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Adventure Therapy for Addiction Recovery

Adventure Therapy is a widely recognized treatment approach that uses outdoor activities that involve risk and create emotional or physical challenges for the patient. It is an exciting treatment experience that helps individuals discover themselves and how they work with others through games, trust exercises, and wilderness adventures.

Adventure Therapy Brief Overview

Adventure therapy can take multiple forms, operate in a range of settings, and attract a wide array of clientele. It generally accompanies traditional treatment programs as a means to encourage development of personal responsibility, cooperation, relationship building, social skill acquisition, and psychological resilience.

Also known as wilderness therapy, bush adventure therapy, adventure-based counseling, and therapeutic camping, adventure therapy is practiced in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, youth development, mental health services, alternative education, and schools.

Although several definitions exist, the most common is that “adventure therapy is the prescriptive use of adventure experiences provided by mental health professionals, often conducted in natural settings that kinesthetically engage clients on cognitive, effective, and behavioral levels”.

According to research, adventure therapy consists of three essential elements: theoretical basis, practice, and expected outcomes. The theoretical basis of adventure therapy is that it influences the cognitive, physical, spiritual, and social aspects of the client. The second element refers to the activities utilized by trained professionals whose mission is to encourage personal and interpersonal growth. Finally, the calculated end result is the development of the self.

Expected Outcomes of Adventure Therapy

Adventure therapy is carefully developed and widely utilized with several goals in mind. Its expected outcomes include:

  1. Recreational recovery– by engaging in adventure therapy, clients work on their physical fitness and outdoor skills that can lead to an abundant feeling of enjoyment, relaxation, and satisfaction.
  2. Educational improvement – by participating in adventure therapy, patients heighten their direct knowledge and their academic self-concept.
  3. Developmental refinement – individuals can advance their personal and social development, life skills, and functionality of behavior.
  4. Therapeutic upgrade – adventure therapy can be a means of bettering dysfunctional personal and group behavior patterns.
  5. Environmental consciousnesses – this alternative type of therapy can significantly boost one’s environmental attitude and knowledge.

Expected Benefits of Adventure Therapy

Patients who participate in adventure therapy have been found to improve their insight into roles in the workplace, school, in relationships, and their family. They get a close look at how they work with others and learn how to face any social and emotional barriers in life.

Furthermore, adventure therapy can greatly give rise to self-management skills. Patients will have the opportunity to explore their fears, grief, frustrations, and anxieties. They will learn how to manage their emotions, work in groups and bond with others to achieve a common goal.

The benefits of adventure therapy don’t end here and they go deeper into the patient’s psyche. Individuals acquire a new sense of self-awareness and learn appropriate coping skills. They learn how to improve cooperation, build social bonds, and create meaningful relationships.

In addition, the wide range of activities used in adventure therapy can promote teamwork and harbor a sense of community. It paves the way for patients to develop social growth and to look outside themselves.

According to studies, this type of therapy leads to significant reductions in depressive symptoms in clients and their improvement in overall self-esteem.

Adventure Therapy and Addiction Recovery

Individuals who are struggling with addiction grow tired of other things in life and focus solely on finding their next fix. They lose interest of their hobbies and fuel their lives only with alcohol or drugs. Adventure therapy can help those patients find new hobbies and interests, focus their attention on something else rather than substances, and learn how to rely on a sober self.

Adventure activities patients engage in: nature walks, hikes, or rock climbing. It can give them a rush of excitement, positive emotion, and adrenaline. Studies show that nature and the great outdoors can be an influential force to challenge individuals and motivate them to do things they wouldn’t have done themselves. Instead of taking a drink or ingesting a drug, patients are instead able to face their emotions as they feel them and overcome them in a natural and healthy way.

Through these shared experiences, individuals develop outdoor survival strategies, stress coping mechanisms, learn new communication, and interpersonal skills. They start to appropriately express their emotions, take responsibility for their actions, and increase self-awareness.

Adventure Therapy Activities

There is a plethora of adventure therapy activities and these include games, initiatives, trust activities, ropes courses, and wilderness activities.

Games in adventure therapy are an exciting and engaging way to help those struggling with addiction. They are fun, mostly non-competitive, and can teach patients what is amusing and spontaneous. They promote a connection and can help patients develop meaningful bonds.

Initiatives are types of activities in which patients form a group to solve a common goal. These activities might include crossing a river with a few supplies or navigating around an obstacle. Patients work together towards accomplishing a common goal and develop feelings or self-worth and self-esteem.

Furthermore, trust activities are exceedingly helpful because they teach patients how to trust others. Patients here engage in exercise such as trusting someone to lead you around blindfolded or falling backwards to be caught by your peers. They learn how to develop trusting relationships, believe in others, and how to let go.

Ropes course activities are quite common in rehabilitation centers around the states. Individuals are challenged to seek the support of others by walking across a long 40 feet off the ground or walk on a wire.

Wilderness activities include engaging recreations such as backpacking, white water rafting, hiking, or horseback riding. They take place in nature, outside of the traditional residential facility. During these exercises, the mountains, trees, and waters serve as mentors and encourage patients to heighten their humility, focus, awareness, and endurance. Some of the most common wilderness activities include:

  • Rock climbing
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Canoeing
  • Water rafting
  • Skiing and snowboarding
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Zip lining
  • Solo camping experience

How to Choose the Right Adventure Therapy Program

Adventure therapies take place in group settings in order to encourage communication, trust, and cooperation. These programs are licensed by a state agency, overseen by a licensed mental health professional, regularly monitored by a licensed mental health professional, and they are able to conduct an evaluation of treatment effectiveness. Adventure therapy often accompanies traditional therapy. When combined, both can be very effective in helping an individual recover from substance abuse and manage their mental illness.

When deciding on an adventure therapy program, take into considerations these following suggestions:

  • Make sure the staff and available equipment meet your or your loved one’s needs.
  • Ensure the staff is licensed, educated, trained, and experienced.
  • Make certain that a defined operation structure is in place.
  • Educate yourself on what adventure therapy is and how it may help you or your loved one. Get a better idea of the type of equipment and personnel that should be available during treatment.
  • Seek advice from a mental health professional that is acquainted with adventure therapy.

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