Adventure therapy is a highly effective form of therapy that originated in the 1600s and is still used today. It combines nature, community, and daring exercises as forms of therapy. It was created to improve physical, social, spiritual, and psychological well-being through the healing power of nature. Adventure therapy is a powerful treatment approach for anxiety, depression, trauma, PTSD, and substance use disorders (SUDs).
How Adventure Therapy Works in Addiction Recovery
Adventure therapy is effective for people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. It promotes rehabilitation, growth, development, and enhancement of individuals’ psychological, physical, and social well-being through the application of structured, experiential activities geared toward a range of skill levels. Adventure therapy uses the environment to elicit change by utilizing experience and action with cooperative games, trust activities, and outdoor pursuits and experiences.
While there are many different forms of adventure therapy, each one shares a common element. That common element is risk, whether it be perceived risk, actual risk, or both. Confronting and overcoming risks requires trust in oneself, cooperation with others, and stepping out of one’s comfort zone. In addition, creating perceived physical danger evokes intense emotions, which activates adrenaline. Experiencing these intense emotions in a controlled and safe environment promotes positive cognitive changes by facing and overcoming certain situations and obstacles.
As negative thought patterns are called into question, they are replaced with new neural connections that evoke healthier beliefs about the self. By providing calculated or perceived risks, creating a safe emotional environment, and guiding individuals through their feelings, adventure therapy teaches important life skills that can help individuals handle and erode addictions, behavioral problems, and other mental difficulties.
How Adventure Therapy Improves Attitude and Behavior
Adventure therapy seeks to change negative behaviors and thinking patterns that have caused individuals to spiral into addiction. By participating in challenging and risky tasks, clients are able to see firsthand that their actions have consequences and therefore begin to take personal responsibility for their behavior and choices. Because adventure therapy gives individuals the chance to practice new behaviors in a safe place, the likelihood that their growth will have a lasting effect on their lives is increased.
Adventure therapy teaches a healthy alternative to substance-seeking behavior and provides a natural high that doesn’t come from the use of substances. This is a skill that individuals struggling with addiction can take with them even into their life after treatment. While the activities surrounding adventure therapy have a great positive impact on behavior, it’s important to recognize the positive impact that nature has on individuals’ attitudes as well.
In addition to changing negative behaviors, time spent in the natural world helps heal past trauma and instill positive feelings of confidence and self-compassion. These feelings can help aid in the addiction recovery process.
How Adventure Therapy Improves Connectivity
Because adventure therapy takes place in a group setting, it’s safe to assume that it naturally promotes healthy connections with others. In adventure therapy, there is a combination of committing to and cooperating with members of a group who share similar issues. This combination encourages connection, vulnerability, and acceptance of the self and others.
In addition, working in a group setting requires individuals to help others and learn how to accept aid from others. In doing so, a strong sense of respect and appreciation for others is developed, along with the ability to set appropriate boundaries when necessary. Being able to exist and work together in a sober community is empowering for all individuals involved.
Additional Skills Taught in Adventure Therapy
As a result of exciting and risky activities, individuals in recovery are refreshed, energized, and full of increased confidence, self-trust, and self-honesty. In addition to gaining a new sense of self-confidence, individuals also develop risk management skills, better social skills, and other skills they can use to live and maintain a happy and sober lifestyle. Some additional skills besides connection and behavior change that adventure therapy can leave individuals with to use for long-term sobriety are:
- Having the confidence to be honest and true to one’s self
- Gaining self-awareness to be capable of reflecting on one’s self
- The ability to redefine beliefs in the traits of positive relationships
- Being open-minded to new experiences and healthier coping mechanisms
- Communication skills to cooperate and resolve conflict healthily
- Gaining awareness of others’ thoughts and feelings
Finding a Recovery Program That Incorporates Adventure Therapy
Adventure therapy is a therapeutic process in which individuals in recovery participate in various adventures in a safe and monitored environment that facilitates growth and behavior change. Bella Monte Recovery Center uses adventure therapy alongside clinical therapeutic interventions to serve our clients and give them the best chance at recovery.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, adventure therapy may be a treatment modality to consider exploring. Here at Bella Monte Recovery Center in Desert Hot Springs, California, we use adventure therapy in conjunction with traditional treatment modalities. At Bella Monte Recovery, a member of our clinical team leads individuals struggling with addiction through trust-building activities that promote communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, and brainpower stimulation. By getting individuals away from their day-to-day environment and environmental stressors, chances of a successful recovery are heightened. In the beautiful state of California, we offer adventure therapies such as hiking, high mountain trail walks, labyrinth mediation walks, and trips to the Joshua Tree Monument and White Water Reserve. If you’re looking to change negative behaviors and attitudes related to addiction, our program might be the perfect recovery opportunity for you. To learn more about what our program offers, call (800) 974-1938.