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What is Adventure Therapy?

The foundation of addiction treatment is rooted in therapy. Those who seek help through a professional treatment center will have an individualized treatment plan developed for them that will consist of several different types of therapies. Therapies, such as individual psychotherapy, group counseling, and behavioral therapy, are usually included in all patients’ treatment plans, but for some patients, their plans include some non-conventional therapies. Adventure therapy is one of those options.

Adventure therapy is a type of therapy that was developed in the 1960’s and has since become one of the most intriguing forms of therapy available for substance use disorders. Commonly confused with wilderness therapy, adventure therapy programs to provide comprehensive treatment to a patient’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual being through exciting activity. Most activities conducted through adventure therapy are done outside and can provide several benefits for participants.

Types of Adventure Therapy

There are a large variety of adventure therapies available for patients looking to recover from addiction. No matter where a person is located in the country, there are always ways to get involved in adventure therapy that fits in with the climate and environment wherever they are recovering. Some of the most common forms of adventure therapy include, but certainly are not limited to, the following:

  • Rock climbing
  • Ropes course
  • White water rafting
  • Canoeing
  • Skiing
  • Camping
  • Paddle boarding
  • Swimming
  • Kayaking
  • Caving

While these types of adventure therapies may sound outrageous and even dangerous to some, these activities are safe and pose minimal risk to the participant. All adventure therapies are conducted in the presence of trained professionals who are able to guide patients through the activity as well as provide effective therapeutic services.

Pros of Adventure Therapy

Adventure therapy programs are organically beneficial simply because of how they are structured. Some pros associated with these types of programs include, but are not limited to, the following:

Spending time outside, which is clinically proven to help improve mood, increase cognitive function, and sharpen focus
Introducing patients to new activities and/or reigniting a patient’s love of an activity
Getting patients out of the traditional therapeutic settings, such as office buildings or treatment centers

How Do Adventure Therapy Programs Help Treat Addiction?

Many people find that they learn best by doing. Adventure therapy offers individuals the opportunity to do just that by getting involved with hands-on activities that help them recover from their active addiction. As mentioned before, activities such as rock climbing, white water rafting, swimming, and hiking can all work to engage patients in their recovery in a unique, yet still highly effective way.

So how exactly does adventure therapy help in the treatment of addiction? Consider the following:

  • Natural highs – It is common for recovering addicts and alcoholics to have difficulty feeling contentment because their substance abuse has negatively impacted how dopamine in the brain functions. Dopamine works to produce happiness, relaxation, and a sense of reward. As patients recover, learning how to get dopamine flowing without drinking or using drugs is critical. Engaging in activities like white water rafting, paddle boarding, and skiing can help produce these feelings naturally, which encourages patients to fulfill themselves this way rather than through addictive substances.
  • Builds self-esteem — For some addicts and alcoholics, they experienced issues with their self-esteem from the start, which contributed to their interest in using drugs or alcohol. Others, however, developed poor self-esteem as a result of their addiction. Either way, adventure therapy pushes patients to try new things, challenge themselves to make individual decisions, and lead the way for others. All of these elements can help build positive self-esteem.
  • Develops healthy coping skills to handle stress — While adventure therapy is safe, there are points within sessions where patients will be challenged. For example, a patient who is fearful of heights might find themselves getting anxious while rock climbing. With the guidance of the therapist, the patient can learn how to work through those feelings in a healthy way, rather than giving up and turning to a quick, simple fix (such as drinking or using drugs)
  • Provides a non-traditional outlet to express oneself — People can struggle with expressing themselves in general, and sometimes even more so when in the four walls of a therapist’s office. Adventure therapy brings recovering addicts and alcoholics outside and into positive, creative environments that can encourage their openness. Adventure therapy, in many ways, serves as a way of breaking the ice for patients. Once the ice is broken, patients feel more comfortable expressing themselves, allowing for more profound recovery.
  • Improves communication and teamwork skills — The majority of adventure therapies are done in group settings, meaning that patients work together to accomplish an activity. For instance, a group of patients who go canoeing will not be successful if they do not talk with one another and develop a plan on how to move the canoe forward. They must work together to travel in the same direction, therefore they need to be able to speak effectively with one another at all times. Canoeing is an excellent therapy to help improve communication skills and teamwork.
  • Promotes responsibility — Adventure therapy puts patients in environments that require them to be responsible at all times. When white water rafting, for example, not following directions or paying attention can cause someone to get hurt. Regular involvement in adventure therapy can help patients learn the importance of responsibility as well as develop ways to stay responsible in their recovery and in their lives.

Adventure therapy offers these and other benefits, however it is only effective when the patient puts forth effort and dedication while engaging in these sessions. Adventure therapy truly shines when it is included in a comprehensive treatment plan that involves the use of other evidence-based therapies, such as behavioral therapy, individual therapy, and group counseling.

Do You Need Professional Addiction Treatment? Call Us Right Now.

If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, then you know how difficult it can be to function on a daily basis. Continuing to use will only make your life harder, which is why seeking professional treatment is critical.

If you are ready to stop using drugs and alcohol and ready to begin building a life of recovery, call us right now. We can help.

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