalized communities, which includes vulnerable youth, Veterans, individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and active-duty military service members. Along with the diverse populations served by surf therapy, the dosage (i.e. session frequency and program length) and supplemental activities (i.e. music, yoga, art) vary by program.
The introduction to the Special Issue is a carefully considered piece demonstrating how Community Psychology practices and competencies are utilized in surf therapy programs, including a thorough summary of all twelve featured articles. The issue opens with a scoping review of the academic literature focused on surf therapy, which yielded 29 studies representing the scientific evidence linked to surf therapy over the past ten years. The study supports surf therapy, which is defined as “a method of intervention that is combining surfing with structured activities promoting psychological, physical, and psychosocial wellbeing,” and includes recommendations for improving surf therapy research and practice. The issue concludes with a paper outlining current developments and future directions for surf therapy practice, research, and coalition building.
The articles presented in the journal uniquely assist in furthering the knowledge base of surf therapy. To encourage the continued scientific evolution of the sector, the coeditors present recommendations and considerations for future surf therapy studies in their concluding article. The coeditors also comment on the role of ISTO, stating that “this compilation of articles reflects the mission and values of the International Surf Therapy Organization. The initiatives of ISTO and how they are informed by the current state of science and practice are presented to pave the way for the future of the surf therapy sector.”
By demonstrating the benefits surf therapy has on its participants and comparing this water-centered experience to existing mental health treatments, the surf therapy field can build an unshakable case for spending more time in the ocean.