What sounds more fun than an adventure? While the word ‘adventure’ is typically thought of as an activity for kids to take part in, adventure therapy welcomes participants of all ages and walks of life. In fact, this type of therapy may be particularly beneficial to those facing substance abuse issues.
What is Adventure Therapy?
Adventure therapy is a popular type of experiential therapy which typically takes place outdoors. From its conception in the early 1900s when psychiatric hospitals allowed residents to stay in tents on the campus lawn, adventure therapy has come a long way. The types of activities practiced in adventure therapy can include but are not limited to hiking, rock climbing, sailing, nature walks, and various outdoor games. The goal of nature therapy is to help clients take calculated risks under the watch of medical professionals. These activities help patients face and work through emotional problems.
One of the best parts of adventure therapy is that on its surface, the practice just seems like having fun in nature. As a matter of fact, one of the goals of adventure therapy is to take people from more urbanized areas and get them back in touch with nature. Being in nature helps reduce the stress of day to day life, as well as offering a host of other health benefits.
Unlike more traditional forms of talk therapy, adventure therapy does not involve simply sitting with a therapist and talking. Instead, participants are encouraged to look within themselves and think, which nature often provides the perfect backdrop for. During adventure therapy, participants are not faced with the daytime aspects of their normals lives; there are no cell phones ringing, horns honking, no emails to check or televisions to watch out in nature. The moments instead spent reflecting in silence can be one of the most important parts of adventure therapy.
Typically conducted in a group format, participants in adventure therapy are encouraged to keep a journal of their experiences and thoughts to refer back to after leaving. Groups often have to work together, helping participants learn social skills and teamwork while also processing through emotional issues and past trauma.
Benefits of Adventure Therapy
Physical Health Benefits: Some of the most obvious benefits of adventure therapy are the physical health benefits.
- Blood pressure decreases as a result of being out in nature, and it is easier to breathe with less pollution in the air
- Physical activities will obviously help tone and build muscle.
- Fine motor skills and coordination are improved. This is especially beneficial to those with substance abuse problems, as drugs and alcohol can affect the motor skills and coordination of a person in the long term.
- Mental Health Benefits: Below the surface, adventure therapy can help participants improve their mental health in a wide variety of ways.
- Participants gain a greater sense of what they are capable of both physically and mentally, often discovering they were capable of more than they thought they would be.
- Participants are able to realistically set achievable goals, create step by step plans to reach those goals, and rewards themselves appropriately afterward
- Those taking part in adventure therapy become more willing to step outside of their comfort zone and try new things, and more willing to ask for and accept help from others when they recognize it is needed.
- Clients come away from the experience with more positive outlooks on their situations, a greater ability to focus on details, and a sense of responsibility to oneself.
- The social skills of participants are often vastly improved through adventure therapy. Groups of people are taught to communicate, to rely on each other, and to work with one another to accomplish a common goal.
- Adventure therapy utilizes calculated risks to help patients face their fears in a controlled environment, helping show them an alternative to previous numbing behaviors.
Adventure Therapy and Substance Abuse
Substance abuse issues often arise as a result of a person trying to numb or dull a physical or emotional pain. When faced with physical pain or consistent mental anguish it can often seem as though alcohol or drugs are the only options to make the pain stop. As a person’s addiction becomes more severe, they push their emotional pain further and further down, never acknowledging it, choosing instead to numb their pain more.
Adventure therapy is designed to remove the walls that a person has built up through substance abuse, and instead helps build a foundation for healing and learning. Adventure therapy also teaches participants about control. This type of therapy helps patients give up control over things they are unable to influence and instead helps them change what they can for the better without being anxious over what they cannot. The resulting reduction in anxiety helps patients avoid turning to illicit substances like drugs or alcohol.
Because of its significant impact on the mental and physical health of patients, many substance abuse recovery centers or rehabilitation centers offer adventure therapy to their patients.
What can you expect in My Time Recovery’s Adventure Therapy?
Adventure Therapy emphasizes that idea that participants become more receptive to learning new skills when all of their senses are engaged in the learning process. At My Time Recovery, we believe the journey to discovering a life you enjoy is a hands-on one, and for that reason, Adventure Therapy plays a role in our treatment program. Our Adventure Therapy practices are flexible, taking place both outdoors as well as inside, and in rural or more urbanized settings. The experiences within the Adventure Therapy we offer are constantly changing to provide new and exciting experiences to help individuals learn coping mechanisms, and develop new interpersonal skills.
Should you try adventure therapy?
The short answer is yes. Adventure therapy offers a myriad of both physical and mental health benefits to participants. Furthermore, because of its proven and continued success among people facing substance abuse issues, adventure therapy is becoming a more and more popular option for those attending a rehabilitation facility.
Have you tried adventure therapy? If so, please leave your favorite part of the experience in the comments section down below. If you are considering adventure therapy as an option, please call My Time Recovery for more information on the programs we have available.