What is Adventure Therapy?
Adventure Therapy (AT) is an approach to mental health and addiction recovery that utilizes hands-on activities, outside in the natural world. Adventure therapy originated in the 1960s as a combination of community, nature, and exercises. This approach is combined with many other aspects of traditional therapy.
The goal of adventure therapy is to improve social, psychological, and physical well being through the healing power of the outdoors. This is done through recreational activities, wilderness expeditions, and experiential therapy. Through adventure therapy, patients and their families overcome substance use issues, mental health concerns, and behavioral problems.
How Does Adventure Therapy Work?
Adventure therapy lets the environment evoke change by using actions and experience with problem-solving initiatives. It also accomplishes this through trust, cooperative games, and wilderness expeditions. Adventure therapy is generally considered a holistic form of therapy that work
s in conjunction with traditional, evidence-based therapies.
Once you complete an activity, the group gathers and processes it together. During “processing,” each person internalizes their experience and relates it to their personal goals.
Activities in adventure therapy include:
- Rock climbing
- White water rafting
Group activities like canoeing and white water rafting encourage patients to work as a team. On the other hand, an individual activity like paddleboarding can teach people to stand on their own and feel free while in control.
Another main goal of adventure therapy is to connect patients’ current outdoor activity to their life experiences. Patients also come out of each activity with better social and people skills as well as a renewed sense of confidence. Take rock climbing, for example. As patients learn how to do it, they can ask for help or assert their need to be independent. They can practice this activity in a safe space with a supportive group.
Sometimes when people are isolated in nature, they experience a kind of “spiritual awakening.” Their therapists can support this experience by helping the patient set goals and make decisions.