During your recovery journey, you will have to try many different types of therapy in various combinations before finding one that works for you. Adventure therapy is a complementary treatment approach that helps many individuals in maintaining successful recoveries. This approach can give you the tools and resources you need to manage your substance use.
Types of Adventure Therapy
Adventure therapy occurs in outdoor settings where activities are performed to help you bond with others, build confidence, and promote emotional healing. There are two different types of adventure therapy. Both include engagement in outdoor, physical activities with the guidance of a mental health professional.
#1. Wilderness Therapy
Most often used for at-risk youth, wilderness therapy is a combination of outdoor activities and therapy sessions. This type of therapy usually involves a group setting that could consist of peers, family, or a significant other. Wilderness therapy can take anywhere from two to six weeks of living in a remote location and bonding with the people in your group.
This type of therapy can build perseverance, as you might be surprised by your adaptability to the wilderness. During wilderness therapy, participants are unplugged from technology and cut off from the world. This allows you to step away from your problems and relax.
#2. Adventure-Based Therapy
Like wilderness therapy, adventure therapy also focuses on building relationships in outdoor group activities. While wilderness therapy focuses on surviving the natural elements of the outdoors, adventure-based therapy uses man-made obstacles. These obstacles are created with specific intentions like trust-building activities to improve your social skills or high adventure activities to build confidence. After each activity, the group discusses, analyzes, and processes the experience with a mental health professional.
Adventure-based therapy activities may include rock climbing, kayaking, or ropes courses. Activities in adventure-based therapy should require physical activity and present a perceived high-risk situation that will require you to work with others and consequently build your confidence.
Adventure Therapy Activities
There are many different types of outdoor activities that you may encounter during adventure therapy. Some activities you might prefer to others, but part of adventure therapy is about trying new things and being in a new environment. When considering adventure therapy, look for a program that will challenge your comfort zone.
This type of activity is good for adventure therapy because it benefits both your body and mind. Kayaking is a physical activity that engages your core and upper body strength and can improve cardiovascular health. Depending on the type of kayaking, flat water or whitewater will depend on the level of physical exertion you’ll need.
Kayaking can be a social or solo activity. It can be relaxing to go out on a lake to find solitude with nature. However, kayaking with a group can be a bonding experience that builds social skills.
When you go on a hike, you are giving yourself space to relax your mind and pump up your heart rate. Hikes are a great activity for adventure therapy because they range widely in intensity. Brisk walks through the woods and climbing up difficult terrain both have mental and physical health benefits.
Hiking is a great way to get exercise without feeling like you are exercising. You can take in the beauty of the outdoors and let your mind wander while you hike. The beauty of the outdoors makes it easier to be mindful of your surroundings.
A more intense hike will get your heart pumping faster which means more endorphins in your system. By the end of the hike, you may be exhausted, but you will also take pride in that you have made it to the end of the trail or the top of the mountain.
Combining therapy with any type of physical activity allows you to kill two birds with one stone. In adventure therapy, you are pumping your body with endorphins and exploring your emotional connections to others. Physical activities like yoga use movement to give you better control over your thoughts. It forces you to be mindful while also getting in a good workout.
Physical activity doesn’t necessarily have to be extreme. Taking care of your physical health means listening to your body and understanding its wants and needs. If your body is telling you it can’t do a physical activity, then don’t push yourself to do it anyways.
Connecting With Nature
Spending time in nature is an important aspect of adventure therapy. Attention restoration theory (ART) and stress reduction theory (SRT) provide insight into why spending time in nature feels restorative and uplifting.
Attention Restoration Theory
ART observes the attention fatigue you experience from living a modern lifestyle. Nature can restore your attention span because it exercises stillness that is rarely prioritized in everyday life.
Stress Reduction Theory
SRT describes nature’s ability to activate feel-good emotions in the parasympathetic nervous system and reduces cortisol levels, triggering a sense of calm and relaxation.
Exposure to nature can lead to mental and physical benefits for:
- Cognitive function
- Brain activity
- Blood pressure
- Mental health
- Physical activity
Outdoor spaces also encourage discovery, creativity, and risk-taking. It provides more opportunities for both physical activities and socialization that indoor spaces can’t. There are many different types of nature-based health interventions that focus on improving anxiety and depressive symptoms. Adventure therapy is an ideal way to harness the healthy feelings of nature and direct them toward working on a specific therapeutic issue.
Adventure therapy can help you break out of your comfort zone, form deep connections with others, and build your confidence. You won’t know what treatments work best for you until you try several of them. West Coast Recovery Centers encourages you to try a variety of modalities and therapies until you find one you connect with. We provide numerous traditional and unconventional treatments, such as adventure therapy, yoga, meditation, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and more. Our goal is to inspire you to make healthier decisions in your life. Our mental health professionals can give you the tools you need to have a successful recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, call (760) 492-6509 to learn more.