People who struggle with addiction often say their substance use stopped being fun a while ago. While they may have initially enjoyed the effects of drugs and alcohol, they continue to use out of habit. To combat this, adventure therapy combines recovery principles with an element of fun.
Adventure therapy is where recreation meets recovery. In these sessions, participants engage in activities like ropes courses, hiking, and outdoor sports. Patients enjoy time in nature, and trained staff help facilitate character lessons on trust and communication.
Additional benefits of adventure therapy include:
1. Healing For The Body, Mind, And Spirit
People who suffer from addiction may feel that their bodies have turned on them. Perhaps they have health issues related to alcoholism, or their body is physically dependent on opioids. Adventure therapy can be a restorative way to get patients feeling healthy and happy in their bodies again.
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Additionally, adventure therapy offers healing benefits for the mind and emotions. The recreational activities allow clients to process these abstract aspects of recovery, outside of a clinical setting.
2. Recovering A Sense Of Fun
Often times, people who have been in the cycle of addiction lose sight of things they enjoy. Adventure therapy helps people realize they can bring an element of fun back into everyday life.
Additionally, people who are recently sober may be experiencing withdrawal symptoms like depression and anxiety. Activities like hiking and outdoor sports cause a dopamine and serotonin release in the brain. These chemical messengers are known as the brain’s “feel good” hormones, and can help to balance a person’s mood.
3. Healthy Risk-Taking
The human brain likes to take certain risks. It feels good to try something new, or take a chance in an unfamiliar situation. If a person doesn’t have hobbies or a fulfilling career, they may end up getting involved with unhealthy forms of risk-taking.
Adventure therapy requires participants to take both physical and emotional risks. By doing so, a positive response is triggered in the brain, including a desire to repeat the activity. Through activities like ropes courses and team-building activities, adventure therapy provides the brain a healthy way to experience risk.
4. Enhanced Relationships
People who suffer from addiction may direct their time and energy toward drugs or alcohol. This can result in social isolation or unhealthy relationships. Fortunately, adventure therapy directly impacts the way a person relates to both self and others.
The activities presented in adventure therapy encourage participants to be curious and creative. Problem-solving requires teamwork, and pushing toward a common goal. The relational skills required for adventure therapy help patients form bonds with peers as well as program staff.
5. Increased Self-Awareness
In a group activity, people’s natural talents quickly become evident. One participant may display a show of leadership, and another may be a quick-thinking whiz. Allowing natural talent to surface is one of the most beneficial aspects of adventure therapy.
Once patients begin to see where they can best contribute, they develop the skill of confidence. Instead of aggression, they practice assertiveness. Where they once would sit silently, they practice speaking up. By experimenting with their own abilities, patients increase their self-awareness.
6. Emotional Skill-Building
In active addiction, many people experience a loss of trust with both self and others. They may have made choices that went against their own personal values, or associated with people who did not treat them well.
Adventure therapy works to restore a sense of trust as well as trustworthiness. Through trust-building activities, participants practice honoring their intuition and respecting the decisions of others.
7. Stress Management
When people get into the habit of using a substance to manage stress, removing the drug can leave them without a lot of coping skills. In adventure therapy, participants learn new ways to handle stress. The activities often require physical and mental exercise, which can leave people feeling accomplished and relaxed.
After a particularly intense hike or difficult activity, counselors help patients to debrief the session as a group. This allows any frustration, fear, or aggression to be processed and released.
Addiction robs people of the freedom to self-express. People who struggle with substances often report poor mood, low energy, and a lack of interest in previous hobbies. Sessions of adventure therapy can help people rediscover the spark that they felt as children or young people.
For example, sports activities and extended time in nature may point a person back to a hobby they used to have. By cultivating an interest in the world around them, patients are encouraged to explore and discover what makes them unique.
9. Develops A Sense Of Service
During active addiction, people may carry painful feelings of guilt and shame. They may dislike the way they are behaving, but feel helpless to change their life. In adventure therapy, people practice self-forgiveness as well as the art of giving back.
Adventure therapy sessions are designed for teamwork. If a person tries to steal the show or solve the problem themselves, they may fail. But giving back and participating as a team can help a person realize their worth and value.
10. Positive View Of Self
Although it may not feel this way in the moment, addiction treatment and adventure therapy sessions are a very short time in a person’s life. However, the lessons learned in these sessions can help set the stage for a positive self-image that lasts.
After treatment, people may desire to make amends to their family or places of work. They may want to further their education, or follow a certain career path. Each of these actions require an internal sense of value and determination. Adventure therapy helps to hone these beliefs, through challenging tasks and personal reflection.
Adventure Therapy At The Bluffs
Learning to value the self and others is a lifelong journey. Adventure therapy helps set patients up to walk this path with a sense of humility and self-confidence.
At The Bluffs, patients engage in adventure therapy as part of a collaborative care model. They will also have access to on-site detoxification, mental health counseling, and cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions.
To learn more about adventure therapy, or to inquire about The Bluffs rehab center, contact a treatment specialist today.
- National Institutes of Health — 2 Types of Groups Commonly Used in Substance Abuse Treatment
- National Institutes of Health — Effects of a therapeutic camping program on addiction recovery. The Algonquin Haymarket Relapse Prevention Program
- Partnership for Drug-Free Kids — How to Encourage Healthy Risk Taking