“For some people, exposure to nature and engagement in both contemplative and adventurous activities can lead to improvements in their mental and physical health.”

What is Adventure Therapy?

Adventure Therapy is the use of adventure experiences, typically in nature, to engage a person on cognitive, affective, and behavioral levels. Adventure experiences are used to develop eustress, which is positive stress that happens when we are faced with a fun challenge. Eustress makes us feel good, keeping us motivated and working towards our goals.

Adventure Therapy in the United States started in the 1960s. However, the roots of Adventure Therapy can actually be traced back to the 1800s having derived from camping therapy. The idea of camping therapy led to the introduction of summer camps for kids as well as the use of nature and the environment for healing patients in mental health hospitals. Over the next century, camping therapy eventually evolved into what are today known as Ecotherapy, Adventure and Wilderness Therapies.

Rehab facilities may use adventure therapy as part of a holistic approach to treating the whole person. Adventure therapy has many benefits including providing structure, attainable goals, and a process and means for self-discovery and self-expression.

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Benefits of Adventure Therapy

There have been numerous studies and research completed that show the benefits of adventure therapy in relation to mental health and the long-term success of addiction recovery. Especially when combined with traditional therapy, adventure therapy:

  • Allows you to try new experiences and promotes the development of self-confidence.
  • Requires you to problem-solve and helps you develop positive ways of dealing with conflicts and challenges that occur in daily life.
  • Encourages you to explore your capabilities and limitations, contributing to greater self-awareness.
  • Teaches communication, vulnerability and trust while engaging in activities with other individuals.
  • Decreases depression naturally. Being surrounded by nature boosts endorphins and dopamine production thereby increasing happiness and a better overall mood.

Approaches to Adventure Therapy

Adventure therapy typically consists of outdoor activities and can include various activities ranging from recreational to meditative. These activities are often grouped into different types such as:

  • Games: Fun games that are often mild or non-competitive teach spontaneity and promote friendships and bonding in a relaxed atmosphere.
  • Problem-solving Initiatives: These activities focus on challenges where the individual, by themself or within a group, must learn critical-thinking and problem-solving techniques to overcome an obstacle or reach a specific goal.
  • Trust Activities: These are teamwork activities designed to promote trust in your peers. Trust activities teach the importance of vulnerability and relationships.
  • Wilderness Activities: There are many ways to participate in wilderness activities. These can range from mild recreation to more adventurous risk-based activities. In either instance, these activities build environmental awareness, cooperation, communication, self-awareness, and self-esteem.
“Utilized in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation setting, adventure therapy can also foster teamwork and social interactions. The resulting effects allow an individual greater success in life-long recovery..”

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