Do you remember playing outdoors as a kid and feeling a thrill of happiness all day? Rain, snow, or shine, there always seemed to be something to do. As a child, your imagination can run for miles. A burst of creativity that came with adventure made every day special. Those days do not have to be of the past.
Exploring nature is a great outlet for teens and adults that are struggling with mental health disorders or substance use disorders (SUDs). Adventure is incorporated into a therapeutic model known as adventure therapy, allowing you to experience new challenges and improve interpersonal skills with peers.
What Is Adventure Therapy?
Spending time outside and simply being in nature has a positive impact on your mental health. Adventure therapy is an integrative alternative to talk therapy that occurs outdoors. It uses man-made objects such as ropes and courses to create challenging adventures for a group of people. According to the journal Evaluation and Program Planning, “Adventure therapy offers a prevention, early intervention, and treatment modality for people with behavioral, psychological, and psychosocial issues.”
The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) describes adventure therapy as a type of experiential therapy that is an effective treatment for adult and teen SUDs and mental health conditions. The therapy’s main purpose is to engage the client’s emotions and explore their inner thoughts and feelings through role-playing, guided imagery, and challenging activities with high-perceived risk.
Adventure therapy is a great option for teens that are less responsive to traditional psychotherapeutic interventions. Different activities included in adventure therapy consist of the following:
- Wilderness expeditions
- Rope courses
- Rock climbing
- White water rafting
What Can Adventure Therapy Help With?
According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, nature-based therapies have shown improvements in psychosocial well-being. Adventure therapy has been proven to show positive outcomes in an array of conditions, such as:
- Reducing symptoms of anxiety
- Lowering blood pressure
- Boosting immunity
- Coping with grief and loss
Adventure therapy has also proven positive outcomes for a range of mental health disorders and behavioral disorders, including the following:
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Adventure therapy also aligns with healing the spirit in many different facets to help benefit a person with SUDs. You can incorporate prayer and meditation while on your adventure to gain benefit from the therapy. Adventure therapy is also a sober activity that you can engage in that allows you to ward off cravings with others for support that are following a similar journey.
The Power of Nature
Part of adventure therapy is exploring nature. Spending time in nature is good for your mental health. Coupled with the skills learned and benefits gained from the activities in adventure therapy, this therapy can help teens find healing.
According to the journal Health and Place, “[S]pending time in outdoor environments, particularly those with green space, may reduce the experience of stress, and ultimately improve health.” However, being in nature doesn’t only improve mental health; it also contributes to physical well-being. Some people may also find that nature enhances spiritual well-being. The power of nature makes for well-rounded recovery: healing of the mind, body, and spirit.
Benefits of Exploring the Outdoors
Adventure therapy provides the opportunity to be physically active. Due to this, you can exercise both your mind and body when utilizing this therapy. Adventure therapy comes with an array of health benefits that can help teens improve their life, including the following:
- Self-esteem: Activities come with challenges requiring a client to step out of their comfort zone; once achieved, confidence is boosted
- Behavior: Provides teens with better coping strategies
- Perception of certain events: Teaches optimism in hard situations
- Interpersonal skills: Bouncing ideas off each other in groups and learning effective ways of communication
- Personal Effectiveness: Understand inner thought processes under pressure
- Emotions and anger management: Tools are given to overcome hesitant and fearful feelings
Enhancing Your Life With Adventure Therapy
Adventure therapy comes with several opportunities for teens and adults to explore. Staying physically active can improve your health and wellness. Exercise produces increased endorphins and dopamine levels in your brain to boost your mood. Staying active can also impact serotonin levels mimicking the effects of antidepressants.
This type of group therapy can help teens with the following:
- Introduces new friends to their social circle
- Gives them a chance to explore new and thrilling activities
- Helps them overcome the symptoms and hardships that come with the challenges of mental illness or SUD
Overall, adventure therapy helps boost a teen’s self-esteem and improve interpersonal skills. Taking part in engaging in real-life experiences is a great way to practice group dynamics. Adventure therapy is a very effective treatment for overcoming mental health challenges and SUD in teens.
Exploring nature by doing fun activities is a great outlet for teens and adults that are facing challenges with their mental health. Adventure therapy is a great option for those seeking alternative treatment from traditional talk therapy.12 South Recovery’s dual diagnosis and mental health programs offer step-down levels of care beginning with a partial hospitalization program (PHP), followed by an intensive outpatient program (IOP), and then outpatient programming (OP). Each phase is structured according to the needs of the individual and allows for a slight reduction in structure each time, with a gradual acclimation back to life and society while still maintaining a strong focus on recovery. If you feel you need professional help, call 866-839-6876 to learn more.