Adventure Therapy for Addiction Recovery in Pennsylvania

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Elizabeth Drew, MD
Last Updated: January 1, 2022

People who are seeking drug and alcohol rehab in Pennsylvania should strongly consider finding a program that offers adventure therapy. Contrary to popular belief, therapy does not always have to involve a clinical setting with therapists. So much growth and healing can be found in the great outdoors, and that is exactly what this form of addiction treatment encourages.

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.

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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 for Addiction Recovery in Pennsylvania

Benefits of Adventure Therapy

One of the biggest goals in adventure therapy is to help clients connect their life experiences with their outdoor activities. People with addictions often struggle with their confidence levels when it comes to interacting with others. But this method of treatment can help them to develop better social and people skills.

Adventure therapy puts clients in a place where they have to be dependent upon one another for help. For instance, during white water rafting, people need to work as a team to accomplish their goals. They learn how to be more flexible as they reflect and grow in recovery. Also, adventure therapy can encourage more independent thought as well, depending on the situation.

There are many challenges and fears to be faced during adventure therapy, and this is for the benefit of the client. They learn important skills such as hands-on problem solving while they face what could be some of their biggest fears. Some people have major spiritual encounters during treatment. Therapists remain involved to help with the decision-making process and to keep everyone on track.

Adventure therapy can also aid in the recovery process by:

  • Encouraging people to be more responsible.
  • Showing them how to build more positive relationships with other people.
  • Learning how to cooperate with others.
  • Improving social skills, such as how to communicate.
  • Increasing people’s self-confidence and self-awareness.
  • Making people more resilient.
  • Improving engagement with therapy.
  • Encouraging people to be more open and honest emotionally.
  • Creating real-life opportunities to experience challenging situations.
  • Making people more psychologically resilient.
  • Lessing the symptoms of depression.
  • Improving people’s self-esteem levels
  • Improving people’s behavioral and emotional functioning.
  • Teaching people healthy coping skills, such as how to better manage their stress.

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.

Adventure Therapy at Peace Valley Recovery

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

Philadelphia Drug and Alcohol Addiction Facts and Statistics

A lot of people who live in Philadelphia are battling drug and alcohol addictions. Many believe there is no hope for them, so they just continue to use because it is all they know to do.

According to The NSDUH Report for the Philadelphia/Camden/Wilmington metropolitan area:

  • 25.7% of people ages 12 and older have participated in binge drinking within the last 30 days.
  • This number is higher than the rates in Pennsylvania and the United States as a whole.
  • 9.5% of people in the Philadelphia area have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder within the last year.
  • This number is also higher than the rates in Pennsylvania and the United States.
  • 5.9% of adults report having had a major depressive episode at some point during the last year.
  • That works out to about 260,000 people ages 18 and older.
  • 12.6% of people ages 12 and older report having used marijuana at some point within the last year.
  • 4.7% of people in Philadelphia have abused prescription opioid painkillers within the last year.
  • This number is similar to the rates of painkiller abuse in the State of PA as well as in the rest of the country.
  • 16.6% of people in this area ages 12 and older state that they have used an illicit drug at some point within the last year.
  • That works out to about 825,000 people.
  • This number is much higher than the state and national rates.

There is no denying that addiction is a very serious problem in the Philadelphia area. So many people feel that they have no hope, but we want them to know they are wrong. Adventure therapy and other forms of treatment can give them back the hope they lost and show them that it is possible.

Adventure Therapy at Peace Valley Recovery

At Peace Valley Recovery, we have seen firsthand how adventure therapy has helped our clients. So many of them have reaped the rewards of this type of treatment, even those who were not excited about it at first. It adds