Adventure Therapy for Addiction

What do you think of when you think of treatment? You might think of a clinical setting with therapists and medication times and chairs arranged in circles for group sessions. Outdoor adventures aren’t likely something you associate with substance and alcohol abuse treatment programs. But that’s exactly what adventure therapy for addiction offers.

Adventure therapy brings the treatment session outdoors and into nature. There is extensive research on the benefits of spending time outdoors and its effects on mental health. Addiction and alcoholism often cut people off from the outside world and keep them indoors. Adventure therapy for addiction is one way to get people in recovery reconnected with the outdoors.

What exactly is adventure therapy and how does it help people in treatment for addiction? What kinds of activities does adventure therapy include? Continue reading to learn more about the impact of the great outdoors on patients in treatment programs.

What is Adventure Therapy for Addiction?

The benefits of traditional practices like cognitive behavioral therapy are undeniable. They’re an excellent foundation for any effective addiction treatment program. But adventure therapy for addiction is an excellent way to get patients out of a traditional clinical setting and into the outdoor world.

Adventure therapy offers an alternative way to approach therapeutic goals by using a physically engaging form of treatment. Traits such as self-confidence, trust, and working with others aren’t always accomplished in a clinical, group circle setting. Adventure therapy is the perfect avenue for working on these types of characteristics in a real-world setting.

It places patients in an environment they might not be familiar with. They’re encouraged to try an activity they may not have participated in before. These aspects of adventure therapy remove people from their comfort zone. They learn to adapt while working with others in their group in a way that an indoor group circle can’t replicate.

Adventure Therapy Activities

There isn’t only one type of adventure therapy for addiction. Numerous outdoor activities encourage the positive benefits that adventure therapy aims to instill. The specific kinds of activities available depend on what each treatment facility offers. Some examples of outdoor therapy activities include things like hiking, ropes courses, rock climbing, and kayaking.

Hiking is one of the easiest, most accessible options for adventure therapy. Hikes can range in distance and difficulty depending on the capabilities of the current group. They get patients outside of the facility and interact with the world around them, something often lost while in the depths of substance and alcohol abuse.

Ropes Courses
Ropes courses offer numerous benefits among patients in addiction treatment, both at an individual and a group level. There are plenty of ropes courses that can test people on their own or alongside their peers. Ropes courses help build an individual’s self-confidence as they accomplish what the course lays out. Group courses require the group to work together and trust one another, building on two important characteristics helpful in treatment.

Rock Climbing
Rock climbing is a solo adventure therapy activity that allows individuals the opportunity to work on their problem solving, decision-making, and patience. It’s also one that encourages them to trust in themselves, a characteristic that many lose while in active alcoholism and addiction. And outside of a treatment perspective, rock climbing is a great physical activity and fun challenge for anyone who gets to participate.

Kayaking is one type of activity only available at certain facilities. Not every addiction treatment center is located in an area that allows for adventure therapy using kayaking. Locations that do have it, though, give patients a great way to challenge themselves and often try something new. Kayaking isn’t a common activity so it teaches people to step outside their comfort zone, adapt to new experiences, and maybe even learn to laugh at themselves.

The Benefits of Adventure Therapy for Addiction

If you’re able to find a treatment facility that offers adventure therapy for addiction, you’ll get the chance to practice many useful personal skills in real-world scenarios. You might not realize the amount of teamwork required to complete a ropes course or the challenge of scaling a rock climbing wall.

Therapists who organize adventure therapy sessions consider the needs of each patient in their group. They are intentional when selecting activities for their groups, opting for things that will provide the most benefit. Groups usually reflect on their performance both out on the trip and then again in the facility.

The benefits of adventure therapy for addiction include:

  • Self-confidence
  • Stronger decision-making skills
  • Teamwork and cooperation
  • Effective communication
  • Adaptability
  • Responsibility
  • Resiliency