“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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Adventure Therapy at SJRP

At St. John’s Recovery Place, our expanding Mindfulness Program is based on components of Adventure Therapy and Ecotherapy. Through our nature-based activities, you can expect to develop your physical, social, and psychological well-being. You’ll achieve better focus, endurance, vulnerability, and self-esteem and develop a better understanding of the importance of positive relationships.

Some of the activities you’ll find in our Mindfulness Program include:

  • Walking Labyrinth / Hedge Maze
  • Volleyball
  • Trust Falls
  • Campground
  • Medicine Wheel
  • Red Road of Wellbriety

Many of the components of our program are meditative allowing each individual the time and space for self-reflection. In addition to several specific meditation spots, such as our Koi pond, we also engage in exploration activities and birdwatching. What’s more, you’ll find beautiful sprawling Live Oak trees on our grounds. After spending some time surrounded by these magnificent trees you’ll notice the positive energy that they give off, increasing your mood and overall happiness.

As part of this program, we even include individual direct therapy and group process/break out therapy out in nature. Being in nature is a proven form of stress relief and a natural booster of endorphins and dopamine. This creates a more calming and positive environment as you work through your sessions, allowing for better communication and improved results.

Experiential Therapies at SJRP

At St. John’s Recovery Place, adventure therapy is only one of many experiential therapies that we offer. Experiential therapies focus on involvement with actual experiences. These therapies go beyond traditional therapy and often include emotional processing, human interaction, creativity, and reflection. Individuals become better able to develop insights into their inner thoughts. This allows them to understand their nature and needs and positively address them. Some of the other experiential therapies we offer include:

  • Animal-Assisted Therapy
  • Equine Therapy
  • Art Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Massage Therapy

We realize that a significant part of creating change and overcoming addiction comes with breaking down barriers deep within the psyche. We believe in the power of therapy to break through barriers and hone in on underlying symptoms and triggers that are preventing you from living the engaging and positive life you deserve. Our experiential therapies are used in combination with conventional therapies to form a comprehensive holistic approach to treatment. It can be challenging, and it can take time, but we are steadfast in our commitment to helping you live a life free from addiction.

SOURCES

Gass, M., Wilson, T., Talbot, B., Tucker, A., Ugianskis, M., & Brennan, N. (2019). The Value of Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare for Adolescent Substance Users with Comorbid Conditions. Substance abuse: research and treatment, 13, 1178221819870768. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6702774/. Accessed January 28, 2021.

Buckley, R. C., & Brough, P. (2017). Nature, Eco, and Adventure Therapies for Mental Health and Chronic Disease. Frontiers in public health, 5, 220. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2017.00220. Accessed January 28, 2021.

Bennett LW, Cardone S, Jarczyk J. Effects of a therapeutic camping program on addiction recovery. The Algonquin Haymarket Relapse Prevention Program. J Subst Abuse Treat. 1998 Sep-Oct;15(5):469-74. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9751006/. Accessed January 28, 2021.

Davis-Berman, J & Berman, D.S.(1994) Chapter 3: Early Wilderness Programs in  Wilderness Therapy: Foundations, Theory & Research  Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing. https://books.google.com/books?id=ss-Qv6xh8igC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb#v=onepage&q&f=false. Accessed January 28, 2021.

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